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华裔夫妇房东触犯短期租赁法 被罚225万美元

11/06/2018

华裔夫妇房东触犯短期租赁法 被罚225万美元


中国侨网11月6日电 据美国金山在线报道,美国旧金山市府律师周一(5日)宣布,一对当地华裔夫妇因一再违反该市的短期租赁法,遭罚款225万元(美元,下同),并禁止其在Airbnb等网站发布租房信息,直到2025年为止。

  市府律师贺雷拉(Dennis Herrera)表示,Darren和Valerie Lee华裔夫妇在旧金山的住房危机期间,一直非法经营“连锁旅馆”。2014年4月,贺雷拉首次起诉这对夫妇。当时这对夫妇利用Ellis法案将他们在Clay St.的房产中的租客赶走,然后非法将该房产用作短期租赁。2015年5月,他们被政府罚款27.6万元,同时禁止提供短租服务5年。禁令范围涵盖17处超过45个住房单元。

  随后,经过为期两年的调查,贺雷拉发现,这对华裔夫妇在禁令期间利用朋友和家人的名义冒充房东,继续进行短租房屋的交易,并在11个月内将他们名下共14处的房产通过airbnb平台共计出租了5000多次,从中非法获利高达70万元。另外,他们还被怀疑利用朋友、家人和同事创建账户收取好处费。由于所有用于短租的房屋都没有在市短租房办公室注册,因此,全部租赁活动都是违法并违反禁令的。

  市府律师表示,为瞒天过海,Darren和Valerie Lee夫妇两人竟擅自制定虚假租约,甚至在城市调查人员检查之前,在公寓内摆放好脏盘子和湿毛巾,伪装成这是他们自己正在居住的地方。他们在每间公寓都以同样的方式伪装欺瞒。

  短期租赁办公室主任盖伊(Kevin Guy)在一份新闻稿中表示, “他们(Darren和Valerie Lee夫妇)从市场上撤下了原本应该留给旧金山长期居民的住房。看到他们为自己的行为负责,真是令人欣慰。”

  贺雷拉表示,严厉的罚款和禁令,也是向违反短期租赁法的其他人传递信息。他说:“它向那些希望非法从旧金山房地产危机中获利的人发出了明确的信息:不要尝试,”

  贺雷拉称:“该案最重要的收获是,为旧金山保留了45个住房单元作为居民的住宅,而不是酒店房间。”(侨报记者张苗)









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11/06/2018

Airbnb serial scofflaw landlords settle with city: $2.25M in penalties for Darren and Valerie Lee

By Joe Eskenazi

Darren and Valerie Lee ran a chain of illegal Airbnb hotels, including here, at 833 San Jose.

A married couple who settled with the city after being nabbed running a chain of illegal Airbnb hotels — only to spend years fabricating an elaborate scheme to continue running those hotels — has settled again. Hours before a scheduled court appearance, Darren and Valerie Lee have formalized a deal with San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera agreeing to disgorge $2.25 million in penalties and no longer put any of their 17 properties on the short-term rental market until at least 2025.

The penalties imposed today are nearly 10 times higher than those levied in just 2016, after the Lees were popped for using the Ellis Act to clear out units and then flogging them on short-term rental websites. The couple, however, doubled down after pledging to go legit. A two-year city investigation revealed the Lees violated the terms of their deal more than 5,000 times in the first 11 months alone.

The City Attorney charged that the couple “engaged friends and family to act as surrogates — to create host accounts on Airbnb and to short-term rent the properties.”  In that 11-month window, upwards of $700,000 in “illicit profits” from running an Airbnb empire across 14 properties was funneled to the Lees, with greater than $50,000 more purportedly trickling into accounts created by “friends, family members, and associates.”

All but one of the many Airbnb “host” accounts for the myriad properties ostensibly hosted by many different people were created via the same IP address. All of these accounts were likely created on the same computer.

The yearslong investigation was, as you’d surmise from the above detail, document- and data-heavy. But there were elements that would translate well to an Argo-like theatrical retelling. For example, after the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals in 2016 flagged a number of the Lees’ properties, Valerie Lee and her attorney led city officials on walkthroughs of eight of her units. Per the City Attorney’s May filing, “Each of the eight properties inspected had been staged to appear as if a tenant lived there, but it was obvious that it was a ruse. Every apartment had the same staging: the same Costco food items scattered about, the same arrangement of dirty breakfast dishes in every kitchen sink, same personal products in each bathroom, same damp towels artfully draped over doors as though someone had recently showered, the same collection of shoes and clothes in closets, and same houseplants in each apartment.”

The Lees were accused by the city of some 2,271 nights of illegal Airbnb rentals across 14 city residential properties — 439 Broderick, 1146 Fell, 1148 Fell, 1328 Fell, 1522 Fell, 1524 Fell, 1117 Leavenworth, 1119 Leavenworth, 1925 Lyon, 826 Masonic, 20 Natick and three in or near the Mission: 833 San Jose, 1362 Utah, and 1364 Utah.

The $2.25 million settlement represents a sliver of the $30 million ceiling for the Lees’ voluminous tally of violations or the figure of $5.5 million plus fees proposed in May to remunerate the city for “well over 400 attorney hours, 250 paralegal hours, and 80 investigator hours unraveling Defendants’ scheme …”

When asked for a comment, John Brown, the Lees’ attorney, said he could not speak at this time.

“Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord who has been following the law, this is a victory,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “This outcome frees up more homes for long-term tenants and stops unfair competition in the marketplace. The serious financial penalty is an important deterrent. It sends a clear message to those looking to illegally profit off of San Francisco’s housing crisis: Don’t try it. We will catch you. But the most important part is that we preserved more than 45 housing units to be used as homes, not hotel rooms. We are fighting back against San Francisco’s housing crisis in every way possible.”




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