Sascha Jovanovic, a Airbnb landlord, on the deck of his Los Angeles home.Allen J. Schaben/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
An Airbnb host failed to register his guesthouse properly, leading to a protracted legal dispute.
A guest has now been living in the home rent-free for 541 days.
A judge ruled the host has no legal right to remove her because the home is noncompliant.
An Airbnb host has found himself caught up in a protracted legal battle to try to remove an unwanted occupant who has been living in his property rent-free for more than 541 days.
A judge has ruled that he has no legal right to evict the woman, per the Los Angeles Times.
Sascha Jovanovic started renting out his guesthouse without having a certificate of occupancy or a permit to build a shower. As such, according to California law, it was not a legal rental, the Daily Mail reported.
The case started in September 2021, when Jovanovic, an LA dentist, approved a long-term stay for Elizabeth Hirschhorn.
Hirschhorn rented the guesthouse for six months at $105 per night, spending $20,793 in total, according to the Times.
Five months in, however, Jovanic offered to put Hirschhorn up in a hotel while a contractor made some repairs. Hirschhorn declined, and she also declined an offer to stay at his home, per the Times.
A tense exchange ensued until Hirschhorn’s originally scheduled Airbnb stay ended on March 19, 2022.
Even so, the pair agreed to extend her stay until April 12, 2022, while she looked for another property, the newspaper reported.
Extending the lease beyond March 19 meant that Airbnb would not be involved. Airbnb did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
On April 12, Hirschhorn stopped paying rent.
According to the Times, around this time Hirschhorn contacted the Department of Building and Safety, which identified two code violations: lack of approval for occupancy and an unpermitted shower.
She also submitted a complaint to a city official, alleging illegal eviction, harassment, and nonpayment of relocation fees, the Times reported.
The official agreed that because the unit violated city codes, Jovanovic had to withdraw his eviction notices until he could prove that the unit was in compliance, per the Times.
But Hirschhorn won’t allow him inside, according to the lawsuit.
With Hirschhorn having been in the property for more than six months, she also qualifies for LA’s new Just Cause Ordinance, which requires a landlord to give a legal reason for eviction, the Times reported.
If none exists, the landlord must pay for relocation assistance.
Meanwhile, the city official concluded that the property was subject to LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, affording Hirschhorn more substantial tenant protections, per the Times.
Jovanovic and his lawyer, Sebastian Rucci, have attempted to sue Hirschhorn on two fronts: a damages complaint to recover unpaid rent, and an unlawful detainer complaint to evict her, the Times reported.
Hirschhorn’s legal team successfully had the latter dismissed by a judge, though Jovanovic’s legal team is appealing the decision.
“She’s the tenant from hell,” Rucci told the Times. “If she’s right, the theory is that if a landlord has something that isn’t permitted, then you can stay in it rent-free forever.”
In comments provided to Insider, Rucci said: “The tenant contends that she will not leave without being paid money to leave. We believe there is no basis for this.”
He added: “We will not negotiate with Elizabeth Hirschhorn. We will not accept any settlement where Sascha has to pay her. She owes over $60,000 in rent, and her allegation that she is owed money to leave is absurd.”
But Hirschhorn’s attorney, Colin Walshok, told the Times: “The landlord broke the law and tried to make money by renting out an illegal bootleg unit.”
“After he was caught, instead of doing the right thing, he has resorted to bullying, harassment, and the filing of frivolous lawsuits containing elaborate false stories, all in an attempt to cover his tracks,” Walshok added.
In an email to Insider, Walshok accused Jovanovic of being “ruthless” and “unhinged,” and spreading fake news stories about his client to “mislead the public about the many laws he broke”.
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