Santa Monica wins legal fight with prolific short-term vacation rental host

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In its ongoing fight to crack down on short-term vacation rentals, Santa Monica’s new vacation rental enforcement task force has scored a legal victory against a prolific host.

A trial jury in Los Angeles County Superior Court has upheld 35 of 36 citations that the city filed against short-term rental company Globe Homes LLC, the city announced this week. Court records show the violations included operating without a business license, failure to pay a transient occupancy tax, and renting out a residential dwelling for 30 consecutive days or less.

The city said Globe is appealing.

Santa Monica’s task force has been on Globe’s trail since early 2016. The company has been a prominent fixture in the short-term rental market in Los Angeles, buying up dozens of rental units to convert to vacation properties. In 2015, it had 78 vacation units listed on Airbnb, and for a time was listing the properties under the name “Danielle and Lexi,” accompanied with a profile picture of two young women, according to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

Officials told the Santa Monica Lookoutthat Globe isn’t just an Airbnb host. Court records show it also listed units on booking.com, and the Lookout said it “serves as a broker, and, in some cases, offers management services.” According to the Lookout:

According to Globe’s website, as well as reviews of the service posted online, the company helps those wishing to rent their homes find vacation tenants and serves as the contact for the tenants, helping to troubleshoot problems.

Santa Monica has some of the strictest rules regulating short-term vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb, and city’s the task force at first tried to “work with and educate Globe for many months,” a spokesperson said. But, city officials say, instead of coming into compliance, Globe expanded its operation in the touristy beach enclave.

The city issued dozens of citations against Globe, which fought them in administrative court, before appealing to Los Angeles Superior Court. There, Globe questioned the credibility of the city’s evidence against it, winning one judgement in its favor. Santa Monica must refund a $75 penalty issued to Globe for failure to pay a transient tax on one of its units.

Assistant director of planning and community development Salvador Valles says, “even with this and other enforcement successes, there is much more work to be done.” Fire up the vacation rental enforcement task force bat signal.

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