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Airbnb Squatter Refuses to Leave, Threatens Owner With Lawsuit

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on July 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Anyone who has rented out their house or apartment through online home-sharing service Airbnb has probably asked themselves, at least rhetorically, what's the worst that could happen?

Well, a San Francisco woman's experience with an unruly Airbnb tenant in her Palm Springs condo is illustrating the dark side of the burgeoning sharing economy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Airbnb tenant stopped paying rent 30 days into his stay, but now refuses to leave and is using California's tenant's rights rules to remain in the woman's condo rent-free.

What led to this woman's nightmare scenario, and why has it been so difficult to get this Airbnb squatter to leave?

Cory Tschogl, a 39-year-old rehabilitation therapist from San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she's owned the Palm Springs condo for about 18 months, and had been listing it on Airbnb to help pay her expenses.

A guest from Texas booked the condo for 44 days this summer, but after paying the first month in advance, did not pay the remaining balance due. Tschogl also reports that the tenant acted strange, complaining about the tap water.

When the 44 days were up and the tenant had neither paid nor vacated, Tschogl texted the tenant and said she was turning off the power in 24 hours. He texted back, saying he was legally occupying the condo and that shutting off the power would prevent him from bringing in up to $7,000 a day from his home-based business. He also threatened to sue Tschogl for negligence, blackmail and "malicious misconduct" for damages (including to a $3,800 espresso machine) and for "medical bills" allegedly incurred by the tenant's brother from drinking the tap water.

How is any of this Tshogl's problem?

After 30 Days, Tenant's Rights Were Vested

Under California landlord/tenant law, the Airbnb squatter acquired tenant's rights after living in, and paying rent for, the condo for 30 days. With these rights, the Airbnb tenant cannot be removed as a trespasser, but rather must be evicted formally.

Typically, an owner must first give notice to a tenant of the reason for the eviction. The owner can then institute an unlawful detainer action against the tenant, which is the legal process by which a court determines whether the tenant can be evicted. If the court finds in the owner's favor, it will issue a writ that may be executed by local law enforcement to remove the tenant.

For now, Tshogl's Airbnb squatter gets a free ride, while Tshogl learns the hard way that even in today's world, sharing is not always caring.

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