Airbnb ‘Tenant from Hell’ Has Been Living Rent-Free in Luxury Home for 540 Days and Refuses to Leave
Elizabeth Hirschhorn’s Airbnb stay at an L.A. property owned by Sascha Jovanovic was supposed to end in April 2022. She says she has a legal right to stay.
By Erin Clements
October 6, 2023
An Airbnb guest has reportedly been living rent-free in the guest house of a luxury home in Los Angeles for more than a year and a half.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, Elizabeth Hirschhorn’s Airbnb stay at the property was supposed to end in April 2022, but she refuses to move out unless the host, Sascha Jovanovic, pays her a relocation fee of $100,000, according to a settlement offer reviewed by the Times.
The reason for the bizarre situation is Los Angeles housing laws. A judge has ruled that Jovanovic has no legal reason to evict Hirschhorn from the home, located in the Crestwood Hills neighborhood of Brentwood, due to the city’s rent stabilization laws. (Jovanovic is appealing the ruling.)
The city recently introduced Just Cause Ordinance, which requires a landlord to have a legal reason to evict a tenant, or else pay for relocation assistance.
Hirschhorn’s attorney, Colin Walshok, told the Times that Hirschhorn was not required to pay rent because the home had never been officially approved for occupancy by the city, and claimed its shower was built without a permit.
Jovanovic’s attorney, Sebastian Rucci, called Hirschhorn “the tenant from hell,” adding, “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.”
When contacted by PEOPLE, Walshok called Jovanovic's comments to the Times "vicious fake news" in an email.
"This is a malicious smear campaign about a tenant who did not do the things Jovanovic is telling the public she did," he continued. "[Jovanovic has] not disclosed that he agreed to a long-term lease with the tenant outside of the Airbnb platform. It was never a 6 month lease."
Walshok also clarified that he represents Hirschhorn regarding the complaint filed against her by Jovanovic, and that she is represented by separate legal counsel as to her claim for damages.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Rucci called Hirschorn’s arguments in court “totally false.”
“Her sole purpose is to delay her eviction, aggravate the landowner, and demand extortion money to leave,” the statement continued. “An example of her double talk is her position that adding a shower to that unit without a permit allows her to stay rent-free. If the shower makes the unit illegal, then under her view, she is breaking the law by staying in the unit.”
“Los Angeles is undergoing a housing crisis,” Rucci added. “Well-intended landlord with beautiful units, like Sascha, offer their units as a way of helping the problem. Elizabeth Hirschhorn sends a wrong message: if she is correct (she’s not), renting to her and others like her will force many well-intended persons to question renting expensive units on Airbnb because of fear that others like her exist. Sascha is committed to having her evicted legally and having her owe him a judgment so she never does this again to anyone.”
Jovanovic, 61, has owned the property since 1995, commissioning architect Lorcan O’Herlihy to design his dream home in 2010. He began renting the guest house on Airbnb in 2019.
Jovanovic told the Times he approved a six-month stay for Hirschhorn at a rate of $105 per night.
According to a lawsuit Jovanovic filed against Hirschhorn to evict her, Jovanovic had offered to pay for a hotel stay for Hirschhorn when he noticed water damage and signs of mold that needed be repaired, about five months into her stay. Hirschhorn declined that offer, citing concern about COVID-19 and chemical sensitivities, and also turned down an offer to stay in Jovanovic’s home, noting an extreme sensitivity to cat dander, according to emails obtained by the Times.
According to Jovanovic’s complaint, per the Times, the pair had an informal agreement for her to find another place to live after April 12, 2022 — but Hirschhorn, who stopped paying rent after that date, never vacated the property, according to Jovanovic.
After Jovanovic tried to evict Hirschhorn, she contacted Pedro Gonzalez, an investigator with L.A.’s housing department, according to emails obtained by the Times. She’d reportedly found the unit’s two code violations after consulting the Department of Building and Safety, and subsequently sent a complaint to Gonzalez. Gonzalez responded that Jovanovic would have to withdraw his eviction notices until the home was in compliance with the city's codes, per the Times.
According to Jovanovic's complaint, Hirschhorn wouldn’t allow him inside the guest house to make the repairs necessary for removing the code violations.
“I can never go into my home and know that I’m safe when a potentially hostile person is living there,” Jovanovic told the Times. “I’m thinking about it at all times.”
Erin Clements, "Airbnb ‘Tenant from Hell’ Has Been Living Rent-Free in Luxury Home for 540 Days and Refuses to Leave: Report", October 6, 2023; https://people.com/airbnb-tenant-from-hell-has-been-living-rent-free-in-luxury-home-for-540-days-and-refuses-to-leave-8348284.