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Eviction Moratorium Poses Nightmare Scenario For Small Landlord

FREMONT (KPIX) -- A Fremont landlord recently found out his property was being illegally rented out on Airbnb but state and local eviction moratoriums are preventing him from getting his house back.

"I was furious," said Avinash Jha, the homeowner about finding out from a neighbor that his home was being rented out on Airbnb without his permission.

Jha and his wife Ami Shah own a home on Gable Drive in Fremont. Their tenant, Linda, is violating Fremont city law by allowing more than two people to stay there at a time. She asked them to reduce her rent back in March by $500 a month because of hardships caused by COVID-19, they agreed to lower the rent and now regret it.

"They're making money off our house and not paying us the rent, it's kind of like crazy in every which way you look at," Shah said.

"It's not somebody who is impacted by COVID, but somebody who is taking advantage of the situation," Jha said.

Gable Drive isn't isn't Linda's only property. KPIX 5 confirmed she has another listing nearby on Via San Carlos. It's a similar model. Each room is rented individually and goes for about $50 a night. Neighbors are unhappy that so many people have been coming and going during this uncertain time.

"There were 200 reviews and throughout the pandemic there are hundreds of people moving in and out, it's not safe for the community," Jha said.

By subletting the Gable Drive home Linda is in violation of her lease which is grounds for eviction, but because of the pandemic, Fremont put in place an eviction moratorium. So did the state of California.

The courts are not hearing any unlawful detainer cases, even ones where the landlord can prove the tenant is not impacted by the virus.

"This is a classic example of how hastily thought out legislation produces unintended and really unacceptable results," Todd Rothbard said.

Rothbard is an attorney who helps landlords through the eviction process. He says cases like this are happening all across the state.

"I get more than a dozen stories like this every day and a lot worse," Rothbard said.

He's worried the eviction moratorium will have long term, unintended consequences for the housing market as a whole.

"The worst case scenario is that property owners will abandon their properties. They can't afford them, they can't maintain them, they can't pay the property taxes so the government will be deprived of funds, all of these impacts will occur the longer this goes on," Rothbard said.

He says for Shah and Jha to get their home back will be, "very, very difficult in these times."

KPIX 5 ran into Linda outside the home and she declined our request for an interview. She confirmed that she didn't have permission to rent out either home on Airbnb but says she and her husband are having a hard time during the pandemic. She has since taken the listings down, but Airbnb renters are still staying there.

Meanwhile Jha and Shah are being forced to downsize. With an expensive mortgage to maintain they're moving their family of four to a two bedroom condo nearby hoping someday soon they'll be allowed to move into their own home.

"All nights that we are awake, it's because of this, you know, it's causing a lot of emotional stress for sure," Shah said.

An Airbnb spokesperson released the following statement:

When signing up to host on Airbnb, hosts agree to abide by Airbnb's Community Standards, which prohibits the use of someone's property without their permission, and we take these complaints very seriously.

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