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Quest For Extra Cash With Airbnb Turns Into Nightmare For South Bay Homeowner

WATSONVILLE (CBS SF) -- A South Bay landlord who wanted to make some extra cash by renting out a room through Airbnb is in need of a place to stay herself since the tenants refuse to leave.

Poonam Sandhu said a couple she rented her back master bedroom to on Airbnb also stopped paying weeks ago. She had allowed the couple to make payments in cash after the original Airbnb agreement ran out.

"It's essentially like watching burglars in your house, constantly waiting for them to pick up the next item," Sandhu said.

Sandhu installed several surveillance cameras during what's become a three-week standoff.  She hired a lawyer, and the cameras rolled when she served eviction papers to the couple, with no effect.

The eviction is a lengthy process, and in the meantime the couple has been holed up in the room, living rent-free.

"100-years ago maybe you could call Jack the leg-breaker, and he would take care of it for you, but you can't do that anymore.  Tenants and boarders have rights, and you have to respect those due process rights, or you risk being sued," Real Estate Attorney Leo Siegel said.

Siegel said the couple has three previous eviction judgments against them in Santa Cruz County, and may be choosing this as a lifestyle.

"They get to game the system by pro-rating their living expenses over however many months they get to live in someone's property without paying," Siegel said.

To make matters worse, the home mysteriously developed a sewage problem during their stay that was so bad it forced plumbers to shut off the water.

Sandhu had to move in with friends, and offered to pay the couple for a motel, which they refused.

Sandhu said her biggest mistakes were not getting a background check, and allowing the couple to pay cash off the Airbnb platform after the first payments.

Airbnb released a statement, saying that they "This is not an Airbnb reservation. We encourage and remind all hosts to only book guests through Airbnb."

The company says that renting through them comes with several additional protections, including an insurance program.

Sandhu says Airbnb has not been able to help, and says this should be a warning to others.

"Whenever an Airbnb transaction ends, it doesn't mean that people are actually going to leave, and in this state, it doesn't mean that they have to leave.  They have rights as a tenant," Sandhu said.

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