The Saga of LA’s “Tenant From Hell”

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Tenant From Hell
Tenant From Hell

In an ordeal spanning nearly two years, a Los Angeles homeowner has finally evicted a woman he describes as the “tenant from hell.” Elizabeth Hirschhorn was removed by police last Friday from a Brentwood guest house she had occupied since 2021 without paying rent. The dramatic saga highlights the complexities of short-term rental laws.

Hirschhorn initially rented Sascha Jovanovic’s guesthouse through Airbnb in 2021. Their landlord-tenant relationship began normally, with Hirschhorn paying $105 per night to stay in the unit, as stipulated on Airbnb. But when her 6-month lease ended, Hirschhorn refused to vacate the property.

This began a contentious legal battle between Hirschhorn and Jovanovic that revealed ambiguity in rental regulations. With Hirschhorn claiming tenant rights, Jovanovic found himself unable to remove her from the unpermitted unit. Critics dubbed Hirschhorn the “tenant from hell” as she remained for nearly two years without paying.

The dispute concerned the legality of the guesthouse itself. Built without proper permits, Hirschhorn argued it was not sanctioned for rentals. Her attorney said lacking permits made rent non-mandatory. But Jovanovic insisted on payment, saying the deficiencies did not nullify their rental contract.

The standoff highlighted confusion surrounding short-term rental policies. Properties listed on sites like Airbnb are not always properly licensed, creating uncertainty when tenant conflicts emerge. Hirschhorn used this regulatory gray area to continue occupying the space.

With the guest house lacking rental permits, tenant protections applied after six months despite the informal vacation rental origins. Under LA’s strict eviction regulations, Jovanovic had limited power to remove Hirschhorn once the tenancy exceeded six months.

Critics say Hirschhorn exploited loopholes and legal technicalities to essentially live rent-free at the owner’s expense. But she blamed improper permitting, saying she was not required to pay on an illegal unit. She demanded $100,000 in relocation costs before agreeing to leave.

The dramatic saga damaged Jovanovic financially and emotionally. “This is like a nightmare, to be honest,” he told local media, describing Hirschhorn’s actions as manipulation. He said her occupancy against his will felt like “extortion.”

Hirschhorn refused him access or repairs on the unpermitted unit. Jovanovic’s inability to evict her due to LA laws compounded his frustration. The case highlighted how strong tenant protections can, in rare cases, be misapplied.

Both parties ultimately filed lawsuits amid the protracted dispute. Jovanovic sued for eviction and damages, while Hirschhorn brought her own civil claims. After nearly two years of litigation, Jovanovic finally achieved legal dismissal of the eviction case last week, allowing the contentious removal.

Yet while Hirschhorn was forced out, Jovanovic’s separate lawsuit for compensation continues. The dramatic saga may not be over, as he seeks redress for extensive lost rental income. For now, the guest house is finally vacant after being occupied for over 18 months by the defiant de facto tenant.

The complex saga has raised concerns over ambiguity in short-term rental regulations that allowed Hirschhorn to exploit what some call loopholes. Her attorney insists she acted lawfully in a unit not approved for tenancy. But lawmakers may reassess statutes that permitted such problematic occupancy.

Regardless of legal technicalities, the ethics of Hirschhorn’s actions trouble many. She profited from rental gaps to occupy the space at a private owner’s great expense. The case shows that tenant protections, when improperly leveraged, can have unintended consequences. As jurisdictions reexamine housing laws, they must balance rights with reason.

This tense landlord-tenant affair fueled media fascination. Hirschhorn’s defiant persistence despite lacking any lease protection struck many as beyond the pale. Even if within her legal rights, her actions—described by Jovanovic as manipulative and unfair—left observers incredulous.

The protracted saga of LA’s so-called “tenant from hell” finally concluded with her contentious ouster by police. But the larger debate around rental regulations, and the potential for their misuse, continues. Authorities everywhere must find solutions that protect tenants without enabling exploitation. Only balanced reforms can produce ethical and equitable housing policies.

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