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City Wins Conviction Against "Flagrant and Persistent Violator" of Vacation Rental Laws

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

April 10, 2019 -- A Santa Monica landlord who illegaly rented more than a dozen housing units as vacation rentals was convicted Friday of violating the City's homesharing laws.

Diana Hayek, who City Prosecutors called a "persistent and flagrant violator" of Santa Monica's strict laws forbidding short-term rentals,
was convicted of five separate criminal misdemeanors.

The convictions were the result of a plea agreement on the eve of the trial where Hayek accepted responsibility for 23 counts of charged violations uncovered during an investigation that began in 2016, officials said.

"The investigation found that Hayek removed at least 13 housing units from the permanent rental housing market and used them for her unlawful vacation rental business," City officials said.

Hayek was convicted of one count of operating an unlawful business, two counts of violating the City’s Home-Sharing Ordinance and two counts of failing to comply with City administrative citations.

Officers from the City’s Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force "attempted to gain compliance first through education and then with administrative citations," City officials said.

After Hayek "persistently refused to comply," the Task Force referred the case to the City Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution in December 2017,

“The City of Santa Monica has consistently dedicated policies and resources toward producing, protecting, and preserving housing in our community,” Chief Deputy City Attorney Yibin Shen said in a statement.

“These convictions represent just outcomes that affirm these important legislative goals.”

Under the plea agreement, Hayek was placed on four years of probation.

She also must pay the City $2,118 in investigative costs, more than $5,000 in criminal fines and statutory penalty assessments and approximately $9,000 in administrative citation fines.

Hayek also will be subject to 30 days of county jail or 60 days of court supervised community service for any future violation of the City’s Home-Sharing Ordinance, officials said.

Earlier this year, the City Attorneys office won convictions against three separate violators of the City's homesharing ordinance ("Santa Monica Wins Three Homesharing Cases," March 7, 2019).

In those cases, a total of 29 rental units were removed from the rental market, City officials said.

Approved by the City Council in 2015, Santa Monica's law is considered the strictest in the nation.

It outlaws the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days, makes hosts legally accountable for nuisance violations and requires them to list their units on a City registry and pay a hotel tax.

The law has withstood several challenges in the courts ("Appeals Court Affirms Santa Monica's Right to Regulate Online Homesharing Platforms," March 13, 2019).

Last month, a California Appeals Court affirmed the City's right to penalize online platforms for booking short-term rentals of properties not licensed under the local law.

To report an illegal vacation rental business, contact Code Enforcement at (310) 458-4984.

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