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The extended stay is now the subject of competing lawsuits, according to the Los Angeles Times with the guest — Elizabeth Hirschhorn — claiming she has a right to stay in the guesthouse of Dr. Sascha Jovanovic, and refusing to leave unless he pays her a $100,000 relocation fee.
A Los Angeles judge has ruled that under Los Angeles’s rent control law, there is no legal reason to evict her.
“I tried to be a kind host,” Jovanovic told the Times. “I had no idea she would become what she has become.”
Hirschhorn’s attorney, Colin Walshok, told the newspaper she was not required to pay rent because the guest house was never approved for occupancy and it has a shower that was built without a permit.
“The landlord broke the law and tried to make money by renting out an illegal bootleg unit,” Walshok said. “After he was caught, instead of doing the right thing, he has resorted to bullying, harassment and the filing of frivolous lawsuits containing elaborate false stories, all in an attempt to cover his tracks.”
Hirschhorn’s stay began in September 2021 and officially ended in April 2022. She hasn’t paid Jovanovic any rent since then. Hirschhorn was kicked out of a $2.6 million vacation rental in Oakland, California, in July 2021, a report from the Daily Mail shows, just two months before her stay in Los Angeles began.
She originally rented the guest house for a six-month stay at $105 per night, bringing the total to $20,793 for 187 nights. During her stay, Jovanovic requested to repair water damage and mold around a sink that wasn’t there before her stay, but Hirschhorn refused, declining to stay in a hotel at the owner’s expense, or in his home, citing disabilities, chemical sensitivities and the pandemic.
When it became clear she wouldn’t vacate the unit, the landlord and tenant made an informal agreement that she could stay until April 12, 2022, after which she would find a new place to stay.
Unofficially extending the lease past the original March 19 move-out date was a huge mistake on Jovanovic’s part, according to the report, because Hirschhorn was now no longer an Airbnb customer but a tenant with an informal agreement to stay on his property. Jovanovic has tried serving her several eviction notices, to no avail.
A city inspector found two code violations in the guest house — it wasn’t approved for occupancy, and it had an unpermitted shower.
Because the unit couldn’t legally be occupied, Jovanovic had to withdraw his eviction notices until he could make his unit compliant. The city inspector also ruled that the guest house was subject to city rent regulations, giving Hirschhorn stronger tenant protections.
Jovanovic tried to access the unit to make repairs, but Hirschhorn wouldn’t let him in. The city sent him a $660 fee for not getting the unit up to code.
Jovanovic is now suing his tenant in two separate lawsuits: A damages complaint to recoup $58,000 in unpaid rent, and an unlawful detainer complaint to evict her.
“She’s the tenant from hell,” Jovanovic’s attorney Sebastian Rucci told the Times. “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.”