WSJ: The Hostile Occupation of Carlos Lopez’s House
It seems like this sort of thing might be playing more of a role in rental unavailability than AirBnB.
If Carlos Lopez lived anywhere but California, he could have forced the suqatter out of his modest rental house months ago. But here any conviction defendant, even one who has admittedly refused to pay the rent, can get a free attorney and demand a jury trial as leverage. That’s what the woman occupying Mr. Lopez’s house in northern Los Angeles County did. Only ethics or ignorance prevents every evictee from doing the same.
As Mr Lopez’s lawyer, I was skeptical when he told me someone was living in his house without payment or permission – until I discovered that my firm had helped evict the same woman from three other area houses. The difference this time was that the squatter had an attorney, provided by a state-funded nonprofit whose mission is to reduce evictions. As a result, she could practically decide for herself when to leave and how she would leave.
Like many small-time landlords, Mr. Lopez, a landscaper, couldn’t afford a lawsuit costing anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000. He was dealing from a nearly powerless position with someone to whom, he says, he never agreed to rent and who never paid him a cent. He says she showed up after his former tenant went to jail.
“This is not worth it,” Mr. Lopez said of being a landlord. He hopes to sell the house, which he inherited, once it’s vacant.
Of course, the two may amplify one another: It’s a lot easier to get rid of an AirBnB tenant than most other things.Photo by Mark Turnauckas