Tenant Stopped Paying Rent, Landlord Living in Car: Lawsuit
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
A Washington state landlord who rented out his home to pay for pilot school says he’s now living in his van because he can’t evict his tenant, who he says owes nearly $50,000 in unpaid rent from the past nine months and illegally listed his house on Airbnb.
“I need my house. And all the media and other attention is great, but it doesn’t really do me any good,” Jason Roth told Insider. “Like, I need to get my house back. I need to get on with my life. I need to stop living in my van.”
In March of this year, Roth’s tenant, Kareem Hunter, moved in. Roth moved out to a separate apartment. They agreed upon $4,300 in monthly rent, according to documents filed by Roth in Kings County Superior Court that were reviewed by Insider.
After paying just a portion of one month’s rent, Roth said, Hunter stopped paying anything at all. Roth said that the pair tried to negotiate a payment plan but that Hunter still didn’t pay, instead listing rooms on the property for rent without paying down his debt.
“So, not only is he not paying me, but he’s generating an income through the basement Airbnb unit, and meanwhile, I’m having to pay the utilities for that unit,” Roth told the local news outlet Kiro 7.
In a court filing reviewed by Insider, Roth said Hunter owed him $47,248, a figure that included $33,400 in back rent as well as utilities and late fees.
As a result of utility bills, legal payments, and property taxes piling up, Roth said he could no longer afford the apartment he was renting and moved into his van.
Hunter’s claims against Roth
Hunter told Insider that Roth had refused to accept payment of past due rent, saying that Roth always intended to take him to court to collect “eviction insurance” and that he had demanded Hunter pay him $40,000 to allow him to break the lease.
Some insurance policies offer landlords protection if they are sued for wrongful eviction. But this is not a standard coverage in most rental-property insurance policies — and Roth said he didn’t hold such a policy.
According to court documents viewed by Insider, Hunter told Roth in an email in July that he wanted to pay his outstanding rent. Hunter also said at the time that he did not want to go to court to avoid having an eviction on his record.
In correspondence between the two included in a court filing, Roth’s lawyer and Hunter tried to negotiate a payment plan but could not come to an agreement. Insider could not find documentation that Roth demanded Hunter pay $40,000 at any point, though their negotiations did include a discussion of payment of $12,000 of back rent.
Hunter also said Roth knew he would sublease rooms on the property.
A copy of Hunter’s lease, included in the court filing reviewed by Insider, indicated subleasing the property through Airbnb or other short-term rental sites was allowed as long as the tenant didn’t claim to be a representative or employee of the property owner.
Kiro 7 reported that Hunter’s Airbnb listing of Roth’s property was eventually removed, and city officials said the rental license was invalid because it was “obtained using inaccurate information about ownership of the property.”
In statements to Insider, Hunter also said Roth threatened his life over the dispute, Roth lied about being homeless, and Roth was “directly or indirectly involved in the robbery of the property causing over $55,000 in losses.”
Roth said nothing could be further from the truth, telling Insider in an email that “the statements that Mr. Hunter has made on social media and elsewhere where he accuses me of ‘swindling,’ ‘extortion,’ ‘threatening the life of his tenant’ and participation in a so-called ‘eviction insurance scam’ and ‘rental insurance scam’ are baseless and defamatory.”
The battle moves to court
The monthslong battle between Roth and Hunter is now in court, and Roth said his friends were raising money for his legal fees on GoFundMe.
Roth told Insider he would be unable to live in his house for months after a judge set a hearing date for March next year — after the current lease had expired.
He said all he could do now was “struggle and wait” and eat the “value meats that are in the on-sale section at Kroger.”
Rental disputes such as these can drag on in court. In a recent notable ruling in California, an Airbnb host couldn’t evict a tenant who stayed in a home for 570 days after she stopped paying rent. A judge initially sided with the tenant, ruling that she could not be evicted after finding the Airbnb host violated city permit codes in the rental property.
The landlord later sued his tenant, and she vacated the property earlier this month.
Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.