NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Encinitas homeowner said tenant is taking advantage of COVID eviction rules

Encinitas condo
Posted at 12:05 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 20:57:07-04

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) -- A North County homeowner claims her tenant is taking advantage of COVID rental rules meant to help those struggling during this pandemic.

Alice Von Simson used to live in her Encinitas condo before her family grew larger.

“When I blended families with my boyfriend, we suddenly had a lot of children. We went from two to five, and then we had [a] little one together,” Von Simson said.

They are now renting a different property, but kept the condo and rented it out. Alice said she noticed a couple of unusual requests from the beginning, but let it go at first.

“We actually had a conversation when she signed the lease. She said, ‘Oh, can you remove the subletting clause?’” Von Simpson recalled. “I said no, definitely not.”

At this point, Team 10 is not naming the tenant. Von Simpson said she plans to file a lawsuit soon.

Von Simson said there were multiple issues over the months, including a post advertising the condo on Airbnb. As of June 16, the listing was still active.

Von Simson said two people were living with her tenant in April despite the contract prohibiting subletters.

“She took advantage of my ignorance of the fact that she didn’t own the house. She took advantage of my ignorance on the fact that she … couldn’t have tenants,” Jake said.

Jake said he and one other roommate were paying rent to her. His portion was $1,500.

“The rent is $3,500,” he said. “She gets $2,600 or $2,700 from us. So she gets a master bedroom, master bath, her own balcony, essentially, for $800 right next to the beach in Encinitas."

Despite collecting rent from subletters and an active listing on the rental site, Von Simson said her tenant did not pay rent in April, May, and June. The renter submitted a COVID hardship form to Von Simson.

Von Simson works in the wedding industry and lost lots of business during the pandemic. This housing situation is now adding up in legal fees.

“I was pretty furious. It's difficult … when you've not been making money for an entire year," she said. “I’ve got to find the money for lawyers and things like that. It's not as easy as people think.”

Because of the pandemic, eviction moratoriums prevent tenant evictions for not paying rent if they turn in the signed COVID hardship form to the landlord. On May 4, the Board of Supervisors passed an updated, stricter eviction ordinance. Landlords can only evict tenants if they pose an imminent threat to health or safety. That ordinance will expire 60 days after the state lifts all COVID-related stay-at-home orders.

Attorney Lawrence Mudgett is not a part of this case but has been involved in landlord-tenant law for 14 years. He said people like Von Simson will have fewer options.

“Unless those violations had to do with the health and safety of other tenants on the property, then the landlord's case would not be allowed to proceed. They couldn't even serve a notice,” Mudgett said.

Team 10 contacted the renter for her side. She claimed Von Simson is the one “not cooperating.” She would not go into detail about any subletters, only saying one person was moving out. She directed Team 10 to contact her attorney, who never responded to Team 10’s inquiry.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said there have not been any reservations at the property in the past year.

While Von Simson is sympathetic to those who truly need help, she is concerned some are taking advantage of the system.

“People like me, just normal, random people are being expected to give loans to other people in the amount of thousands of dollars with absolutely no warning,” she said. “I can't see how that's a good system at all.”

Team 10 contacted Supervisor Nora Vargas’ office. Vargas championed the new eviction ordinance.

In a statement, Vargas said: “In the middle of a pandemic and homelessness crisis, we took steps to provide protections to residents who are at risk of displacement due to COVID-19. We simultaneously worked with the state and federal government to secure $165.3 million in resources to support landlords and tenants who are most in need. It is shameful that other tenants are taking advantage of an ordinance meant to protect our community’s most vulnerable.”

There is currently a lawsuit filed by a group of landlords, fighting the new eviction restrictions.