Los Angeles is expensive. Just so expensive. Fortunately, I recently landed on a solution for that problem. See, I've been traveling a lot this year, which left my insanely overpriced apartment completely vacant. Rather than pay rent for a place I'd only be at a couple weeks a month, I decided to rent it out to random strangers whenever I was away. It was equal parts awesome and unnerving. We talk about it on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
5The Money Is Nice
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When I say I live in Los Angeles, what I actually mean is that I live in Santa Monica, and that's so much better. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves to make living in the Valley seem less depressing. Not only am I in Santa Monica, but I'm also eight blocks from the beach. Granted, I can only afford it because I don't have a car and am within walking (ish) distance from most of the work-related things I need to do in town, but still, it's nice. Imagine a resort that lets homeless people sleep on the grounds. That's Santa Monica.
As you can imagine, hotel rooms in my neighborhood are pretty spendy. But can you really imagine, or do you just think you can? Is this what you were imagining?
How about the 12 percent savings at the Viceroy?!?!?
And those are the rooms where the riffraff stay. Rich people opt for shit like this ...
A great value for anyone sharing a room with 35 friends!
All of those places are a few blocks from where I live. So when I list my apartment for $200 a night on a site like Airbnb, where people looking to sleep somewhere for cheap connect with the strangers who definitely won't murder them whilst they dream, it looks like a fucking bargain. It's also enough to cover my rent for the month if I rent it out for ten days or so. I've been doing that for most of the year.
Unfortunately, Santa Monica decided this wasn't exactly the kind of profiteering they wanted happening in their area. Effective June 15th, vacation rentals under 30 days are basically illegal. That's a bummer for me, but it was nice while it lasted. In the name of mourning the passing of my financial security, let's talk about a few of the things I learned from renting my apartment to strangers.
4Prostitutes Are A Concern
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Like any other advance in Internet technology that's made life easier for people, almost as soon as vacation rental sites like Airbnb went online, the criminals of the world started looking for ways to exploit them for profit. Naturally, the first segment of the underworld to make it work for them was the illicit sex trade.
Back in April of last year, the New York Post reported that prostitutes in the NYC area were using Airbnb rentals instead of hotel rooms in the name of saving a few bucks and, more importantly, remaining anonymous. Hotels have doormen and security and cameras -- features the average person's apartment generally lack.
Not that I haven't considered it, of course.
Even when nothing that can technically be defined as illegal is happening, you still run the risk of returning to your apartment to grab something you forgot, only to walk in on an orgy of plus-sized people happening in your living room.
Living where I do, this was always a concern. Luckily, once a person commits to renting, you get their full name. That means you can Google them and see if their social media posting history leans more toward Facebook or Craigslist. Sure, it will make you feel like a bit of a creep (unless you already are one, in which case you were going to do it anyway), but it's way better than getting a call from your landlord saying a prostitute just got stabbed in your apartment.
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"Yeah, his profile picture made me hesitant to rent to him, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt."
If I was able to find sufficient evidence that the renter in question wasn't going to turn my residence into a brothel, I'd go through with the rental. In a couple of cases, I had to cancel.
Sometimes people make the decision easy for you right away.
Did I do this for everyone who rented my place? Of course. I'm in California. I have no doubt that the demand for male and female prostitutes is equally robust in my neighborhood.
That said, I would make an exception if the renter was clearly elderly. I mean, even if one of them was a hooker, at that point it's more like having a novelty act in your apartment, and that's kind of cool. It's like having the bearded lady or the boy with the lobster claws for hands renting your place. It's more charming than anything. I don't think any of the old people who rented my place were sex workers, but they were definitely something.