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Man fined $180K over Airbnb rental sues Las Vegas over ‘excessive’ penalty

Updated June 4, 2024 - 8:46 pm

A homeowner fined $180,000 by the city of Las Vegas after his property was allegedly rented out through Airbnb has filed suit against the city seeking to void the fine and claiming his constitutional rights were violated.

Attorney Andrew Bao, in a complaint for relief filed Monday in District Court for his client Xin Tao, said the city violated Tao’s rights of due process under the Nevada Constitution for not giving notice to him for more than two years as the fine grew by $500 a day.

Tao received notice of a fine of $2,132 for allegedly permitting the property to be offered on Airbnb, as the home’s owner, for short-term rentals in August 2021, which Tao stated he agreed to stop and then had a tenant sign a two-year lease stipulating no rentals could take place there, the lawsuit said.

“To have a $2,132.00 fine astronomically balloon to $180,000.00, without notice for more than two (2) years, is a violation of due process and Petitioner’s constitutional rights,” Bao said in the lawsuit.

“Further, the $180,000.00 is an excessive fine and punishment in violation of Petitioner’s constitutional rights,” the lawyer stated.

Tao’s lawsuit, which further claims the city illegally took his private property and invaded his privacy, asks the court to void the fine, award him damages of more than $15,000 and attorneys fees, plus issue an order preventing the city from foreclosing on his home.

Tao blames the tenant who leased his house, at 2220 Glen Heather Way near Oakey Boulevard and Rancho Drive, for permitting the Airbnb rentals without Tao’s permission.

“At worst, Petitioner is a victim of tenant’s fraudulent concealment and potential criminal acts,” the suit states.

Las Vegas prohibits short-term renting without a business license, as do the cities of North Las Vegas and Henderson. Clark County closed the application period for short-term rental unit licenses on Aug. 21, 2023.

Eric McCoy, the city’s code enforcement manager, said that Tao had not sought a license for short-term rentals, according to minutes of a Jan. 17 City Council meeting.

Tao, a resident of Portland, Oregon, and Yaoqun Ding bought the Glen Heather Way abode in June 2021, according to the minutes.

In August 2021, a code enforcement officer found photo images of the home on Airbnb’s website that matched those on Realtor.com. A notice and order prohibiting rentals was issued on Aug. 18, 2021, and after speaking to Tao, the officer found the property in compliance that September, but kept the case open for a year, council records show.

On Oct. 2, 2021, a new listing offering the home for a 31-day rental on another website lasted until November, then on Feb. 8, 2022, an officer located a tenant renting the home for four days and records provided by Airbnb showed illegal rentals had continued there since the Aug. 18, 2021 order, based on council records.

The department had received nine resident complaints pertaining to possible short term rentals at Tao’s residence and performed 11 inspections, according to the city records.

On Sept. 14, 2023, another website included the home for rent and 67 reviews of it were posted on the site, according to the city records.

Tao said in his Monday lawsuit that Airbnb used photos of his home without his authorization and refused his demands to provide information on renting his property.

He stated that he was unable to evict the tenant in the home for allegedly violating the lease due to lack of evidence of short term renting there, which he said that both Airbnb and the City Code Enforcement Department failed to disclose to him.

After Tao appealed the fine before the City Council on Jan. 17, it voted unanimously to uphold the penalty and place a lien in that amount on his home.

City spokesman Jace Radke said that the jurisdiction does not comment on pending litigation, but he added that Mayor Carolyn Goodman would stand by the statement she made at the council meeting.

“The owner must stand up and take care of what’s done with their own properties,” Goodman said at the time, according to a Review-Journal news story.

Tao suffered a setback last month when a judge dismissed his appeal of the fine in District Court.

District Judge Nadia Krall on May 13 set aside a petition for judicial review filed in February by Bao.

Krall agreed with attorneys for the city that Tao did not enter his appeal in a timely manner under state law, saying he had 25 days after the city approved the large fine when he filed it 29 days afterward, according to court documents.

Bao said that he had to discuss the matter with his client before providing a comment on Krall’s ruling.

Bao, in his petition for judicial review of the fine filed on February 15, claimed that the city in September 2023 informed Tao he would be fined $2,132, but later determined that the home had been illegally rented for 360 days, between August 2021 and September 2023 and at $500 per day assessed his penalty at $180,000 as of October 5, 2023.

After the Code Enforcement Department ordered him to cease and desist from short-term rentals in August 2021, Tao claims that he had complied and stopped the rentals and then entered into a two-year lease with a tenant with a stipulation that no short-term rentals would be permitted, Bao stated in the February filing.

City lawyers argued that when Tao’s case for judicial review was filed in February, it cited his appeal rights under NRS Chapter 233B, which pertains to judicial review of administrative decisions under “agencies of the Executive Department of the State Government” instead of the correct law, NRS 278, which governs reviews of city decisions,

Under NRS 278, such a filing must take place within 25 days of the City Council’s decision, but because it was filed 29 days after, “the petition was untimely” and must be dismissed, city lawyers said.

Krall, in her ruling against Tao’s appeal, said that “petitioner’s failure to timely file his Petition leaves this Court without subject matter jurisdiction and the Petition must be dismissed.”

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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