There was something immediately weird about the eight San Francisco apartments owned by landlords Darren and Valerie Lee, who claimed that different families lived in each of them.
The identical house plants were fishy enough. But in each of the eight units, the families who lived in them also happened to arrange all of their dirty breakfast dishes in the sink the exact same way. They also stocked their kitchens with the same Costco foodstuff, their closets with the same shoes and clothes, and their bathrooms with the same hygienic products and damp bathroom towels, each flung over the door with identical carelessness.
Or, at least, this is what the Lees wanted city housing inspectors to believe.
Nobody really lived there, the inspectors quickly realized: It was all just part of a badly concealed “illicit hotel chain” scheme involving Airbnb that came crashing down Monday, after the property owners of these bizarrely identical apartments failed to fool investigators into believing that eight different, rent-paying people really lived in them.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in an announcement Monday that the Lees agreed to pay $2.25 million in penalties for illegally renting out their properties to short-term vacationers during a dire housing crisis in San Francisco, despite years of warnings and a 2015 injunction blocking them from doing this.
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