Rainier Valley homeowner lives in van while delinquent tenant lists rental on Airbnb

Jason Roth lives in a van with his dog Wally. He’s both homeless and a homeowner, all at the same time.

“It’s frustrating, extremely frustrating. It’s something I can’t fully wrap my head around,” he said.

Jason is making mortgage payments for his Rainer Valley home and paying for pilot school. He is owed five months’ rent - a total of some $29k in back rent, plus utilities.

“I do come here often just to look at my house, and miss it …and wish I could be in it,” he said.

Jason’s deadbeat renter is listing the downstairs living space on Airbnb for $434 a night. Jason believes he is generating at least $2k a month, and possibly closer to $3k or possibly even $4k, depending on the month.

The city gave the delinquent renter a short-term rental license. A spokesperson for the city said, “…the license this individual has is not valid because it was obtained using inaccurate information about ownership of the property.”

“OK. 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,” said Jason.

He’s tried to work with the renter and even came up with a payment plan, the renter signed it, paid a thousand bucks - and that’s it. Jason also tried dispute resolution, with no results. Now, he has to wait until late October for an eviction hearing. The current process for an eviction in King County is about 12 months. That’s another 12 months that Jason has to pay the mortgage on his house, that he can’t access. Before all is said and done, he is looking at $50k in losses.

Attorney Ryan Weatherstone said that King County courts are only hearing six cases per day. Half of those hearings get automatically continued for another three and a half months. So, the court is only really hearing three hearings per day and they’re only hearing it for four days a week for the biggest county in Washington.

We stopped by Jason’s home to speak with the renter, but he didn’t answer the door. We did see a shiny car with a new registration in the driveway on our way out.

Understandably, Jason has a hard time justifying how this has happened.

“It makes me feel all kinds of different emotions. I mean, extreme sadness, anger, physical discomfort because of where I’m living.”

The city said it is investigating the case about the short-term rental license. And, Airbnb has removed the listing featuring Jason’s home.

For now, Jason is left to absorb the loss until he can get his home back.

“I’m on my own, which to me might be the worst part because there’s always going to be people who abuse the system and scam. But the city should be there to recognize when that’s happening. And nobody’s been able to provide me any tangible assistance, anything significant.”