The owner of a Peachtree-Dunwoody Road mansion offered for short-term rentals on Airbnb, which has drawn the ire of neighbors for reportedly hosting loud parties, has been issued a cease and desist letter from the city of Atlanta.
The letter, sent to owner Paul McPherson on April 22, says the city has determined no family lives in the mansion at 4205 Peachtree-Dunwoody, and instead it is being used as a hotel, which is not allowed in residential zoned areas in Atlanta.
However, McPherson maintains that renting the house on Airbnb is not in violation of the law. He said the complaints have come from a single person, though a local neighborhood association says there have been more, and that he is being singled out based on his race.
“We operate completely within the law,” McPherson said. “I don’t know what prompted this letter. There have been no complaints, except from one person.”
The letter orders McPherson to stop the use of the property within 10 days of the date of the letter and says failure to do so will result in a citation to appear in Atlanta Municipal Court.
The house was still listed on the Airbnb site as of May 23. At first, it was listed under three different names, but two of those listings disappeared after Reporter Newspapers asked McPherson about them.
The city did not provide comment on why this property was shut down, or whether the city will begin pursuing other Airbnb rentals.
During the annual meeting of the North Buckhead Civic Association in March, president Gordon Certain said, District 7 Councilman Howard Shook fielded questions about the Airbnb property for 10 minutes. In an email, Shook said he supports the action taken.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an open case, but I salute the city whenever it takes action against absentee property owners who illegally profit from the misery of neighbors,” Shook said.
Complaints have come from four or five residents, said Certain. They began about a year ago with reports of loud parties, including a May 2016 concert that drew headlines after social media posts advertised the cover charges to get into the concert and a picture of one guest flashing a pistol, he said.
“I was pleasantly surprised the city finally did something about it,” Certain said. “[Short-term rentals are] still a problem throughout Buckhead.”
“There was one incident that was out of my control,” McPherson said of the 2016 party, adding that is the only incident that warranted a complaint.
The property’s listing says the host bans parties at the house and warns guests that neighbors are concerned about noise. “There are families living in the neighborhood. We hope you understand that noise is a concern for them, especially after 11 p.m.,” the listing says.
McPherson believes the complaints are coming from a sole neighbor, and said he is being targeted because of his race. The neighbor making the complaints was previously helpful and amiable toward him, McPherson said, but he believes that changed when she saw him in person and realized he is black.
“My house is not the problem. My ethnicity is a problem,” he said.
Until recently, there were three listings for McPherson’s property, showing identical photos, under different names. One was under the name “Lati”; another was under the name “Jon”; and a third was under the name “Luxury Homes.”
McPherson said he didn’t have information about multiple listings of his property. However, minutes after Reporter Newspapers asked McPherson about the additional listings and the cease and desist letter, two properties were removed, leaving only “Jon’s” listing.
An Airbnb spokesperson said companies are allowed to host properties on the service, and identification is not required. Airbnb said it has software to detect dangerous hosts, and will request government ID if needed.
“We have a real-time risk detection system that uses machine learning and predictive analytics, instantly evaluating hundreds of risk signals to flag and then stop bad actors and scams before anything happens,” the spokesperson said. “If a host chooses to use a host management service, they will be held to the same standards and policies as other Airbnb community members.”
The spokesperson did not respond to a question about posting the same property in different, simultaneous listings.
According to the property’s Airbnb listing, home dates in May, June and July are unavailable.
The neighboring city of Sandy Springs similarly does not allow short-term rentals in residential areas, but plans to legalize and regulate them in a new zoning coding coming this summer.