Just more than a week after his last packed party, the owner of the Airbnb-marketed “Celebrity House Hunter Mansion” in Dupont Circle has settled a lawsuit with the District that could set the tone for how other properties are promoted on the popular Web site.
Douglas Jefferies, the owner of 2220 Q St. NW, agreed Friday to “cease all business activity at the property — including concerts, weddings, and parties — unless and until he receives the proper business license and Certificate of Occupancy” from D.C. authorities, said a spokesman for D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine. Jefferies must also pay $8,000 in fines.
In the lawsuit, the city accused Jefferies of operating an unlicensed “residential housing business, public hall, boarding house, bed and breakfast, and general business” — hosting loud parties and concerts that led to frequent house calls from police. Last Thursday, the night before the District filed the suit, popular rapper Ja Rule performed on the property.
Racine, who took office in January and is the District’s first elected attorney general, has promised to bring more money into the city’s coffers by settling lawsuits faster than his predecessors.
But the swift settlement on Friday also sent the message that “you can’t operate illegally to rent your home in the District of Columbia in ways that violate multiple laws,” said Racine’s spokesman, Robert Marus.
“This has been a real headache for his neighbors, and it has been, frankly, a threat to public safety. For instance, a space that is rented for such large events, there are statutes that require the number of exits and emergency exits,” Marus said. “It’s required to have a sprinkler system.”
The attorney general’s office has also said that the case is not a reflection of any citywide stance against Airbnb or other popular, informal sites that enable ordinary citizens to rent out their private property without a business license.
Jefferies, who grew agitated last week when asked about the District’s accusations, said Friday that he viewed the lawsuit as an action taken against him personally rather than as a broader gesture to Airbnb users.
“I actually don’t think this pertains to any other Airbnb renter, because the suit wasn’t brought against Airbnb. It was brought against me,” Jefferies said, adding that he had “conceded to getting the proper business licenses.”
According to the settlement, Jefferies will be required to submit to a house inspection by the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs within 10 days and will have to ensure that no “loud or unreasonable noise” comes from the property between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
If Jefferies obtains a license, no more than eight people will be permitted in the house while it is used as a rental property.