Owner of Phoenix apartment building serves eviction notices to every tenant so he can turn their homes into unlicensed hotel rooms

Like many large US cities, Phoenix has a housing shortage and like many US cities, that crisis is worsened by the conversion of much of its housing stock into unlicensed hotel rooms through companies like Airbnb, VRBO, and Wanderjaunt, a new competitor in the unlicensed hotel room industry.

Arizona's legislature has banned cities from putting limits on the process of converting homes to unlicensed hotel rooms, and that has created a local eviction epidemic. For example, tenants in Thomas McPherson's Historic Westminster Apartments (owned through his Fenix Private Capital Group) say they were all served with eviction notices that announced that McPherson had "elected to take the experience into a progressive new direction and turn the entire building into short term rentals."

(McPherson told the Phoenix New Times that they were incorrect in asserting that he was evicting all of his tenants, but declined to elaborate; units in the building are already listed on Wanderjaunt for $75/night/guest)

Wanderjaunt's founder, Michael Chen, has publicly explained that his company's growth strategy is to convince owners of rental properties to evict their tenants from their homes and turn a larger profit through short-term rentals; he called it "an arbitrage opportunity between long- and short-term rentals."

For one tenant of Westminster, who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation from her landlord, there's no question that McPherson is planning to turn her home into a hotel room. About a month or two ago, the tenant said she emailed her property manager asking if it would be possible to shorten her lease. The property manager told her that McPherson had new plans for the building, but assured her that she didn't have to worry about moving out for another two to four months.

A month later, the tenant received the same lease termination letter as Christensen.

"My entire life has changed. My fiancé lost his job and the day after, one of our good friends passed away. A week from that day we were being evicted," she said. "It's been really tough and stressful."

Downtown Apartment Building Cleared of Tenants to Open Short-Term Rental Hotel [Steven Hsieh/Phoenix New Times]

(Thanks, Ryon Moody!)