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|Santa Monica, Local Motel Owner Settle Dispute Over Bed Taxes||
By Jorge Casuso
April 12, 2012 -- A Santa Monica motel known for renting rooms to families on need will credit several occupants for bed taxes that were alleged to have been wrongfully charged, according to a settlement with the City announced Wednesday.
Spiros Dellaportas, who owns the Palm Motel at 2020 14th Street, also was accused along with his managers of harassing the tenants, according to City officials.
Dellaportas has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he "elected to work cooperatively with the City Attorney's office in order to reach an amicable resolution," according to a statement released by his attorney. No lawsuit was filed, the owner noted.
The City Attorney's office launched its investigation after three of the motel's current and former occupants filed complaints with the City, said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, who heads Santa Monica's Consumer Protection Unit.
"Two of the occupants each claimed that they paid thousands of dollars in 'taxes' to Dellaportas over a period of years, which were not legally owed, nor forwarded to the City," Radinsky said.
Under the law, hotels can collect "transient occupancy taxes" (TOTs) -- also known as "bed taxes" -- from guests only for the first 29 days of occupancy, Radinsky said.
Under the settlement, Dellaportas "must give the tenants credit, in the form of free rent, to account for all of the wrongful TOT payments that he allegedly collected," Radinsky said.
Dellaportas also must pay $7,500 to the City's Consumer Protection Fund, complete a two-day property management training program and "keep thorough and accurate records of all guest stays in the future," he said.
Dellaportas said the occupants' allegations "were untruthful and asserted for personal gain," according to the statement issued by the law firm Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal.
The attorneys attached letters from OPCC and Upward Bound House, two local non-profit agencies, testifying that they send clients to the Palm Motel for emergency shelter.
"The owner provides good service and works collaboratively with us to provide quality rooms to our families," wrote David Snow of Upward Bound.
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