• A real-estate investor was fined $180,000 by the city of Las Vegas for running an illegal Airbnb. 
  • Oregon engineer Xin Tao said he bought the house as an investment property to rent out longer term. 
  • Tao said his tenant rented it out on Airbnb and the city didn’t say daily fines were adding up.

In November, the city of Las Vegas issued a $180,000 fine against a homeowner who officials say ran an unauthorized Airbnb near the Las Vegas strip.

The homeowner, however, told Business Insider he believes he is the victim of a scam run by the tenant renting his house at the time.

In June 2021, Xin Tao purchased a five-bedroom, two-bathroom property in Las Vegas for $378,000.

Tao, an engineer who lives in Oregon full-time, told BI he bought the house as an investment property. While he did initially consider listing it on Airbnb, he added, he abandoned that plan when he signed a lease with a long-term tenant in September 2021. (Business Insider viewed a copy of the lease.)


Shortly after, multiple neighbors called the city with complaints about the property, complaining about an overflow of cars parked in the driveway and that activity at the house “regularly disturbs” neighbors, according to enforcement logs from the city of Las Vegas.

On two separate occasions in October 2021 and February 2022, Las Vegas city officials knocked on the door, according to government logs. The people who answered said they were renting the property through Airbnb, the logs said.

Tao was issued $2,132 in fines from the February 2022 incident — $500 per day for the four days the alleged Airbnb guest said they were staying in the home, plus additional fees, according to city records.

Tao said he believed that, after the February 2022 incident, his tenant had stopped renting out his property on Airbnb and the issue was resolved. He claimed he was unable to confront the tenant directly because he was managing the property remotely from Oregon.


The tenant vacated the property in September 2023, and a cleaner was sent to the premises to tidy up, Tao said. Stuck to the window was a notice of a $180,000 fine.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it might be fraud,” Tao told Business Insider. “How do we go from $2,000 to $180,000?”

Las Vegas is cracking down on Airbnb hosts

In January, Tao asked the Las Vegas City Council to reconsider the fine, but lawmakers unanimously upheld the decision by a vote of 7-0, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In 2019, Las Vegas instituted sweeping regulations of short-term rentals, including banning out-of-state investors from owning Airbnbs, amid outcry from local residents who complained of an influx of “parties, prostitution, and drugs into residential communities,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.


Some Sin City residents are still frustrated by short-term rentals in their neighborhoods.

“I am constantly getting texts, emails, calls, pulled aside in the grocery store about short-term rentals,” Councilman Brian Knudsen told local outlet Fox 5 in January. “If we continue to erode laws by not enforcing the fees and fines associated with them, we continue to lose the dignity of our neighborhoods.”

The city arrived at the $180,000 fine based on a $500-a-night penalty for each of hundreds of nights it tracked as booked at Tao’s property, according to documents submitted to the City Council.

Tao told Business Insider he will continue to fight the fine in part because he argues the city did not notify him properly that charges continued to accrue after February 2022.


He added that the current fine would have devastating effects on his family.

“We have a mortgage and car payments,” he said. “One hundred eighty thousand dollars is definitely something I cannot afford.”

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.