Rogue Airbnb building focus of new lawsuits

Homeowners have accused Maximillian Howell of fraud and turning dream homes into nightmares.
Homeowners have accused Maximillian Howell of fraud and turning dream homes into nightmares.(KCTV5 News)
Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:32 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — 2645 Madison Ave. used to be the old KCP&L substation.

It’s now owned by a Kansas City contractor who brags about his city connections and has been the focus of numerous KCTV5 investigations.

Homeowners have accused Maximillian Howell of fraud and turning dream homes into nightmares. Families and contractors are begging police, judges — even the FBI — to hold Howell accountable.

Now, workers and business owners are joining the fray, claiming they did work for Howell but were never paid.

A new Jackson County lawsuit asks a judge to force the sale of that multimillion-dollar building so suppliers and contractors can finally be compensated.

That lawsuit is filed on behalf of Teague Lumber.

In Johnson County, Kansas, a separate lawsuit was filed by Tito’s Construction.

Tito Orellana claims Howell owes him $74,000.

“He hasn’t paid me a penny,” said Tito Orellana. “He’s been just saying, ‘I will pay you interest if you want to charge me.’ And I haven’t seen nothing.”

When Tito tries to collect, he says Howell disappears and can’t be reached. He’s been trying to collect for almost a year.

Tito struggled to pay his crew. He picked up weekend work to cover gaps and keep his small business afloat.

Tito’s lawsuit calls the situation “unfair” and “unjust.”

Rogue AirBNB

Howell is making money off the building by operating what appears to be a rogue Airbnb.

The building is marketed to tourists: “Enjoy a stylish experience at the centrally-located and newly renovated loft in the heart of Kansas City!”

But the building does not have occupancy permit — meaning it’s not cleared to inhabit.

Written on the city inspection report denying occupancy is, “No where near ready for a building final.”

We questioned the city, and received this response:

The site has been visited by inspectors and investigators but no proof of occupancy has been discovered upon visits to the site- only construction workers and construction activity was observed.

Beth Breitenstein, Public Information Officer, City Planning and Development

A KCTV5 investigation showed the building is an active place to stay in under five minutes. A producer tried to reserve it, but one requested date was already reserved. A fact confirmed in writing within two minutes of us booking.

We also drove by the building and verified guests were staying there. But, it is not registered with the city as an Airbnb and were told, “No one has applied, no.”

The building on the West Side appears to be popular. It was booked in December, at least 21 days in January, and has reservations for February. The whole week of July 4 is already booked. It rents for as much as $260 a night plus additional fees. A two-night weekend stay in March will cost guests $885.37.

It appears the property generates a nice income, but lawsuits claim expenses are not being paid which includes contractors and suppliers.

Those owed money are frustrated. Tito questions how Howell can continue operating “like nothing is happening” while contractors struggle.

“Just pay your debts,” said Tito Orellana. “No one works for free. It’s really sad. I don’t know why this country allows that kind of stuff.”

We asked Howell for a comment, but so far, he has not responded.

Our investigation into Max Howell and his business dealings continues. An open records request into city communications of Max Howell and his businesses reveals 4,000 emails.

The city gave KCTV5 and estimated date of late February for completing our request.

KCTV5 has discovered Max Howell doesn’t have to pay taxes on this property for 10 years. He was granted an abatement through Kansas City’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

Additionally, the Missouri Department of Economic Development authorized a preservation tax credit of $184,000 in 2019.