Honolulu County awards pot of gold to hotel industry

Hawaii has had a complicated relationship with the short-term vacation rental market. Back before Silicon Valley got its claws into the process, these types of arrangements were called B&Bs (bed and breakfasts). Stereotypically, older ladies with a penchant for macramé would rent rooms and provide a meal or two – hence the name.

In recent years there’s been a (insert “large” synonym) growth in these types of listings. Back in the 1980s, Honolulu County (encompassing the island of Oahu) set a limit of 770 licensed B&Bs outside the tourist areas of Waikiki and Ko’Olina. It’s estimated there are 8,000 to 10,000 B&Bs operating on Oahu today. Suffice it to say that even subtracting those operating legally and in the designated tourist areas, there are still a ton operating illegally.

In June 2019, Honolulu County approved a measure that would increase the number of legal vacation rentals to 1,700 beginning in October 2020. That gives the city 14 months from the effective date of the legislation (August 1, 2019) to shut-down all the illegal ones. Essentially any ad placed without a license number will get a visit from the county. Violators can get slapped with a $1,000 fine for a first offence that’s then ratcheted up to $5,000 per day on the next violation and finally $10,000 per day on future offences.

The new regulations also shine a light on the already outlawed (though largely ignored) unhosted or whole-house rentals outside the tourist areas of Waikiki, Ko’Olina and Turtle Bay.

Note to readers: If you have a reservation after August 1, 2019 for a short-term vacation rental on Oahu outside designated tourist areas, you might want to recheck. The city is saying they have little sympathy for those already-made reservations. I assume landlords have been busy informing their upcoming guests.

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