Friday, September 16, 2011

Vacation Rental Enforcement Bill Fails to Pass


The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) took a revote Sept 7, 2011 on a controversial bill that would enforce a 2009 law banning vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods on Oahu. The votes were three in favor and three opposed, so the bill failed to achieve recommendation. The members who voted in favor were Kaiulani Sodaro, Gayle Pingree and Karin Holma, while Beadie Dawson and Andrew Jamila didn't vote since they were absent. Commission Chairman Rodney Kim, James Pacopac and Arthur Tolentino all voted against the bill.

Vacation House Rentals on Oahu

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and the DPP had drafted a draconian enforcement bill to rout out small businesses operating vacation rentals and Bed and Breakfast establishments. The Bill to Amend #21, of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990, as Amended Relating to the Regulation of Certain Visitor Accommodations, established harsh penalties against citizens who open their homes to paying visitors, including jail time. It would have added advertising as prima facie evidence of offenses, fixed fines up to $1,000 per day, and clarified definitions in the current law.
Fare Buzz Vacation Rentals

Proponents for the Amendment argued that listing addresses and permit certificate numbers in advertising is similar to what is required of construction contractors, who must list their license numbers on advertising. However, contractors don't list their home addresses or the fact that their properties may be vacant, inviting criminal activity. This identification would expose the properties to theft and vandalism, especially with internet advertising. 

According to SON, an anti-tourist grass roots organization in Kailua, the enforcement bill was something they had worked on for six years. However, the public hearing begun on August 10, 2011 to discuss the legislation had over 300 people express their opinions, with more than two-thirds opposing the bill. Many citizens felt the enforcement was unfair, especially since no permitting process would be established concurrently, to enable citizens a legal way to conduct business.

No new permits have been issued in the past twenty years despite the upswing in visitors. Many small business operators are at risk, though they provide a legitimate service and contribute to Hawaii's economy. Since 1989, when 2,376 certificates were issued for Transient Vacation Units and Bed & Breakfasts, Oahu has lost on average twenty per year, according to the Department of Planning and Permitting. Only 875 remain of the legal vacation rentals, and only 200 of them are located outside of Waikiki.

It is unfortunate that neighbors are warring with one another, but with livelihoods at stake during a sour economy, the conflict will most likely continue until legal permits are allowed.


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