Ask the Mayor: Why Does the County Allow Un-permitted Vacation Rentals?

August 3, 2015, 8:06 AM HST · Updated August 10, 7:35 AM
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File photo.

File photo.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Q: How come the county continues to allow hundreds and hundreds of un-permitted short-term accommodations to continue to operate? Having someone merely compare the listings in Maui on the website airbnb.com (over 1,000) with the list of permitted facilities would reap a bonanza of illegal businesses. This should provide enough income to justify policing B&B permits and may well free up a large number of long-term rentals that are so desperately needed on Maui.

A: First, keep in mind that there are hundreds of operations advertised on airbnb.com and vrbo.com that are lawful and do not require permits. Up until the late 80s and early 90s, vacation rental use was permitted in the apartment districts; even though new apartment developments can’t do vacation rentals, those properties that were built and occupied by the late 80s and early 90s are allowed to continue with vacation rental use. These are all legal, and don’t need permits.

Second, keep in mind that enforcement is normally complaint-driven. While of course we still respond to complaints, we are proactively enforcing on vacation rentals. The illegal advertisers on sites such as AirBnB rarely give an address, let alone an accurate one, so while certainly not impossible, it takes some effort to track them down and check to see if they are legal or not.

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So far between complaints and proactive efforts, we have issued about 400 Notices of Warning and quite a few rentals have stopped just with that one letter. Now we are in the process of going back to check if other advertisements were taken down or if they have come up elsewhere. If they are still up, we will send out Notices of Violations and fines start accruing. Thus far, we have sent out about 20 Notices of Violation, and with changes in our processes we expect the pace of issuing violations to pick up considerably.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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