2 city bills aim to curb illegal vacation rentals
Units could be located in residential areas, and addresses would have to be public
By Laurie Au
The city proposed two bills intended to help stop residents from illegally running vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast units, despite some fear among community members that this will encourage more development and evasion.
More than two years after the City Council passed legislation requiring the city to change land use ordinances relating to these units, the Department of Planning and Permitting introduced policies last week that attempt to control a situation that many say has spiraled out of control.
"Any kind of impact will be beneficial," said David Tanoue, deputy director of the city's Planning and Permitting Department. "Many people are making a lot of money out there. We want to make sure it's a legal operation."
One bill, expected to garner much attention and public debate, would lift a 1989 ban on new bed-and-breakfasts and allow them only in residential areas to avoid ruining agricultural lands.
It would also give the city the power to deny permits if a majority of neighbors within 300 feet of the proposed unit oppose it.
"It goes in the wrong direction of destroying our residential character," said Don Bremner, spokesman of Keep It Kailua, a group dedicated to preserving residential areas. "We are selling out the residential areas to cater to visitors. It changes the character into something transient, which will then turn into a resort area -- not somewhere you'd want to live."
Bremner, who would prefer that the city leave the ordinances as they are, said the bill could encourage residents hoping to make money to create more bed-and-breakfasts.
But the City Council unanimously agreed two years ago that the city needed to tighten the rules when it came to vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfasts after continuously receiving complaints about violators.
"There has just been a whole host of complaints when it comes to transient homes and bed-and-breakfasts," said Councilman Charles Djou. "The problem is spiraling out of control."
The second bill would make it easier for city enforcement officers to locate illegal transient vacation units by requiring certain information in advertisements, especially in Internet postings.
A 2005 state study found more than 2,000 online advertisements for short-term rentals on the island -- double the amount of about 1,000 homeowners that have certificates to rent rooms for less than 30 days.
"The majority of our illegal vacation rentals are on the Web, but they don't give addresses," said Michael Friedel, the city's code compliance chief. "They go cryptic and try to stay as unidentifiable as possible."
Under the bill, owners would need to give their "nonconforming use" certificate number and street address of the vacation rental. First-time violators can face a fine up to $1,000 and up to $5,000 for recurring violations.
Friedle said this will allow city enforcers to keep track of vacation rentals and use the posted addresses as evidence while investigating.
Bremner said the vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfasts help escalate housing costs, soak up potential housing for residents and cause noisy parties and parking problems.
Tanoue said the city has a hard time enforcing these existing rules since investigators need to catch illegal renters in the act and normally come during the day while vacationers are out.
The proposed bills are expected to be up for public hearing in front of the Planning Commission next month.