Airbnb asks city to hold off on crackdown of illegal vacation units
A crackdown on illegal vacation rentals here on Oahu is underway thanks to the addition of five city inspectors.
The first home that city inspectors cited as an illegal vacation rental was in Kailua at 21 Palione Place.
Most of the notices of violation for illegal bed and breakfast and transient vacation units issued were on the windward side, although there were cases in Niu Valley, Waipahu and Haleiwa.
The team of five contract inspectors cited 21 homeowners in one month, compared to 37 in all of last year.
"Just having people whose assignment is to work on the TVU's has made a difference," said City Planning and Permitting Director George Atta.
The Honolulu City Council funded the positions as part of a plan to allow property owners to build accessory dwellings for long-term rentals.
But the fears that those would then convert to more lucrative vacation rentals, triggered the crackdown.
The city has not approved any permits for vacation units since 1989 because of complaints that the practice was ruining neighborhoods.
The owner of a unit on Kaimi Street apparently lives in San Diego. The tenant who said he has lived downstairs for a couple of years, told us the upstairs unit is a short-term rental.
The fine for operating illegally is a steep one -- $1,000 a day.
"It becomes painful if they don’t stop, but they do have 30 days to stop unless they are repeat violators then the fines start," said Attta.
Some of the units cited are being advertised on Airbnb.
It is trying to get a bill passed to collect the state's fair share on the hotel room tax, something that isn’t happening now.
And there are transient vacation bills before the city council which could legalize the current illegal operators.
Airbnb issued a statement Wednesday afternoon asking the city to hold off on its enforcement.
"We ask that the city allow us to come to the table, and participate in the process while suspending enforcement against tax-paying homesharers, until these land use updates are complete."
But the city shot back.
"The law is the law," said Atta. "We are not going to hold off."