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Hawaii News

Maui County’s strict rules keep rentals in check

Maui County has gotten tough with illegal vacation rentals.

Aware of the growing number of illegal rentals intruding into residential and agricultural areas, the county Planning Department began aggressively enforcing zoning laws in early 2007 and shut down a number of operators.

Deputy Planning Director Ann Cua said the department gave illegal operators a reasonable time to close.

Later, in January 2009, in an attempt to bring vacation rentals into compliance, the Maui Council passed an ordinance allowing a limited number of bed-and-breakfasts to operate in various areas.

Since then some 33 rentals have received permits, including coastal residences in Paia and Kuau.

Former Kuau store manager Leona Nomura said she supports enforcement of zoning laws because neighborhood beaches have become crowded with visitors. She said people have been treating residences as vacation investments, then complaining when they are told to shut down.

"They’re trying to get laws to fit their needs," she said. "They’re all about buying and selling."

Cua said while there are still many illegal vacation rentals, the new ordinance has provided a path for those homeowners who want to legally operate their properties as B&Bs.

The county defines a bed-and-breakfast as a dwelling occupied by guests for fewer than 180 days on a property with no more than two detached dwellings. The ordinance requires the owner to live on the property and allows for no more than six bedrooms for short-term rentals.

An off-street parking space is required for each guest bedroom in addition to the owner’s dwelling. A homeowner seeking a bed-and-breakfast permit is required to post a sign giving residents notice of the application.

The ordinance allows the planning department to issue permits administratively for most of Maui.

But the permit requires approval from the Planning Commission – and possibly the Council – if the application is protested by more than 30 percent of residents within 500 feet. Approval also is needed if there already is a B&B within 500 feet.

The ordinance prevents the bed-and-breakfast homes from being held by firms, partnerships or companies, and the permits are not transferable.

The department, meanwhile, has processed about a dozen conditional-use permits for transient vacation rentals – visitor accommodations on properties not occupied by their owners.

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