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Kauai County cracking down on illegal short term rentals

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    Ina Lejins, an innkeeper-in-training, left, and Alexis Boilini prepare an almond pear tart in the kitchen of their property in Lawai, Hawaii on Friday, March 27, 2015. Kauai County has been telling owners of illegal short-term rentals to cease operations.
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LIHUE >> Kauai County has been telling owners of illegal short-term rentals to cease operations.

The county sent notices to 320 people operating vacation rental, bed and breakfast and homestay businesses without proper permits, The Garden Island newspaper in Lihue reported.

The alleged violators were identified from a list of 4,000 vacation rentals on Kauai, said Michael Dahilig, the county’s planning director. Some businesses were found on popular online websites like Airbnb and VRBO or Vacation Rentals By Owner.

The county began sending out zoning compliance notices last year and has been going down the list, he said.

Alexis Boilini and Michael Levy, who have welcomed people from all over the world into their home for 23 years, received one of the notices on March 9. The letter told them to cease all B&B operations within two weeks and close down their online website.

Bollini said existing laws don’t sufficiently define what constitutes a homestay or bed and breakfast. She said she wants a clear permitting process.

Many operators, she said, pay state general excise taxes and transient accommodations taxes and want to have the proper permits in hand to operate their businesses.

“We were told in 14 days to shut down our doors and turn all of these people away with nowhere to go except another island — it’s impossible if they can find something at this point during spring break — and how do we pay our bills to continue to exist?” Boilini said. “How would you feel if you lost your job in 14 days? You’d be scrambling, right?”

Dahilig said the county didn’t need to notify anyone before sending cease-and-desist letters.

“Do we need to tell somebody that we’re going to do a drug sweep, or do we have to tell somebody that we’re going to be looking at white-collar crimes, so please open your books so we can see what you’re doing,” said Dahilig, who pointed out that the Kauai County Council tasked the Planning Commission with stepping up enforcement efforts. “I think people just aren’t used to the idea that other laws have to be enforced, too.”

Dahilig said people have applied for permits for years. He said the problem is that people don’t want to comply with the law.

A proposed ordinance that would permit homestays in commercial districts, resort zoning districts and residential zoning districts on Kauai will be taken up by the Kauai Planning Commission at its next meeting on April 14.

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