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Mayor Kirk Caldwell insists city is proceeding with vacation rental enforcement

Gordon Y.K. Pang
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GEORGE F. LEE / 2017

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today that the city is moving ahead with enforcing with the new vacation rentals law.

City officials this morning said they will be issuing violation notices to violators of the new vacation rental law, despite saying Monday that they had not issued any notices due to a pending lawsuit.

Kathy Sokugawa, acting director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, said the first violation notices could be issued as early as later this week.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a news conference this morning that DPP is “investigating a couple hundred violations right now.”

He added: “I don’t want anyone out there who has an illegal vacation rental to think that because of this lawsuit, or others that may be filed in the future, that the City and County of Honolulu is not going to enforce the laws that’ve been enacted by the Honolulu City Council and signed into law by the mayor.”

The new law went into effect Thursday. It makes it illegal to advertise an unpermitted vacation rental of less than 30 days. It also increased the fines for advertising or renting a vacation rental to a maximum of $10,000 a day instead of $1,000 daily.

On Monday, after being asked by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser if violations had been issued, a DPP spokesman sent an email that said investigations tied to Ordinance 19-18 are continuing. “However, because of the pending litigation, we have not yet issued any notices of violation.”

Asked to clarify, the spokesman on Monday declined to say if violations would be issued before the conclusion of the lawsuit.

The Kokua Coalition, on Thursday, filed a lawsuit against the city’s enforcement of the ordinance, arguing that its members have a 2018 settlement agreement with the city that allows them to operate. Its members consist of operators of so-called “30-day rental” agreements, a contract for 30 days even though its understood the tenant may not stay the entire 30-day period.

Caldwell took issue with today’s Star-Advertiser story and said it is wrong to say city enforcement is on hold due to the lawsuit.

“We are going to be enforcing (the bill) that I signed about a month and a half ago,” he said. “”If you have a vacation rental that is less than 30 days that you don’t have a nonconforming use permit for, that is not in a hotel and resort, if you’ve been violating the law since the 1980s, under the law I just signed, you continue to violate the law.”

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