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Airbnb and Expedia agree to help Honolulu crack down on illegal vacation rentals

  • DENNIS ODA / 2014
                                Joyce Farrell looking out toward the ocean from her Haleiwa home. She hasn’t had a moment’s peace since 2006 when the lot next door traded hands and became an illegal vacation rental. Airbnb and Expedia Group have agreed to work with the city on the enforcement of short-term vacation rentals.

    DENNIS ODA / 2014

    Joyce Farrell looking out toward the ocean from her Haleiwa home. She hasn’t had a moment’s peace since 2006 when the lot next door traded hands and became an illegal vacation rental. Airbnb and Expedia Group have agreed to work with the city on the enforcement of short-term vacation rentals.

The city has reached an agreement with Airbnb and Expedia Group on the enforcement of short-term vacation rentals, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the two online platform giants announced today.

The agreement is expected to make it easier for the city to track and regulate vacation rentals and ensure operators are properly taxed.

“We’re going to be able to address problems that have never addressed before,” Caldwell said at a video press conference this afternoon.

Under the agreement, Airbnb and VRBO, an Expedia subsidiary, will provide the city Department of Planning and Permitting with monthly reports detailing information about the operators advertising on their platforms, allowing the agency to more easily verify if a rental is permitted.

The information to be disclosed would include Tax Map Key and Transient Accommodations Tax numbers for each property. If found to be unpermitted, the two companies have agreed to take the ads down.Agreeing to allow ads to be removed “permanently” is a feature unique to Oahu, Caldwell said. In other jurisdictions, “you have to go back and keep scrubbing the lists every so often,” he said.

Kauai County reached a similar agreement with the two companies during the summer. That agreement, however, does not include a permanent removal provision.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Brad Saito, the city’s lead attorney on the vacation rentals issue, said the companies have also agreed to provide education to their advertisers “about what is and what is not allowed in the City and County of Honolulu.”

Max Sword, Expedia’s Hawaii policy advisor, said the agreement “will help the responsible, short-term rental owners and the City and County of Honolulu.” Short-term rentals work well during the pandemic because it allows for better social distancing, he said.

The agreement is beneficial to both operators, who want fair and clearly defined rules, as well as “neighborhoods around Oahu who want to see clear guardrails around the use of vacation rentals in their community,” said Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb Hawaii policy manager.

After years of debate, the Honolulu City Council in 2018 adopted a new ordinance cracking down on illegal vacation rentals.

Under the plan, the city was supposed to allow up to 1,700 new permits for bed and breakfast operations across the island starting Oct 1. But in September, the Council adopted Bill 50 pushing the start-up date to no earlier than April 30.

Saito said DPP is in the process of drafting rules which it hopes to take out for public hearing during the first quarter of next year.

Since the new law has been in place, the city has issued 181 violation notices, Saito said.

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