CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES
Published in the Maui News, May 6, 2018
By: Mike White
The county’s Planning Department has signed a contract with LODGINGRevs to identify operators of illegal vacation rentals. Upon receipt of their list of operators, I am told enforcement action will be imminent.
The search for a vendor to assist with compliance began with the County Council’s appropriation of $80,000 last year. Although the Planning Department often receives anecdotal information of illegal vacation rental operations, pinpointing their location and enforcing against them has proven problematic.
Advertising often lacks exterior shots, property addresses or other location information to enable the department to identify and enforce against unpermitted operators. LODGINGRevs has the capacity, through computer algorithms and programming, to identify the location of properties or names of operators who advertise online. Planning will then cross-reference that information to rule out properties in permitted areas and properties with valid permits.
Currently, the Maui County Code provides, “Advertising that offers a property as a short-term rental home shall constitute prima facie evidence of the operation of a short-term rental home on the property.” On May 16, the council’s Land Use Committee will meet to consider proposed legislation to similarly strengthen the enforcement provisions as they relate to bed-and-breakfast operations.
Although any operation of a bed-and-breakfast home without an appropriate permit is already a code violation, the proposed bill will make it clear advertising of a B&B is on its face evidence of the operation of a B&B. This in turn will ease enforcement for the department and shift the burden onto the operator to show the property is being used as a legal operation or is not being operated as a B&B at all.
The council’s Budget and Finance Committee recommended in its deliberations on the fiscal year 2019 budget an appropriation of $100,000 for the addition of two compliance inspectors and one clerical position.
Enforcement efforts need not await filling these positions, but we are anticipating the results of the compliance vendor will significantly increase the county’s ability to identify operators and enforce our transient vacation rental laws. Providing funding for these positions is another tool to address the problem.
We have long lamented the challenges of enforcement, starting with the problem of identifying where illegal operations are occurring. My feeling is that illegal vacation rentals are a significant impediment to affordable housing and, especially, affordable rentals.
Within the next month or so, the council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee will consider charter amendment proposals. I have proposed for placement on the general election ballot a charter amendment to increase the penalties for operating an illegal transient accommodation from the current $1,000 amount to $20,000, plus $10,000 per day for each day the operation persists.
In addition to the hammer of enforcement, the proposed charter amendment, if passed by the voters, would provide a powerful disincentive to new or continued illegal vacation rentals. We need to support folks who have gone through the considerable time and effort of making their short-term rental operations legal. I am happy to report that we are making headway.