It is definitely wet in Kaaawa this morning. Checking the traffic cams, all of Oahu is pretty much getting soaked.
But although its raining, there isn’t more than a hint of any wind. So we decided the walk to the beach would proceed as usual. It was still dark when we left the house at about 6:30. Unfortunately, too dark to see puddles until it was too late.
It had slowed to a light mist by the time we got to the beach. And we just hoped that bank of clouds offshore was heading in the other direction.
A couple of friends stopped us on the beach yesterday morning and asked if we’ve ever checked out vacation rentals in Kaaawa.
“You’ll be surprised to see how many there are!” Jeff exclaimed.
So this morning I checked vrbo.com, the “vacation rental by owner” website, and searched for “Kaaawa.”
It yielded a list of 26 vacation rentals with photos, ranging from $130 to $1,200 per night! A few are advertised for long-term rentals, which wouldn’t raise any legal questions, but others advertise minimum rentals of from 2-7 days.
It’s obvious that some of these are neither licensed vacation rentals nor grandfathered in, such as the new home built across from the beach and offered at rates up to $900 per day depending on occupancy, time of year, and length of stay. [An earlier error put the rate at $900 per month...it's just so hard to wrap the old brain around $900 per day!]
But are these rentals legal? That’s where it gets very tricky. As far as I can see, the city doesn’t make readily available a list of legal and licensed vacation rentals. So figuring out whether a particular rental unit is legal or not isn’t straight forward.
The best description I’ve seem of the situation appeared on attorney Robert Thomas’ Inverse Condemnation blog back at the beginning of 2011, in response to news accounts questioning whether the Kailua home used by President Obama during his island visits is a legal vacation rental.
Thomas quotes from an statement attached to a ruling by the Honolulu Zoning Board of Appeals.
The Director interprets the LUO [Land Use Ordinance] to preclude the occupancy of a residential dwelling for less than thirty days when the property owner is receiving some sort of compensation. Because Petitioners choose to receive compensation from others for occupancy of their property, they must comply with the minimum thirty days. Thus, the LUO allows a land owner to rent their property for thirty (30) day blocks, and theoretically, may rent their property to separate individuals or party twelve times per year. The Director further interprets the LUO as not requiring that those renting for thirty (30) days be required to actually occupy the dwelling for the full thirty (30) days. Because there is no way of forcing a person or party to stay the full thirty (30) days, the Director’s interpretation is that no other person or party occupy the property for that same thirty day.
The bottom line appears to be a vacation unit can be rented just once in a 30-day period, even for less than the full 30-days, and if no other person–including the owner, family, or friends–use the unit during the same 30 day period, it’s a legal rental.
Legal if the owner pays taxes on any rental income, including the transient accommodations and general excise taxes.
This obviously makes enforcement an almost impossible task for the city, absent complaints from neighbors accompanied by evidence of multiple rentals within the same 30 days.
So is the city’s ban really a ban?