Identifying legal vacation rentals: Check the list

As noted here yesterday, there are 26 vacation rentals in Kaaawa listed at, most of them short term rentals that that potentially are operating contrary to city ordinance.

It turns out that only one of them has an active Nonconforming Use Certificate allowing it to operate transient visitor units (TVUs) or bed and breakfast units (B&Bs).

The rest are in that gray area, operating without official status and legal if complying with the 30-day minimum rental rule and paying the appropriate taxes.

I learned the one-of-26 statistic for Kaaawa vacation rentals after finding out the list is considered public information. The list is not currently posted on the city’s website, but it is available on request from the Code Compliance Branch of the Department of Planning & Permitting.

Properties on the list were operating TVUs or B&Bs before the City adopted laws prohibiting new TVUs or B&Bs, and have regularly renewed their status.

As you can see from the list, the vast majority of vacation rental units consist of Waikiki condominiums. There’s another clump in Kailua & Lanikai. Browse the list, then check for your neighborhood. Let us know how the lists compare.

–> See the city’s list of properties with active Nonconforming Use Certificates allowing them to operate transient visitor units (TVUs) or bed and breakfast units (B&Bs).

12 responses to “Identifying legal vacation rentals: Check the list

  1. Illegal vacation rentals are a major sore spot in many Maui neighborhoods, including my own.
    It is next to impossible to get the County to do anything about them. Believe me, we have tried.

  2. I’ve been working on this issue for more than 15 years.

    The last time that someone could get an O`ahu license was on December 28, 1989. It was a compromise to allow the 1989 applicants but no one in the future.

    NOTE: A B&B is where the property owners live full-time on the property. A Temporary Vacation Rental is almost always operated by a real estate company on behalf of the property owner.

    There are currently about 55 O`ahu legal B&B active owners. The vast majority of them are in Kailua/Lanikai and on the North Shore with about ten in the 968__ urban areas.

    The owners’ median age is well above 70 now so the legal people will disappear unless the City Council steps up again.

    There are about 400 not-legal B&B rentals across the island.

    The other type of vacation rental where the owner does not live on the property continues to be a major problem. There are about 2800 of them on this island alone.

    The people who own these two types of properties have been working on getting the 11989 cut-off updated. In fact, the Council has tried to address the issue at least five times over the past 18 years.

    The State Legislature tried to address the issue at the request of DBEDT in 1998, but the folks back then decided to keep the decisions on B&Bs and short term rentals to be addressed by the counties.

    The overwhelming number of owners of both kinds of rentals pay their taxes – GET/TAT/income/property.

  3. With all the new condos built recently, and with construction planned in the near future, are they all legal barred from being rented as TVRs? What about the condo/timeshare conversions, mainly in Waikiki?

  4. I have been lead to beleive that the term Non-conforming deals with zoneing. So in Waikiki for example large blocks or Precincts are zoned as resort, and therefore are allowed to have TVU’s as a conforming use, regaurdless of ownership. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Nonconforming means that the use, structure, lot, or other feature of the property was legally established but is not allowed under current law. Nonconforming uses can be continued, but are subject to provisions which are meant to eventually bring all properties in to conformity with current law. See Land Use Ordinance Sec. 21-4.110
      In the case of nonconforming transient visitor units and bed & breakfast units, they are also subject to Sec. 21-4.110-1 and 21-4.110-2 which require the owner, operator, or proprietor to obtain and then regularly renew a nonconforming use certificate for their TVU or B&B. The list Ian posted is the list of all active certificates for Oahu.

      And you are correct, TVUs are a permitted use in the Resort zoning district.

      • So for example, is it ok for any condo in Kuilima Estates (TBay) to be a short term rental? This has been subject to much debate. I feel strongly that short term rentals have had very bad results for our communities, but I would support those in resort zoned areas.

  5. compare and decide

    If bed-and-breakfasts save tourists money, isn’t the flip side of that greater unemployment in the hotel industry?

    It’s a bit like craigslist boasting about how much economic activity it generates. But try telling that to an unemployed journalist.

    And then there is the issue of flouting regulations.

    • There are several ways you can flip the analysis of the impact of tourists staying in TVUs and B&Bs.

      It is true that hotels and hotel workers don’t get the money that the tourists pay to the owners of the TVUs and B&Bs; but the owners of the TVUs and B&Bs take that money and spending some share of it locally, creating secondary jobs at local businesses which compensate for the lost hotel jobs. Research and analysis would be needed to say which path has a better economic impact for Oahu. It isn’t a slam dunk loss just because the money doesn’t go to the hotel owner and the hotel workers.

      Last time I checked occupancy levels at Oahu hotels were way above break even levels. So letting some of that money go to other Oahu folks to help pay their mortgages or supplement their income doesn’t seem to be greatly harming the hotel business.

      Other factors to consider include the impact of lower cost alternative on Oahu’s competitiveness and attractiveness to tourists seeking a non-hotel alternative. The extra money that the tourists save might be the reason that they decided they could afford to come to Hawaii. And they might spend the extra money at an Oahu restaurant or store so that those folks get a little better business.

  6. What if they abolished the ordinance?

  7. This is a great post and the information is helpful. We have always welcomed visitors, but only since the last 7-10 years have had such a housing crisis, and thousands of homeless people at our parks. On the north shore 6,000+ working people have been displaced by illegal vacation rentals. Its very sad.

  8. As a 1st time traveler here, I truly had no idea this ordinance exists. I am a fan of vacation rentals (as a traveler) because I am a chef. I prefer (and my family prefers) to have access to a full stocked kitchen. The same reason you would prefer to live in a house versus a hotel are the same reasons we would prefer to rent a vacation home versus live in a hotel….it’s stocked…pots, pans, boogie boards, washer/dryer, bicycles, etc. I’m curious the data that has enabled the concerned citizens to believe that this will lead to the downfall of the island? I think it encourages the island to retain it’s authenticity and charming bungalows as opposed to the demand increasing for high rise hotels. We are specifically hoping to stay on the North Shore just to get away from all of that. A perfect example that comes to my mind in The Outer Banks (a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina) It has over 20,000 vacation rental properties on the island and it’s nearly half the size of Oahu. These are gorgeous beach homes that are lived in seasonally and rented out by a realty company when they are not there. What I see that has happened is 1) There is a competition to maintain the homes to their highest quality, therefore maintaining the integrity of the neighborhoods as it correlates to their value $ in rentals and 2) The island still has sea oats, wild horses running on the beach, and a lot of unspoiled natural areas. The one thing you will notice right off the bat, is very very few high rise condos or hotels. It’s able to keep all of the charm. The rentals are not cheap—-as high as 5,000 a week + in peak season, but, for example, I have a friend who’s in laws purchased their land in the 70’s and built a home in the 80’s, 2nd row back from the ocean, at a price point of around $200,000. They then turned around 2006 sold the property for 2.5 million. I just see that you do one thing or another (in terms of landscape) of your home. You either encourage the commercialization and hotel culture or you encourage residential short term rentals. My opinion, obviously. We are on the hunt, anyway, for a legal short term rental in Oahu for some dates in March 2017. If you have any leads… we want North Shore near that bike path and oceanfront or close to it. 🙂

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