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Honolulu Sends Letters To Suspected Illegal Vacation Rental Operators

Catherine Cruz

Notification letters have been sent out to 5,000 possible short-term vacation rental operators on Oahu. The letters are informing them they are in violation of new regulations that go into effect next week.

Last month, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 89 into law. It restricts the operation of short-term vacation rentals on Oahu by limiting the number of permitted units, and implementing restrictions for online advertising.

Starting next week, fines will be increased, un-hosted" rentals in non-resort areas will be required to have a city-issued number, and any advertising for rentals not compliant with zoning regulations will be prohibited.

Caldwell says this is the first phase of the new law's implementation. This includes an increase in fines, requiring "un-hosted" rentals in non-resort areas to have a city-issued number, and prohibiting any advertising for rentals not compliant with zoning regulations. 

The second phase will go into effect in August 2020. It will implement registration regulations, limit the number of new, hosted Bed and Breakfast homes, and require monthly reports from hosting platforms, such as Expedia and Airbnb, be sent to the Department of Planning and Permitting.

Letters were recently sent out to suspected vacation rental operators to remind them of the upcoming regulations. City officials say they are not official notices of violations, but are meant to give operators time to remove advertisements from various web-based platforms and stop illegal activity.

"We will be issuing notices of violation once we confirm [there's] enough evidence of violation,"  said Kathy Sokugawa, Acting Director of the DPP. "Certainly the amount of advertising activity will play a big role in establishing that level of evidence."

Sokugawa says a notice of violation will then be sent to the property owner, and they will have seven days to take down any advertisement. If they don't comply, a Notice of Order will be sent and fines will be issued.

"As enforcement of this new ordinance begins on August 1, we are hopeful that those who are in violation will fall into compliance or face a Notice of Violation," said Caldwell. "If they persist in violating this new ordinance, they can be assessed fines up to $10,000 per day for each subsequent violation."

If someone believes a letter was sent in error, the owner should contact the DPP, particularly if they can identify which property is involved, at 768-8127 or 768-8159.

More information about the new law can be found at

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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