I have a few suggestions for the vacation rental (VR) quandary we find ourselves in. I speak as one with experience in this market, both as a former owner of VR, as a caretaker of a vacation rental, a neighbor of a VR property, a land lord of long lease rental property and a costumer that travels using VRs.
In other words, I see the current situation from many sides. As I have been reading the many comments posted here, I find myself agreeing with the many different voices and I think there is a solution to keep most people happy. No neighborhood should be turned into party central all day and night. That is just not fair! But no landlord should be forced to rent his property long term either, because the Hawaii state laws favor deadbeat tenants.
Having gone through the eviction process with tenants myself, I know it takes too much time and money. I even went to court to get a judgment against the tenant, knowing I would never see a dime back on that court order, but wanting to protect other landlords from being coned by the same couple. I then decided to rent the apartments short term to traveling doctors and nurses who were needed at the hospital. I have to say that worked out much better. In other words, I appreciate firsthand the plight of being a landlord in this state, and why people prefer to get out of the long-term lease business and into the safety of VR.
Many people have purchased condos or homes, with the intention to someday downsize and retire to, and needing to pay the mortgage and the HOA fees with vacation rental income. If the law changes, these owners must be grandfathered in or Hawaii will continue to live up to its reputation as the worst state in which to do business. It would not be fair to change the rules after the fact.
How about this idea? The state or the county sets up a membership vacation rental licensing board. Charge the owners a small fee to get their license. Have a hotline to receive complaints of excessive noise or other issues. The landlord should make his house notes and instructions clear that the guests must respect the neighbors or the guest will not get their deposit back.
As a landlord, you should meet your neighbors and get to know them and give them your phone number or the number of your manager to contact if the guests do not respect the rules. If the problems continue and the landlord ignores the complaints then he/she loses their license to operate as a vacation rental. The Airbnb platform has a system to rate the guests, which owners can easily click on to check how the guest behaved and how they have treated your property. Don’t rent to people who get bad reviews. Maybe Airbnb needs to add a category — respected the neighbors.
Obviously, VR properties bring a lot of money into the state. Many families could not afford to visit our islands otherwise. It is a good system for multi-generation vacations. In our busy lifestyle culture, it is a way to strengthen family ties. We used to own a timeshare for that purpose and the grandkids still have fond memories of those times.
Since the state is benefiting from the TAT that is charged, they would be wise to set up a hotline to protect the ambience of the neighborhoods and to control who gets to renew their VR license. As John Lennon said, “there are no problems only solutions.”
Marian Hughes is a resident of Waimea.