County to mull regulation of vacation rentals

  • A vacation rental on Alii Drive is pictured. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — An attempt by the County Council to regulate vacation rentals is drawing a lot of interest — and concern — from part-time residents who rent out their homes and condos to help pay the bills.

The measure, Bill 108, is set to get its first council hearing Feb. 20.


“Short-term rental of residential units, as an alternative to traditional resort and hotel accommodations, is an emerging trend in the visitor industry that continues to grow in popularity,” North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, one of two bill sponsors, said in a statement.

“Bill 108 is a means to provide visitors the opportunity to stay in this form of vacation accommodation, while at the same time, preserving our residential neighborhoods and housing for the people who live and work on the island,” Eoff said.

Regulation is needed, proponents say, to keep residential neighborhoods from being overrun with vacationers clogging streets with their vehicles and disrupting the quiet character of neighborhoods.

“We believe we have come up with a fair and well-balanced program that will serve to define where this use will be allowed, how it will be regulated, as well as providing an avenue for those currently in existence to apply for a nonconforming use certificate that would allow them to continue to operate in a non-permitted district,” said the other sponsor, Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha.

The bill has a grandfather clause for existing owners, but there are still more questions than answers from individuals contacted Wednesday.

“If they denied my application for whatever reason, I would absolutely have to sell,” said Heather Bandt, who lives in her Aloha Kona home four months a year and rents it out as a vacation home the rest of the year.

Zillow shows homes for sale in the neighborhood ranging from $425,000 to $684,000. Bandt said her family built their home, so it has a lot of sentimental value. But she needs to be able to pay her mortgage, property taxes and other expenses, she said.

“It would break my heart,” Bandt said. “It’s sentimental, but to a point. I’m not going down with the ship.”

Kona Realtor Gretchen Osgood said the broader picture is the impact to local real estate prices, and ultimately, the county coffers.

“(The county) will lose tax revenue since non-owner occupants currently pay more than twice as much as owner occupants, so if the owner has to sell their vacation rental since it is no longer profitable, most likely it will go to another occupant and the property tax revenue will drop … by over 50 percent to the county for that house,” Osgood said. “And since the county just raised property taxes, I don’t know how we would make the ever-rising budget work if even half of the vacation rentals owners sold their homes… it would be a huge loss in revenue.”

Osgood said the county is targeting nonresidents who don’t vote.

Planning Director Michael Yee said the bill is currently written generally, with specifics to be worked out to achieve a balance between residents and vacation rentals.

“We’re trying to address a shortage of housing, we’re trying to address integrity of neighborhoods, and trying to find that balance,” Yee said.

Yee emphasized that the bill doesn’t apply to short-term rentals of a dwelling unit that is the owner’s primary residence. It also does not include “hosted rentals,” meaning transient use of a single room or sleeping area of a residential dwelling unit or guest house where the owner or operator lives on the property.

For owners of property who currently rent out their homes for 30 days or less in the Vacation District, the General Commercial District and the Special Downtown Hilo District, registration is all that will be required. Also, those in the General Plan Resort and Resort Nodes will be required only to register, unless in a Residential District that falls within the Resort area.

The registration form, at a minimum, requires verification that state general excise tax and transient accommodations tax licenses are in effect, and certification that the required amount of parking is available.

Those currently operating outside of a permitted district — such as in a Residential, Rural or Agricultural District — will be required to get a Nonconforming Use Certificate. For that, the owner/operator must show they have been in use, declaring income on the commercial activity and in “Good Standing” prior to Jan. 20.


Yee is unsure whether grandfathered properties should retain their designation forever, or whether it would change when, for example, property is sold.

“If vacation rentals are operating in places that aren’t ideal, would we want to grandfather them in indefinitely?” Yee asked.

  1. Big ideas February 8, 2018 6:52 am

    Sounds like another Government custer-f

    1. 4whatitsworth February 8, 2018 8:11 am

      With the new tax revenue coming in from property, gas, and now excise tax (Excise is being raised 12.5 %) the county can use this money to create new regulations and hire new government employees. This will of course hinder economic development which will result in percentages needing to be raised again.

      Then there is Michael Yee guy who should be straightening out the disaster that is the planning department but instead will focus creating a new government cluster.

    2. Buds4All February 8, 2018 12:57 pm

      It’s never ending! People like “wahineilikea” can not see the forest thru the trees. Bigger government and regulation are not the answer to our problems they are the cause of the problem. Then why not make the whole State of HI and HOA run state? Everyone can not work for the government. Besides the mainland people bring a lot of revenue to our service industries on the Island which most residents would not pay for.

      1. wahineilikea February 8, 2018 1:41 pm

        Bigger government?? So you think everyone who breaks the law should just be given a pass because you think enforcement of our existing laws means “bigger government?”

        1. CongressWorksForUs February 9, 2018 1:39 pm

          No. But how about we prosecute those who break the existing laws before we add yet more nonsense to the Statutes?

        2. LeilaniLee February 11, 2018 12:02 pm

          How about locals stop making noises in their neighbirhoods and we take away their homes?

      2. LeilaniLee February 11, 2018 12:01 pm


  2. Buds4All February 8, 2018 10:39 am

    Councilwoman Karen Eoff seem to be racist and exclusionary for people that want to come here. Our Island is a beautiful place and we should be more sharing of it, if not expect poverty. Karen you seem to be lacking common sense and uneducated. Tourism is the main source of income dollars here. But leave it to our supposed Leaders to “F” that up too by trying to regulate everything they can get their greedy little paws on. For the most part I don’t feel the tourists create that big of a problem. I still get uncrowded beach days and restaurants are not that packed. It’s just not that bad here. If Karen really had her mind on fixing things here she would be most concerned with growing clean industries outside tourism that will have a long term play here and grow jobs. But instead these politicians focus on their egos and small problems that are meaningless to us here. Example is our State AG focusing on immigration…what a Buffoon!

    1. wahineilikea February 8, 2018 11:48 am

      Actually, on our island, agriculture is the major source of income; tourism is second. There is nothing about this bill that will decrease the numbers of tourists; it simply keeps illegal tourism accommodation businesses out of areas not zoned for that. You couldn’t open up a 7-11 in a residential neighborhood just because you want to; a mini-hotel is no different. Zoning has nothing to do with leaders with “greedy little paws.” It’s a reality of property ownership, and if an individual breaks zoning laws by operating any kind of illegal business, there should be consequences.

      1. F Kelly Finn February 17, 2018 12:06 pm

        There are no hotels or resort areas within a one hour drive of where I live so this solution Ms Eoff is proposing obviously stems from a neighborhood or two in Kona and somehow doesn’t impact Eoff’s vacation rental! Not very well thought out.

  3. Jude Dideo February 8, 2018 11:24 am

    Here’s why this is good. Our housing prices are comparable to NYC/SF/LA because of non-residential home ownership. Mainland money buy houses and turn them into AirBnB’s, further removing inventory from local home buyers and long-term renters. Just look at our rents right now: $2500 for a 3×2 is really hard for a local family on service-industry wages. That’s why we have multiple generations living in one house. It’s late-stage capitalism to support the AirBnB’ification of our housing market while killing our residents with rents that they can’t afford.

    Here’s why this is bad. We can’t expect our County to manage this properly as they have can’t seem to come up with any proposals that do more than just add extra fees onto a broken system. If you need an example, look at Kailua/Lanikai and what the City of Honolulu did when they tried to squash vacation rentals. AirBnB still has the same number of rentals, but the price went up to include cleaning fees/taxes/”owners fee” etc. So the AirBnB price doubled and more money was put in the pockets of everybody but the tourists. AND no inventory was added to the long-term rental or homeowner market.

    As for the Eoff/Kanuha claim that AirBnB’ers are noisy, I LOL’ed. No vacationer could ever be more noisy than my neighbor’s Saturday Night Karaoke ritual. Would actually prefer a nice quiet vacationing family who is tired after being at the beach all day.

    1. angkoldoy February 8, 2018 12:10 pm

      The chance of a vacation family causing an abandoned vehicle to be on a road shoulder or renting multiple cars while on vacation is slim and none. The argument that vacationers are clogging up are streets is lame. We all know that it is us abandoning vehicles and us renting homes with our multi-vehicle families. Vacation rental homes are for the most part, if not 100%, are kept in very good condition along with landscaping. Can we say that about our homes that we own or rent? Make sure our own house is in order before ragging on others. Regarding housing costs for residents, let the nature of our economic system work that out. Government intervention only causes higher costs for all, the regulations have no provisions for effective enforcement and our generally political ‘feel good’ actions that attempt to appease the complaining parties.

  4. wahineilikea February 8, 2018 11:38 am

    The people who have been operating illegal single-family vacation rental home should certainly not be rewarded by “grandfathering” them! They’ve been breaking the law, why should they get a pass?

    We have adequate areas appropriately zoned for vacation rentals. If you want to operate a vacation rental, buy in an area zoned for it! Our residential and agricultural areas are for residents and agriculture, not tourist accommodation businesses.

    I fully support the county’s planned approach, with the exception of “grandfathering” illegal businesses. I think “hosted” vacation rentals, where an owner rents out a room or small ‘ohana on the property that is their permanent residence in order to help make ends meet, should be allowed. The owner is right there to control the situation and help keep the peace for the neighborhood.

    But I have no sympathy for investors who own multiple homes, mostly are not Hawaii residents, and illegally use their Hawaii houses for a vacation rental business. So you wouldn’t be able pay your mortgage on your extra house? BOO-HOO! So sell it; you don’t need it – it’s just an investment. Why should anyone care about your investment, especially considering you are using it in an illegal way.

    The proliferation of illegal single-family home vacation rentals are indeed having very negative effects on many of our residential neighborhoods. Our experience, while we had one next door, was tourists zooming up and down a small dirt road, endangering children and animals, conducting loud lanai telephone conversations at 4 a.m. with their mainland businesses, picking our fruit because they thought it was “wild,” and partying until all hours of the night.

    And then there’s the issue of how all of these illegal single-family home vacation rentals have driven up costs of renting a home here to an insane level. Local families are being driven off the island, to be replaced by ever more tourists invading our residential neighborhoods.

    SHUT DOWN all the illegal single family home vacation rentals, and don’t allow any more in areas not zoned for that. People can stay in condos, hotels, and properly zoned vacation rentals; it won’t affect tourism numbers in the least and it will save the integrity of our residential and ag areas.

    1. Jack Threadfin February 8, 2018 11:58 am

      Exactly right

    2. Buds4All February 8, 2018 12:49 pm

      Actually the overall population gets the main money from Tourism. There is a select group that makes their living from agriculture. That is false. I agree that perhaps if you cant afford your second home it should not be at the cost of others. However people that can make money and not complain about it should be allowed. It is like creating an HOA for the entire Island. Where does it end? I do not see the negative effects in my neighborhood but then again I am not an elitist and enjoy people coming to visit and talk story with them as long as they are civilized while here. Just as when I go to the mainland to visit. wahineilikea you should get off your high horse and welcome people with the Aloha spirit! Shame on you!

      1. wahineilikea February 8, 2018 1:38 pm

        LOL you apparently have a very superficial understanding of “aloha.” And, abiding by zoning laws is nothing like creating a HOA for the entire island – what an uninformed statement, as is “the overall population gets the main money from tourism.” What does that even mean? Most of us have nothing whatsoever to do with tourism. We are farmers, teachers, physicians, office clerks, rock wall builders, attorneys, etc. Pretty pathetic to call someone “elitist” when you don’t even know them. My biggest concern is for our struggling local families who can’t find a place to rent at any kind of reasonable price because of all the illegal vacation rentals. Closing down all of those illegal businesses will really help stabilize the rental market for local families who desperately need some relief from the rent inflation.

        1. Buds4All February 9, 2018 10:24 am

          I stand corrected and Its probablyGovernment jobs that actually provide most of the income but I get the relief part for the families with housing issues and feel for them. I had to work hard for my home here too. But if it is the Farming Industry that supplies most of the income shame on them for not paying their employees a livable wage and enough to keep up with inflation!

        2. CongressWorksForUs February 9, 2018 1:48 pm

          You keep saying illegal vacation rentals; if that is the case, prosecute them.

          We don’t need more laws.

    3. Shawn February 10, 2018 8:24 am

      If the current condo’s hotels and zoned vacation rentals weren’t complete dumps there probably wouldn’t be an issue but they are! When was the last time you actually walked through any of the resort options? For an economy that depends on tourism what is the incentive for people to book in tired, cracked, poorly run and extremely over priced rentals? Every time I ask tourists I meet in town and where they are staying – if they are in the vacation rental “district” they are vastly disappointed!

      1. coincidance February 10, 2018 11:26 am

        Dumps? Are you limiting this to Kailua Kona? Have you ever walked through the resort condos on the Kohala Coast? Try going online and look at the large palatial offerings at Mauna Lani, Waikoloa Beach, and Mauna Kea Resort before you claim that tourists have only old and tired choices or hotels.

        1. Shawn February 10, 2018 11:58 am

          Mauna Lani? Palatial offerings? The visitors that come to Big are for the most part cannot spend $450 a night for Maui or even an average $350 fir Kauai and really don’t want to ride a bus around Waikiki. So, “palatial” offerings at Mauna Lani aren’t really an option and who, for God’s sake, would want to go all the way up to Kohana unless you’re a Rockefeller and heard about the “good old days”… and even then a little grass shack in Honounou would be better. Competition WILL clean up the islamd.

          1. coincidance February 10, 2018 12:38 pm

            all the way up to Kohala? from where, KOA arrival? It’s 30 minutes, no traffic. Close to Waimea, Hawi, Honoka’a …
            There are great condos for as little as $150, and that’s competitive with the old dumps in Kona.

    4. LeilaniLee February 11, 2018 12:04 pm

      And you didn’t call the cops and sue the owner instead of idle complaining? And your roosters and barkng dogs and boom boxes and motorcycles are allowed?

  5. Jack Threadfin February 8, 2018 3:08 pm

    Google “Detroit banned AirBnB”. So can we.

    “The text added to the amendment states: “Use of a dwelling to accommodate paid overnight guests is prohibited as a home occupation; notwithstanding this regulation, public accommodations, including bed and breakfast inns outside the R1 and R2 Districts, are permitted”

    1. wahineilikea February 8, 2018 4:05 pm

      Yes, we can! And San Francisco just passed a new law requiring Airbnb listings to be legal, permitted, vacation rentals. It’s an easy template we could use here as well!

  6. Servite Omak February 8, 2018 3:43 pm

    Government i.e Democrats sticking their hands into our wallets and purses!

  7. Rusty Da Clown February 8, 2018 6:29 pm

    It’s simple – the more homes go into Airbnb-type inventory, the fewer homes are available for local families to rent. The fewer homes available, the higher rents go. Good for Karen and Dru introducing this bill to try get a handle on this runaway industry before all the working families get priced out of paradise.

    1. Beau Willadsen February 9, 2018 10:06 am


  8. Pest Outwest February 8, 2018 7:19 pm

    “residential neighborhoods from being overrun with vacationers clogging
    streets with their vehicles and disrupting the quiet character of

    I gotta admit, that sounds okay. But, why stop there? Let’s ban the tourists from our roads and beaches too! Oh wait, that’s what the entire economy is based on. Hmmm.

    1. LeilaniLee February 11, 2018 12:01 pm

      Locals have roosters garage parties boom boxes motorcycles and barking

  9. angkoldoy February 9, 2018 7:24 am

    Note above ” Sort by Best” . Who on the WHT staff determines what submission is best. Other sites use upvotes. WHT can really show it’s colors when they select what is best.

  10. BustaBeeBee February 9, 2018 6:17 pm

    Karen Eoff has a vacation rental…. wonder why she is raising all these concerns? Maybe it is in the resort area and she is upset no one wants to stay at her place.

    1. F Kelly Finn February 17, 2018 11:58 am

      Exactly! Hers in in a “resort” area so she stays in business! I live in the Puna District where there are no hotels and many subdivisions have 1 acre or larger parcels. Getting rid of vacation rentals here would be ridiculous.

  11. BustaBeeBee February 9, 2018 6:48 pm

    Hawaiian Homelands can take an area where the zoning is for nothing smaller than 10 acre lots, and turn them into half acre lots. There is memorandum of understanding. Well, I think the residents of hawaii should also have a memorandum of understanding that they can do what they want with their property! Karen Eoff needs to fess up that she has a vacation rental and what her real motivation for sponsoring this bill is all about. Pad the pockets of resort and hotel builders I bet.

  12. coincidance February 9, 2018 8:55 pm

    Can’t believe this plan to grandfather and reward rentals that are already disrupting the neighborhood in Ag and Residential.

    These tourists next door are making life hell. They’re so noisy, so clueless, so inconsiderate, and LOUD, every word they say is loud, and starts before the sun comes up. All the other neighbors are cool.

    The worst part is we can’t posssibly form a relationship of respect because they will check out and be replaced by more clueless people who show no awareness of those who live here.

    And forget about finding an affordable rental for my ohana. No more opportunity. So what if investors who knew they were flaunting zoning need to sell? Good! They should try to find an affordable rental and see what they’ve done to people while feathering their investment nests.

    1. LeilaniLee February 10, 2018 1:53 pm

      Call the police and make reports on noisemakers! No relationship necessary. Peace and enjoyment is a right

      1. coincidance February 11, 2018 10:19 am

        The police don’t care unless it isn’t violent. Complaints can be made to Building/Planning,
        in writing, no anonymous ones. Likelihood they will act, don’t know.

        1. LeilaniLee February 11, 2018 11:57 am

          Police do and get report #s. Then sue the property owner in small claims. Using the system is better than idle complaining whi h most people do and well, I believe they are a part of the problem.

  13. LeilaniLee February 10, 2018 1:55 pm

    Reasonable rents are not the responsibility of private property owners.

  14. Do Mo February 12, 2018 5:38 pm

    Homeless stay for free and we pay.
    Visitors stay and pay – and so do we.

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