HONOLULU — Honolulu plans to increase its housing inspection staff to help enforce a new vacation rental ordinance, officials said.
The Department of Planning and Permitting has already rehired three retired inspectors and could add up to three more if needed, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.
Department Acting Director Kathy Sokugawa informed the city council of the increase in a memo last week. The council had already included funds for the staffing increase in this year’s budget.
The budgeted cost is $132,313 to hire the staff members at a pay rate of $24.18 per hour at 19 hours a week for up to 10 months.
Unless specifically permitted, rentals of 30 days or less are illegal on Oahu except in hotel-resort zones. City officials estimate there are between 6,000 and 8,000 illegal vacation rentals on Oahu, although others believe there may be as many as 25,000.
The ordinance criminalizes advertisement of a vacation rental of less than 30 days that is not permitted. The new law also increases fines for advertising or renting an unpermitted vacation rental from $1,000 daily to a maximum of $10,000 per day.
The department’s Residential Code Enforcement Branch has 17 permanent inspectors who handle vacation rental violations and other property usage issues. The new hires are expected to work exclusively on short-term rental complaints and violations, Sokugawa said.
The department has already made a “significant impact on the illegal short-term rental industry” through reports from the public and by limiting online ads, Sokugawa said.
“I’m hopeful that once we do issue (violation notices), the number will go down further,” she said.