Return to sender
LIHUE — Residents in Anahola, Lihue, Kapaa and Waimea received letters over the weekend urging them to list their homes on the homestay website Vacation Rental by Owner — but operating transient vacation rentals in those areas is illegal.
Doing so could land a homeowner with misdemeanor charges and civil fines of $10,000 per day.
Despite this, a widely circulated letter from VRBO and Homeaway states there is an “unprecedented demand from our travelers looking for places to stay” in these areas.
Michael Dahilig, county planning director, said these mailers only confirm the predatory practices of some in the homeshare industry.
“This needs to stop. VRBO’s and Homeaway’s unethical actions highlight their complete disregard for the impacts their reckless corporate actions create for our communities by taking housing away from our local residents,” he said.
The letter states that if a home is listed by Dec. 1, the owners are guaranteed to earn $1,000 in January.
Glen Spitzack, an “owner success consultant” with VRBO and Homeaway who sent the letter, could not be reached Monday by press time.
In his letter, Spitzack states that listing your home on VRBO is easy and straightforward.
“You can do everything yourselves at VRBO.com, or take advantage of our consultants who can help you set up, market and manage your home at no additional costs,” Spitzack said.
The Planning Department confirmed Monday in a press release that residents in Anahola, Kapaa, Lihue and Waimea received the letter. These areas are not resort communities under the law, the press release says.
Residents living in other parts of Kauai may have also received the letter.
Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said he takes seriously any organization actively recruiting Kauai’s homeowners into engaging in illegal activities that harm our communities.
“These companies should be ashamed of themselves, and aware that any of their activities will be investigated for criminal wrongdoing and potentially prosecuted,” he said.
Both Kollar and Dahilig said all vacation rentals outside of county-designated visitor destination areas are illegal without a non-conforming use certificate.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, 652-7891, email@example.com
This is the perfect opportunity for the County Attorney’s office to file a civil lawsuit against VRBO enjoining them from sending these illegal solicitation letters and to collect damages and attorney fees under Hawaii’s consumer protection statutes. I hope they follow through. Slam dunk, as they say in legal circles about guaranteed winnable cases.