County nearing contract to track illegal TVRs

LIHUE — Even with the announcement Wednesday the county of Kauai will allow legal transient vacation rentals (TVR) in the Lumaha‘i, Wainiha and Ha‘ena area, the county has yet to implement new software that will be used to track illegal TVRs, something Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull has been tasked with spearheading.

“The answer is two-fold,” Hull said when asked what the difference between a legal TVR and illegal TVR is. “TVRs are legally allowed to operate in the Visitor Destination Areas, so any TVR in these areas are legal. Outside of the Visitor Destination Area, the only legal TVRs are those that hold valid non-conforming use certificates, and there are approximately 420 of these TVRs outside of the Visitor Destination Area. So any other TVR operating outside of the Visitor Destination Areas are in illegal operation and need to shut down.”

The penalty for operating an illegal TVR can be up to $10,000 per day of operation.

The county hopes to successfully identify more illegal TVR operations and take enforcement action on them accordingly, Hull said of the new software that will track illegal TVRS. The county has issued the bid award for the software to Host Compliance, a San Fransisco born company that works with over 230 local governments. Currently, the county is in contract negotiations with Host Compliance.

“We approximate there are roughly 3,500 to 4,000 vacation rentals legally occurring in the vacation rental zone and we have no problem with it,” Hull said at the February 27 Kauai County Council meeting when he was called before the council to give an update on the status of TVR enforcement. “They’re where they are supposed to be, they are paying their taxes.”

Hull estimated at the meeting there are 420-425 vacation rentals outside of the Visitor Destination Area on Kauai that hold non conforming use certificates that operate legally as well.

According to Hull, in 2015 there were 77 zoning compliance notices issued with roughly 60-65 reported closures that year, earning $22,000 in fines. In 2016, 62 closures occurred, earning the county $28,000 in fines. In 2017 there was a shift within the zoning enforcement team, focusing on monitoring online illegal TVR listings. The focus shift resulted in 105 zoning compliances issued and 93 closures with $85,000 in fines collected. In 2018, the team issued 16 compliance notices and had 20 closures, garnering $52,000 in fines.

“We anticipate roughly getting about 100 to 120 zoning compliances and hopefully closures this year,” Hull said at the February meeting, later adding his office estimates there are somewhere around 800-1200 illegal vacation rentals.

“In response to third party host platforms like air b and b and vrbo that have become such a nuisance and such an issue in many of the cities around the world have actually sprung up software and programs that use similar algorithms and similar techniques that third party host platforms are using to hide the locations, these guys are actually using their software to root out what the actual locations are. And they’re essentially unveiling their services to municipalities like Kauai to use them to identify those that our team can’t do through active online monitoring.”

After the initial zoning violation has been served, a fine is given when the second notice of violation is served. The addition of the software will enhance the county’s ability to locate illegal vacation rentals and serve notices of violation, according to Hull.

“We do believe that Host Compliance has unique digital capabilities that the County does not have, and they will successfully identify illegal vacation rentals that have to date been able to evade our identification and enforcement processes,” Hull said of Host Compliance.

  1. Joe Maka May 6, 2019 7:56 am Reply

    And so continues the useless distraction from actually fixing problems on Kauai. Anyone who believes restricting vacation rentals will magically lead to affordable housing is naive. Instead of collecting money from TVRs, the County is spending more of your money enforcing “Illegal” ones. I don’t want a TVR for myself, but people should be able to rent their home legally (and pay the County fees to do so).

    $52K in fines for 2018 is not much. How much does the new software cost? How much do the employees cost to monitor TVR’s? Hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    I guess the County could keep listening to a vocal few who believe that TVRs and visitors are inherently evil, and increase the budget to cover these added costs.

  2. Jon May 7, 2019 9:40 am Reply

    The county makes up it rules as it goes along. Any homeowner that gets a fine should take notice of inconsistencies. Take 4222 Pilikai in Anahola, Hawaiian Homeland, just up the street from our home. Was never a TVR and miraculously after being denied for 5 years strait, now has a TVR Permit. How is that even possible. The deadline allowing new TVR’s expired over 7 year ago but somehow our friends in zoning made an exception for the brand new TVR 1174. Must be family or something like pay off because they have been renting their cottage above the garage separately for 5 year and now the main house to visitors. Now they doing more renovation while renting and have two units. So if you got that letter that I got telling me I can not support my family by renting my cottage on Airbnb, try explain why rich Hoale’s that never had a TVR manage to first get one in 2018.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.