Keeping short-term rentals closed

  • Sabrina Bodon / The Garden Island An empty Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

  • Sabrina Bodon / The Garden Island

    Kathy Reams sits in her Kaua‘i Beach Resort rental that has been shuttered since March.

LIHU‘E — Before Mayor Derek Kawakami even shut down short-term vacation rentals and homestays in April, Kathy Reams changed the title of her Kaua‘i Beach Resort room to “CLOSED 3/14/20-5/31/20 #stayhome #besafe #travellater #inthistogether.” She also put a thorough description of the island’s regulations for travelers.

It might seem excessive, but potential visitors have still contacted her looking to stay, including one couple who wanted to honeymoon on Kaua‘i.

“They said they didn’t mind doing the 14-day quarantine, I told them I can’t do that,” Reams said.

While restrictions and stay-at-home orders are being lifted around the island, short-term vacation rentals and homestays have been shut down through the end of May. And even if tourists or residents come to the island, they are required to perform the state-mandated quarantine which restricts all movement to a designated residence.

Reams began renting in 2015, and over the past five years, she said she’s met some of the nicest people. “The vacation rental business is quite personal as you are opening up your home or property to initial strangers that soon become friends,” Reams said. But, no matter how nice, she said short-term rental owners need to respect the island, rules and do their part in keeping Kaua‘i healthy.

“As a responsible vacation rental owner, I shut down my vacation rental,” Reams writes in her listing’s bio. “Kaua‘i will welcome you back with ALOHA when travel restrictions are lifted!”

The county’s Planning Department continues to enforce these rules with rentals.

“The Planning Department enforcement team is actively monitoring third-party host platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist, etc. as well as TVR (transient vacation rental) operators’ individual websites to ensure compliance with Rule No. 5,” Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull wrote in an email last month.

“Any operation advertising for availability during the effective date of the Mayor’s Emergency Proclamations … is being put on notice of their violation,” Hull said.

Airbnb has a notice at the top of the search which advises travelers to check restrictions before booking and that “the health and safety of our communities come first. Please follow government guidelines and travel only if it’s essential.”

The department keeps a log of rentals, called the “List of Approved Homestays and Non-Conforming TVRs,” that lists the permit, tax-map-key number and property name, address and date of renewal. There are over 440 home-stays, according to this list. A search Monday on Airbnb for availability from May 12-18 shows a total of 27 stays.

The amendment made last month noted that vacationers currently on the island utilizing TVRs may stay for the remainder of their stay, but cannot book for a longer period. The Planning Department said it is monitoring these stays. It is unclear how many short-term rentals are still renting to guests.

“TVRs that had guests already here are allowed to have those guests finish out their reservation to the original departure date, with no reservation extensions granted,” Hull wrote. “The Planning Department is aware of these rentals still being in operation; however, no other TVRs should be in operation at this time.”

Owners who have shuttered their rentals, like Reams, continue to pay overhead costs. For Reams, the Homeowner Association fees at KBR are $1,260 a month, but the resort eliminated a monthly special assessment fee of $450.

Her rental is usually booked solid through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. She has been refunding her guests 100%, overriding her own cancellation policy.

To operate a transient vacation rental, owners must register with the county and pay an application fee. A TVR renewal form packet is $750, and must be submitted for each dwelling space, which in turn earns the rental a spot on the approved list. When searching rentals online, many cite its permit number.

Homestays and TVRs still in operation outside of compliance or advertising can face a misdemeanor charge, which can lead to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail time of not more than a year.

Reams, who is a nurse herself, has offered her rental as a Hero Room available for first responders to use.

“There hasn’t been a need on Kaua‘i, but it’s here for those who need it,” Reams said.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. randy kansas May 12, 2020 3:31 am Reply

    A Federal complaint has been filed against the County of Kauai and the State of Hawaii;

    U.S. attorneys office;

    deals with various property rights violations and civil liberties; at the federal level;

    also will be looking at the various property tax rates levied on owners of property and as based on residential, investor and use of property; treating out of state owners differently than resident owners, for the same type and like kind property and uses….at the federal level;

    stay tuned !

    1. WAVE S May 12, 2020 4:21 pm Reply

      AWESOME !!!! IGoooo Randy !!!! The Constitution does not pause in difficult times !!! Kauai has ZERO cases !!

      Read the Constitution !!! Start with the The First amendment !!



      Take a look at the Fourth Amendment !!! Walmart is Open and Church is Closed ???? NO WAY

      The Purpose of the Constitution is to protect the RIGHTS GIVEN TO YOU BY GOD FROM GOVERMENT OVERREACH !!!!


      Clowns like this Puppet Marionette Mayor of Kauai keep getting paid While Picking winners and losers.

      They love Fooling noble Kauai residents using the deceptively appealing mask of perfect safety as a false promised land along with no ctime and no drowning
      and no car accidents !!

      And to all you people who fool yourselves with your self righteousness about how wonderful you are and how terrible these supposedly evil tourists are …Wake Up !! Take a look at the trash and abandoned refrigerators and car parts and various junk abandoned just off Kuhio Highway
      in many areas !!! This is not being done by tourists !! Its being done by self righteous kauaiians who then complain about tourists Shaame on your Sanctimonious high horse !!

      Tourists come here with wonderful happy spirits and joy
      they are having one of the best times they will ever have in their life they are generally very respectful and positive
      full of joy and appreciation for the wonderful beauty of nature we can experience every day. They do not throw old refrigerators and trash anywhere they pay high taxes support good hard working kauiians and use out infrastructure very lightly. THEY Bring US ALoHA !!!
      Shame on you self righteous name callers Its only the grace of God that made it possible for YOU to be here It is not YOUR Island it is Gods and he wants us to share it not try to hoard it away for your own little petty pleasure. !!!

      THANK YOU RANDY !!!!

      TS ABOUT TIME !!!!!

      1. David Presley May 12, 2020 8:46 pm Reply

        Wave, which god?

        Zues? I love Zues.

      2. redflag August 16, 2020 4:35 pm Reply

        Aloha Wave,
        Great post…refreshing to see those awake not ‘woke’ we have a small group going after change in local govt. Just drive by Lihue any Thursday…that is the day we picket for our causes. We can’t meet of course unless we create a ‘peaceful protest’ hummm something to consider…with speakers ( let’s call them educators) and hopefully some Kanaka who are proud since the ‘woke’ ones seems to want to use color as an excuse not to listen to common sense. Ask for Danny, or find the non profit ..we need to work together

  2. Peter May 12, 2020 6:42 am Reply

    I’m all for following the restrictions to protect the Kipuna and all residents. However, I’d also like to hear that something is in the works by the authorities about planning what needs to be in place for re-opening the Economy by lifting the 14 day quarantine and opening the TVR’s,

    I just want a plan. No lifting of restrictions required right now. I just want to know that the politicians in charge are building a blueprint for Kauai’s economic recovery.

  3. WestsideResident May 12, 2020 7:29 am Reply

    Closed forever. Face it, if we wait for a vaccine, most short term vation rental owners will dump their units. Most hotels won’t be back either.

    Time to sell the units and convert to long term residences.

  4. the big kahuna May 12, 2020 7:43 am Reply

    Kudos to Kathy!

    As a responsible TVR owner thinking of our island first should have been a no brainer. As we look forward this is a great opportunity to reduce cars, traffic and footprint on the island. Last week we heard from Gov that suspension of the TA taxes will be suspended to Kauai. Translation we need to figure out how to safely open up the island with new rules or face the doubling of property taxes to sustain a infrastructure built for 1m visitors a year.

    Millions of dollars from TA, high property tax valuations from out of state visitors and a economy that will look like the 20″s will shatter the current state of affairs.

    New requirements to minimize Covid on Kauai must be considered including not allowing guest to rent cars. Hotels and vacation rentals should be required to pick up guests from airport, provide services such as shopping for groceries and private car service for any exploration. Minimizing contact from outsiders can be done with some thought and could help us reduce the cars and traffic on the island.

    Not opening cannot be a option as Kauai could face Bankruptcy or place residents with options to sell homes or starve without some pulse of tourism that can be sustainable.

    Don’t expect Trump to save Hawaii.

    We must act responsible but with knowledge we need to reduce cars, traffic, pollution, but its up to everyone to find a balance that is sustainable. TVR could actually be a model to follow as TVR represent open spaces, less public contact and can provide concierge services that hotels could follow. This would create new jobs for hundreds by requiring concierge services as a requirement and eliminate thousands of cars a day off the roads.

  5. Makani B. Howard May 12, 2020 9:08 am Reply

    Close these darn things permanently! They have ruined our island!

  6. Greg May 12, 2020 10:08 am Reply

    I own a permitted vacation rental cabin on the Big Island. I closed my rental in early April, before it was mandated. I don’t like being ordered to close my vacation rental, while hotels are allowed to operate. Some vacation rental owners in Florida are suing the Governor for forcing them to shut down. If they’re successful I’m sure it will lead to more lawsuits.

    I noticed that illegal vacation rentals have continued to advertise and accept guests during the mandated shut down. It’s a big slap in the face that Hawaii hasn’t pursued the illegal rentals, even prior to the pandemic, and forced them to shut down and pay fines, and back taxes. Now that the illegal rentals continue to operate while legal rentals are forced to shut down and cease advertising, it’s another huge slap in the face. Based on what I’ve seen, vacation rental owners are better off and more profitable if they ignore Hawaii’s laws and operate illegally. I’m completely fed up with the entire situation and ready to pursue legal action.

    1. the kauaians May 12, 2020 7:21 pm Reply

      In response to “randy kansas” it is always hilarious when someone as ignorant as “randy kansas speaks. He talks about a federal complaint filed I suppose in federal court in kansas. FIY……real property rights and the law for that matter is under the purview of local governments, that is, County and State. So tell your uncle Donny Trump forget about it, federal courts have no jurisdiction except in certain cases.

  7. Northshore May 12, 2020 4:07 pm Reply

    Appreciate that people on island with TVRs need the income (as do the island business) but to open to tourists without trialling with residents first seems irresponsible to both residents and business owners. We need to sort out everyday supplies for residents first: eg milk distribution (the only island milk distribution closed and we have a shortage), toilet paper, general products and fresh produce. Many restaurants need to open and have an opportunity to set up their suppliers again and reset for social distancing regulations.
    There are a number of teething issues that need to be addressed first on the island, for at least a few weeks before we can let the tourists pile in on the extremely cheap flights being offered atm. And as they are not working, no school, or are working remotely, they will PILE IN! Seems irresponsible and no consideration given for the island which needs time to set up and adjust.
    Just my view.

    1. Doug May 13, 2020 9:55 am Reply

      Well, it may just be your view but your view is right on!! This is exactly what needs to happen.

  8. Jerry Thomas May 12, 2020 5:11 pm Reply

    Your vacation rentals have ruined our Island, the majority of you don’t even live on this island I hope like Santa Monica California you will become ill legal

  9. Jerry Thomas May 12, 2020 5:15 pm Reply

    Your vacation rentals have caused all the properties around here to become so high that the locals can’t afford and now three families have to live in a house good luck with your vacation rentals I just hope it becomes illegal soon

  10. RG DeSoto May 12, 2020 5:29 pm Reply

    If I owned a TVR, I would absolutely refuse to pay the much higher property tax rate for the duration of this illegitimate, unconstitutional shutdown. Neither the governor nor the mayor has ANY legitimate authority to mandate these closures.
    RG DeSoto

  11. Virtue Signaling May 12, 2020 5:35 pm Reply

    Virtue signaling is nice and all, but if the visitors are willing to honor the 14 day quarantine, why would the answer be “I can’t do that”?

  12. Lee Skinner May 13, 2020 6:58 am Reply

    What would be without vacation rentals as some suggest? I guess around 95% of the residents would not have a job and need to move off island (as many are doing anyway). Think about it…..where does the income stream start? Local businesses? Banks? Taxes?
    NO. Who’s income is NOT dependent on visitors? Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta?
    If you want to do away with visitors, what options do you suggest?

  13. LTEreader May 13, 2020 10:06 am Reply

    Wave S: “Kauai has ZERO cases !!”
    Exactly! We have ZERO cases because our Mayor acted early shutting down the Island. Anyone calling him “SOME LITTLE CLOWN GOVERNMENT PUPPET!!” is an arrogant fool that has NO respect for Kaua’i, and our limited medical resources! We only have a few thousand hospital beds Statewide and could NOT handle a major outbreak. It’s that simple.

    For the vacation rental owners whining about their taxes? You’re a BUSINESS and businesses pay higher taxes. I didn’t hear anyone complaining when things were booming, when your rentals were occupied pretty steady, and your bank accounts were growing. You don’t pay GE or TA tax > the tourists pay it. It’s the residents that will suffer without this tax money, not you! And if you didn’t have the common sense to stash 6 or 8 months worth of expenses when your businesses were thriving, then you shouldn’t have a 2nd property. Things happen > 911, Hurricane Iniki, the Bush recession, catastrophic flooding. If those weren’t wake up calls for you, then there’s not much else to say.

    ALL tourists arriving must provide an address of lodging. If it’s a home or condo, with a permit or not, the owners risk being fined up to $5K and/or 1 year in jail for renting them right now. So although they may ‘think’ they’re getting away with something they’re not because they ARE following up. If it turns out they don’t have a permit, that’s a double whammy for those disrespectful, greedy fools. And, thank you for respecting what’s been asked of you right now, the residents appreciate it!

  14. TVR idiots May 13, 2020 9:14 pm Reply

    Stop crying about your vacation rentals. Get out of here. You ruined our island and you have no respect now you wanna suite us. Get off of our island. You know how much lives you’ve ruined by driving up the cost of homes around your tvr. Stay on the mainland sell your tvr and never come to Hawaii if you don’t like our rules. Your comment is so lame and stupid yes we have zero cases so why would we let people in? People is so dumb and they must not watch the news.

  15. AZVISITOR May 17, 2020 6:23 am Reply

    After reading this mixed bag of comments and as a visitor of Kauai for many, many years I’m starting to believe I need to find another place for vacations. I for one do not want to mess up the spirit of Aloha…

  16. Kawahiine June 4, 2020 11:10 am Reply

    As a local of over 35 years, I have born and raised my family here, built a business here, and yes own a legal vacation rental. I am no looking at no revenue for 10 weeks and none in the near future. I am looking at homeowner insurance bills and raised property tax bills and a mortgage that I will be required to be paid. Would be nice if I could open to some of the inter island or stay vacation traffic that is approved for June 16.

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