Kaua‘i partners with Expedia Group to regulate TVRs

  • Contributed

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami (left), with County Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull, signs a historic memorandum of understanding between the County of Kaua‘i and global travel platform Expedia Group designed to allow the County to more effectively track and regulate vacation rentals while protecting the ability of responsible vacation rental operators in Kaua‘i County to welcome traveling families.

LIHU‘E — A new partnership with the travel platform Expedia Group will help the county monitor the legality and advertisement of vacation rentals.

Yesterday, Mayor Derek Kawakami signed the “historic” memorandum of understanding between the county and Expedia Group, the parent company to VRBO and HomeAway.

The partnership will ensure only legal vacation rental properties are able to advertise on Expedia-owned sites.

It is the first co-operative agreement between a travel platform and government entity in the state, according to the press release.

Kaua‘i is host to around 4,000 short-term rental properties, Planning Department Director Ka‘aina Hull said. Of this, about 400 are nonconforming transient vacation rentals (TVR) and homestays.

The problem the county faces are vacation rentals operating outside of the visitor destination areas. In 2016, the county found there were about 1,500-1,600 illegal operations. The county currently estimates there are around 250.

Through this partnership, Expedia will ensure illegal rentals are not able to advertise to its global market, Hull said.

If caught operating an illegal rental, owners face a fine of $10,000 per day of operation. And the county isn’t scared to go to court. Hull said at one point there were about 70 lawsuits pending, now this number is around 27.

By enforcing the law, it sends a message to illegal operators who could be making $1,000 per night on a property, Hull explained.

To use Expedia-owned sites, operators will now have to fill out a mandatory public-facing Tax Map Key (TMK) field, according to the memorandum.

New property listings will need this to appear on the platform, and properties already on the platform will have 60 days after implementation to provide a TMK number or face deactivation.

Expedia will also submit monthly reports of properties listings to the county, who will then verify the TMK number associated with the TVR.

Hull said the county is in discussions with other platforms, but at this time other website owners typically use to rent out their properties, like Airbnb and Craigslist, will not be affected.

In April, Kawakami signed an amendment to Emergency Rule No. 5 effectively shutting down the vacation rental industry on the island as a coronavirus pandemic safety measure. Kawakami’s Emergency Rule 12 put short-term rentals back online on June 16.

“I would like to thank Expedia Group and our Planning Department team, led by Director Ka‘aina Hull, for working together for nearly a year to clear a path for our visitors and responsible vacation rental owners,” Kawakami said in a press release. “Most importantly, this partnership will help the county more effectively enforce our vacation rental laws.”

This partnership comes off the heels of Gov. David Ige announcing a plan to waive quarantine requirements beginning Aug. 1 for out-of-state travelers who can provide proof of a negative test on Wednesday.

Last month, Expedia Group announced a $275 million commitment to help partners rebound from the impact of COVID-19 by restoring destinations and the tourism industry.

“While this conversation began almost a year ago, the signing comes at a critical time as Kaua‘i takes steps towards the safe recovery of its visitor industry,” Amanda Pedigo, vice president of government affairs at Expedia Group, said in a press release.

  1. Da Shadow June 26, 2020 9:32 am Reply

    “illegal” TVRs at $1,000 per night aren’t exactly a scourge on the island. Consider the guests who’ll pay that kind of rent. these are the kind of visitors the island needs. you know, the ones who spend a LOT on dining and shopping. oh, and the many jobs they support with the upkeep of these large homes.
    not sure why the county is so intent on expending energy on the dreaded activity of “illegal” rentals. oh wait, this is Hawaii; few things make sense.

    1. EB June 26, 2020 3:33 pm Reply

      Just because they spend money doesn’t make it ok. Neighborhoods are for neighbors , not a rotating group of new people every week who make noise and disrespect the neighborhood. Stay at a hotel

      1. Da Shadow June 27, 2020 11:35 am Reply

        You should come to my hood (Ha’ena). My neighbors are noisy, spewing profanity almost every night. Dogs barking. Visitors are quiet, respectful, and they support me, my wife, my aunties and uncles, and countless others, including my annoying neighbors!

  2. Joesph Smith June 26, 2020 10:20 pm Reply

    Hey Derek! Please don’t waste our time and money trying to implement draconian measures. You have no right telling us how we use our homes. This sounds more like you and your wealthy friends eliminating competition in the market place. Can you instead address the real problems in our community? Like meth, people are openly selling the stuff like crazy on the Kapaa bike path, my family is scared to walk it in the evening. Thanks!

  3. LTEreader June 27, 2020 8:26 am Reply

    Da Shadow > Illegal TVR owners, that for obvious reasons don’t pay General Excise/Transient Accommodation taxes, and the appropriately designated land taxes, ARE the scourge of the Island. It’s irrelevant how much renters pay per night > these owners are taking advantage of Kaua’i, and need to be removed asap. It makes total sense!

    1. Da Shadow June 27, 2020 4:05 pm Reply

      You make a good point about the non-payment of taxes. My point is that property owners should be free to use their property as they please. You know, like a free country.

  4. WestKauai June 27, 2020 4:32 pm Reply

    The county isn’t just going after “illegal” TVR owners. They are also trying to shut down legal operators by refusing to honor the mandated grace period for permit renewals, among other tactics. In years past, council members have admitted to influence by the hotel lobby…

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