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.