Hundreds of illegal vacation rentals cease operations

LIHU‘E — In just over a year, illegal vacation rentals on Kaua‘i have gone from about 1,500 in 2017 to less than 50, officials reported last week.

And that’s due to two partnerships with Expedia Group and Airbnb that put illegal operations on notice in August 2020, not allowing operators to upload their rentals without proper tax-map identification.

“Our successful collaboration with Expedia Group highlights what can be done when we work together to protect our community while welcoming responsible vacation owners and their guests,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said Thursday.

The June 2020 partnership between the county and Expedia, which owns Vrbo, was the first of its kind in the state, and helped the county track and regulate vacation rentals while allowing property owners in compliance to continue to operate.

“I’m proud of county staff who’ve worked tirelessly to implement an effective and efficient enforcement program,” Planning Director Kaʻaina Hull said in a release. “Our partnership with Mayor Kawakami and the team at Expedia Group has drastically curtailed illegal rentals without draining valuable county resources.”

Besides the requirement of including TMK identification, the agreements require Expedia Group and Airbnb to provide monthly reports of all properties on its sites and remove listings that county staff identify as illegal.

According to county Public Information Officer Kim Tamaoka, illegal vacation-rental operations outside of the Vacation Destination Area have a negative impact in residential and rural neighborhoods not designed for transient accommodations and uses.

These impacts include but are not limited to increases in traffic volumes, noise nuisances during evening and early morning hours, increased strains on public services and infrastructure, and further erosion of neighborhood character and environment, she said.


Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. KauaiFarmMan December 5, 2021 6:49 am Reply

    This is a criminal violation of property owners rights. Anyone should be able to rent their home out in any way they see fit. The county wants to blame lack of housing on hard working owners instead of taking the blame for a policy of making new construction permits near impossible to obtain. Lack of housing here is a direct result of failed policy by the county. Home owners should be allowed to rent their homes out any way they want.

    1. Julie Lawrence December 8, 2021 3:36 pm Reply

      No, it is not a violation of property rights. They are getting rid of VACATION short term rentals in areas that are ZONED for residential use. When you buy a home in a RESIDENTIAL zoned area, it means strictly for Residential Use. Short term rentals ARE allowed in RESORT Zoned areas. Like you couldn’t operate a Commercial enterprise in a Residentially Zoned neighborhood – no retail stores or auto repair shops can be your neighbor. And this enforcement simply means a Hotel cannot be your neighbor either. AirBnB got it’s start by Homeowners sharing a couch or a room in their HOME, it has evolved to renting out entire homes on a short term basis with no one using it as a HOME.

  2. Lawaibob December 5, 2021 9:23 am Reply

    Nice job!

  3. Rev Dr Malama December 5, 2021 9:28 am Reply

    This is a misleading article (per usual)….
    Do a little research tgi on craigslist and Facebook searches and find thousands of apartments that rent for aprox 650 dollars a day.

    End of story, Kauai is officially ruined.

  4. concernedcitizen December 5, 2021 9:55 am Reply

    At what point does “Government” overreach and do things that harm our society? Yes, not having a vacation rental in some neighborhoods may be more acceptable for some neighbors, but on the other hand, how many of our local citizens get full advantage of their Island and its treasures of beauty that tourists will pay lots of money to see? Why can’t someone who owns a home let anyone they want to stay there? It supposedly belongs to them! I understand barking dogs, which the county does a miserable job at enforcing, or other continuous noise polluting problems that bad neighbors subject their neighborhood to being somewhat regulated. However, not all tourists are jerks who bother people. If your neighbor can rent out a section, room, or even the whole house and make money for his family, why shouldn’t he be able to? I say let everyone on the Island profit from tourism, not just the Government, Hotels, Rental Companies, and all the rest who are milking the Island like vampires? Government is the problem 90% of the time. It’s voracious appetite for your money through taxes on taxes on taxes is egregious and will lead to a broken society faster than anything else! Get out of the way Government, you’re complicit in stupidly destroying our freedoms from Kauai to Washington DC. You’re the greedy ones, not the hard-working locals who would like to help pay their mortgages and send their children to school by offering the home they supposedly own to others for a fee!

    1. Griffin December 7, 2021 9:38 pm Reply

      Nailed it! This article should be followed up by more data that supports this “laws” efficacy and the impact it is having on housing and rents. Vacation rentals are not causing the housing crisis! But more to your point the government is overreaching already.

    2. Julie Lawrence December 8, 2021 3:43 pm Reply

      HOSTED short term rentals where the owner lives in the house and rents a room or a space on a short term basis are allowed. Its’ the full-house rental that is not. Once it starts happening in your neighborhood, you will change your mind. They attract more budget-minded tourist who really think they can behave anyway; which rightly so on vacation in a hotel or resort area built to accommodate that. But wait until the house next door to you has a stranger in it every week who does not care that your kids have school the next morning, or that you just want to come home and watch a little TV in peace before going to bed. Nope – these people are on vacation, they stay up late, they are loud, often party, and they are out and about your neighborhood where your kids are playing and walking to school and no one has done a background check on them or anything.

  5. Kauaidoug December 5, 2021 10:59 am Reply

    I rent and constantly am looking for a place to move but I have not noticed an increase in rentals available. How come, I wonder?

  6. randy kansas December 5, 2021 1:20 pm Reply

    cool….we have several legal rentals and have raised our rates upwards of 50% or more…supply and demand and these actions really help us that are renting legally….we do not use Expedia or Airbnb though…

  7. Kimo December 5, 2021 4:19 pm Reply

    What about vacation rentals not on those two platforms? Try google wailua vacation rentals as an example.

  8. MaiTai Cameron December 5, 2021 8:16 pm Reply

    Even if it’s your own relatives, they still pay a property tax higher than usual. Especially if they’re staying for a time on your property. Like more than a few months. For some reason, the business side of this has caught on, money in their pockets by way of local sales. And not in the pockets of homeowners. They pay higher taxes in property and if it’s a business, EXCISE tax to go along with that. So not cheap to have a rental transient property as a means to gain income. They have to pay it.

  9. Richard Coon December 6, 2021 4:11 am Reply

    It will upset many, but this is a surprisingly wise decision from a county not always known for wise decisions. You may never get developers to build small and under $1000./month tiny houses or rental apartments, but there are still nice old shacks where you can be happy you try to live Kauai.

  10. JT December 6, 2021 12:15 pm Reply

    Vacation rentals are ruining Kauai. Do what Santa Monica,Ca. and many other cities in the main land have done,MAKE THEM ILLEGAL!!!

    make them illegal.

  11. Todd Brady December 7, 2021 3:34 am Reply

    Property taxes are an infringement of private property rights…….. The people will never own property again,they rent it from the government. Don’t believe, don’t pay the rent.

  12. Griffin December 7, 2021 9:19 pm Reply

    Wow! Great Job Derek! You’ve solved the housing crisis. Rent and the median sale price of homes on Kauai are at an all time low! Woohoo! Love this rhetoric that vacation rentals are causing the housing crisis. The county thinks throwing up hotels and giving locals low paying jobs is the way to go. Meanwhile the county is making tons off these resorts. Wake up.zzz…

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