HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years people all over the state have been renting units to visitors under the table. The state is losing tens of millions of dollars every year prompting a new push for more regulations.
There are nearly 200 vacation rentals available on Oahu right now on the website Airbnb. VRBO and HomeAway are a couple of the other sites with listings available. They are examples of the sites online making it easy for people to rent out a room or their home on a short term basis.
"It is on the radar and I think our policy makers will definitely be looking at it this year," said George Szigeti, Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association President & CEO.
The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association is already meeting with lawmakers. There are an estimated 25,000 illegal vacation rentals available in the state. Fewer than a thousand are legal and permitted on Oahu. Many are in residential neighborhoods. However, the illegal rentals not paying an estimated $40 million in taxes a year to the state.
"If you want to stay on a farm or you want to take your kids and stay on a bee pollination farm or whatever I think you should have those choices. I think the challenge comes because you have play by certain rules. You have to pay taxes, you have to be registered and people have to know what you're doing," said Keith Vieira, KV & Associates Hospitality Consulting.
"I get correspondence from DC and every state about how are you handling the Airbnb's because it is taking away significant business," said Szigeti.
Hospitality executives aren't opposed to the vacation rentals, although some communities are. The challenge is finding a way for everyone to live comfortably with regulation.
"All we're asking for as an association is to be put on a level playing field. If we're paying the GET (General Excise Tax) and the TAT (Transient Accommodations Tax) and all the fees that come along with responsible lodging accommodations that they pay their fair share. That's all we're asking," said Szigeti.
Attempts to allow and regulate vacation rentals have failed in the past but with so much money being lost in tax collection it is bound to come up again.
To see the list of legal vacation rental and bed and breakfast properties on Oahu