After years of complaints and $1M in fines, homeowner just keeps operating illegal vacation rental

VRBO Removes Illegal Rental from its site

After years of complaints and $1M in fines, homeowner just keeps operating illegal vacation rental

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A six-bedroom house near Kailua Beach that’s illegally operating as a vacation rental has accrued more than $1 million in unpaid city fines.

But residents say they’re not optimistic the years-long headache will go away any time soon.

On Thursday, several rental cars pulled up to the house with the latest batch of vacationers set to stay in the home. They said they were paying $1,500. That’s $500 more than the daily fines from the city.

“The mayor’s administration is sending a message: ‘Go ahead operate illegally. We are not going to crack down on you,’” said state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who represents Kailua.

Neighbors on North Kalaheo Avenue also fear retaliation by the owner.

Last month, several of them received a letter from the city saying the fines for the illegal rental total $1.5 million.

There is a lien on the home and foreclosure is on the works.

But the neighbors, who didn’t want their names used, say they’ve heard that for years.

“They are sending the same letter to all of us just have the amounts different," said one woman who lives nearby.

Thielen says she has worked to push Mayor Kirk Caldwell to do something.

“I’ve written to the mayor, laying out the law, saying you can enforce this right now. Go after them. Shut them down," she said.

“I fault the city administration and I fault Mayor Caldwell and say you know the time has passed, get your act together enforce the laws."

The city says the foreclosure issue is still with their attorneys. It is seeking new legislation to regulate vacation rentals and make enforcement easier. A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Permitting said he was unable to confirm with attorneys the status of any foreclosure action, or even if it had even been filed.

The house has been advertised on the vacation rental site VRBO for many years, but after Hawaii News Now informed the site about the fines on this home, and shared the letter the city sent to neighbors, VRBO removed the listing. The company says it reserves the right to remove any listing of a property that does not conform to their terms and conditions.

The company also pointed out that it operates another website called www.StayNeighborly.com where “anyone can report concerns with short-term rental properties, including occupancy, noise, trash, parking and compliance,” VRBO spokeswoman Christina Song wrote.

“Our team is on standby to help find solutions that work for travelers, homeowners and communities alike.”

HNN reached out to the owner through the VRBO website and got no response. The owner lives out of state. Neighbors say the home may be in probate because the woman listed as the owner was killed by her estranged husband in California several years ago, according to news reports.

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