HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will enact some of the toughest new regulations for Oahu’s vacation rental industry in nearly 40 years.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Caldwell announced that he was putting his signature to paper on Bill 89, which allows permits to be issued for up to 1,715 owner-occupied bed-and-breakfast rentals.
The measure was passed unanimously by the Honolulu City Council last week.
Currently, there are 770 legal short-term rentals licensed on Oahu, but estimates put the number of illegal vacation rentals from 8,000 to 20,000.
“It’s something we’ve been dealing with for a very long time,” Mayor Caldwell said. “There’s no middle ground here. You have one side or the other side.”
Rentals in resort areas, including Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay, are exempt from the new law.
“Everything else is illegal,” Caldwell said.
On August 1, the day the first of the new bill’s stipulations go into effect, city officials will start doing ‘digital stings’ to crack down on thousands of illegal vacation rentals on Oahu.
Caldwell said Tuesday that the new bill gives inspectors improved enforcement powers because they can simply log onto a computer to see if a vacation rental listing includes a permit number, as it is now required to do.
The old enforcement system — which would “never eliminate” the illegal rentals, Caldwell said — required extensive investigations by investigators who had limited investigative power.
Infractions often required illegal rental operators to be caught in the act, which required physical site visits to sometimes uncooperative rental property owners.
Opponents of the measure continue to believe that the crackdown will necessarily harm local families and Oahu’s economy.
“The reality is, there was a better way. We worked hard to find a reasonable compromise that would have protected local communities and homeowners while preserving Oahu’s tourism economy,” the Expedia Group said in a statement.
Caldwell also vetoed a second measure related to the vacation rental industry, saying that the bills had conflicting language that would result in ‘the City’s inability to enforce either bill.’
"I’m a little skeptical that they say they are going to enforce. I’m willing to be proven wrong. I hope that they go in hard on day one and start cracking down,' said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam of Hawaii Good Neighbor, a group that has opposed vacation rentals.