City seeks crackdown on illegal vacation rentals

EXCLUSIVE: Illegal vacation rental fined $300K
Published: Jun. 9, 2016 at 10:30 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2016 at 6:04 PM HST
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KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the past five years, the city has issued more than $300,000 in fines against the owner of an illegal vacation rental in Kailua.

Now, the city is seeking to initiate foreclosure proceedings on the home after the owner has failed to pay the fines.

"The city needs to make an example of folks who continue to thumb their nose not only at the city but also at the community," said City Councilman Ikaika Anderson.

In fact, the six bedroom home at 424-D North Kalaheo Ave. was still listed Thursday on a vacation rental website, offered for $995 a day.

"Folks like this, if they've racked up $300,000 in fines, I don't even think we need to wait to the $300,000 level," Anderson said.

The stiff fines come as the city has begun to crack down on the problem of illegal vacation rentals.

Earlier this year, the city cited dozens of illegal rentals. But many note that there are at least 3,700 of these kinds of units in operation.

"It's a huge problem," said state Sen. Laura Thielen, whose district includes Kailua. "What's happened is we have a lot of offshore investors who buying residential properties and treating them like commercial investments."

City Planning Director George Atta said the city is able to successfully pursue owners of illegal rentals when neighbors are willing to step up and document violations.

But often imes, they're not willing to testify in court, making the case harder to prove, he said.

"We probably need to get subpoena authority to try to go and get tax records or contract records and force them to give us those contracts," said Atta.

Atta says the city is also considering increasing the maximum fines from $1,000 a day to $5,000.

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