Newly hired inspectors are enforcing vacation rental rules in Honolulu, using complaints and online resources to investigate illegal operators.
Two full-time and three part-time inspectors have been in the field since January. They issued a dozen citations over the course of about three weeks, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
In 2015, there were 37 violations. Estimates put the number of illegal vacation rentals on Oahu between 4,000 and 5,000.
One official says inspectors are not only responding to complaints, but being proactive in using websites to find violators.
The coming budget is expected to fund four full-time, permanent inspectors.
At an informational meeting Thursday, a resident questioned whether Honolulu can actually shut down thousands of illegal short-term rental properties.
“There are something like 4,000-plus of these properties that are operating on this island,” said Kailua resident Will Page. “Do you intend to shut them all down? This is a $1.5 billion industry that is now accommodating about 15 percent of the tourism industry on Oahu, and you’re going to shut them down?”
Kailua resident Mark Caspers was concerned that inspectors understand and enforce rules differently. Caspers said he rents his home when he visits the mainland, and was fined for doing so after being told by one inspector that he didn’t need a permit.
“We tried to do this legally by seeking counsel and talking to inspectors for the city,” he said.
He also said a call to the Department of Planning and Permitting was not returned.
“So how am I supposed to find out what the real rule is when they don’t return calls?” he said.
Zoning Chairman Ikaika Anderson says he wants to see what happens with the new inspectors before pursuing vacation rental measures.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com
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