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New Oahu Lodging Law Could Impact Airbnb

A new law on the island of Oahu – one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world – could have a dramatic impact for both homeowners looking to rent their properties and for one of the main vehicles they use for that, the accommodation-sharing website Airbnb.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Tuesday signed a bill that severely restricts advertising unlicensed properties to would-be renters.

The law, which goes into effect on August 1, 2019, will have implications for nearly 8,000 potential rental homes and bed-and-breakfast properties.

According to the Honolulu City Council, only 1,715 rentals out of 8,000 to 10,000 properties just in Oahu alone are eligible to advertise their homes. The rest are unlicensed and many have been in residential neighborhoods.

“Residents generally voice strong concerns about ‘unhosted’ transient vacation units, particularly when a significant number of transient vacation units are located in the same neighborhood,” lawmakers wrote in the bill.

Rentals in resort areas such as Waikiki will be exempt from the new law. Others will be fined $1,000 fine for the initial violation and $5,000 per day after that if caught advertising for an unlicensed short-term rental.

Tourists who rent these properties will not be subject to the fines if they stay in the illegal bed-and-breakfast facilities. The city council plans to operate what they call “digital stings,” combing online ads – including Airbnb – for illegal properties.

“I’m a little skeptical that they say they are going to enforce,” Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, a member of Hawaii Good Neighbor, a group that opposed vacation rentals, told Hawaii News Now. “I’m willing to be proven wrong. I hope that they go in hard on day one and start cracking down.”

The city will begin issuing licenses to bed-and-breakfasts on Oct. 1, 2020.

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