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Agreements beef up illegal vacation rental enforcement

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino signs agreements Friday with Expedia Group and Airbnb to facilitate the enforcement of laws prohibiting unpermitted vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast operations. Looking on are Department of Planning Director Michele McLean and Max Sword, Expedia Group’s Hawaii policy adviser. — County of Maui / SHANE TEGARDEN photo

Maui County signed agreements with two major hosting platforms for vacation rentals on Friday in a move aimed at improving enforcement of illegal vacation rental operations.

Mayor Michael Victorino signed the agreements with Airbnb and Expedia Group, the parent company of short-term rental platform VRBO.

With the agreement, both platforms will require host-provided tax map key numbers to appear on online listings for bed-and-breakfast homes, short-term rental homes and other transient vacation rentals within the county, according to a news release from the county.

If an operator provides tax map key numbers that are incorrect, invalid, dropped or otherwise not applicable, the affected rental listing will be removed from both websites.

Permitted vacation rental business that comply with Maui County regulations and operate as good neighbors will be able to advertise on the online travel platforms without interruption.

“Maui’s surge in new vacation accommodations in recent years has come primarily from vacation rentals, not resort hotels,” Victorino said in a news release. “The majority of vacation rentals are operated legally within apartment- or hotel-zoned areas as allowed by Maui County ordinance or permit. However, we will aggressively enforce laws that prohibit unpermitted TVRs that operate in residential neighborhoods. The new agreements with Airbnb and Expedia Group are important steps toward rooting out illegal vacation rental operators. It’s another tool in our toolbox to help manage tourism sprawl throughout Maui County.”

Amanda Pedigo, vice president of government affairs at Expedia Group, said “permitted vacation rentals are critical to Maui’s economic recovery and we’re proud to be working closely with Maui County to help manage tourism and crack down on any noncompliant operators.”

Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb regional policy lead, added that vacation rentals have been an “integral part” of the local economy for decades and the company appreciates the county’s efforts in preserving this “important source of income for local residents.”

“The agreement will promote compliance and is part of our ongoing commitment to partner with communities to promote the return of responsible and sustainable travel,” he said in a news release.

Included in the memorandum of understanding is that the two platforms will provide the county monthly reports of tax map key numbers of properties on the platforms.

Expedia Group and Airbnb have signed similar agreements with Kauai County and the City and County of Honolulu.

Maui County’s Planning Department said earlier this month that there are approximately 217 permitted short-term rental home operations in the county, about 50 percent of which belong to out-of-state residents. Amid a worsening housing crisis and growing complaints from residents that vacation rentals are changing their neighborhoods, the Maui County Council passed a bill on first reading last week that would reduce the number of short-term rental home permits allowed in most communities. The bill will be up for second reading at the next council meeting on Friday.

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