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February 21, 2019 — Letter from our President

Last month Hawaii legislators returned to Honolulu armed with dozens of bills targeting vacation rental operators, legal and illegal, in their ongoing and, as yet, unsuccessful effort to hold illegal operators to account.

But RBOAA is back, too. And so am I.

In our early days of working to put a check and balance on hoteliers and property managers seeking to force us to turn control of our legal vacation rentals over to state-sanctioned third-parties to manage them, I was leader of this group and worked with legislators to turn back those efforts to interfere with our business and ultimately put us out of business.

And when I needed a break, Neal Halstead capably, and effectively, stepped in to give us new energy and new leadership, and to give Hawaii legislators new support and conviction to stand up to those who would propose any bill, any action, and any fabrication to put legal vacation rental owners out of business. Neal’s efforts for all of us for the past five years have been relentless. And successful. I think about it every time I’m able to book a new or returning guest. You should as well.

From all of us “legal” operators of Hawaii vacation rentals, I say THANK YOU Neal for everything. And to our members I say that I am rested and renewed, with the support of Neal and all our crew of hands-on volunteer’s.   I’m back and ready to continue our work.

And a lot of it there is. So like never before, we need you, our members, to continue to renew your membership, to donate, and to volunteer. We use lobbyists to win. We use lawyers to win. We count on your financial support to win. So right now, before you read any further, visit RBOAA and renew your membership and, in addition, donate the funds we need to win. And share this email with people, like you, who operate legal vacation rentals in Hawaii, and tell them they need to join RBOAA, as well.

Because this year is going to be a fight like we’ve never seen. For starters, vacation rentals have become the visitors’ choice when visiting Hawaii. Hotel growth has declined, but visitors’ demand for legal vacation rentals has grown. As a result, hoteliers will redouble their efforts to ban our legal operation of vacation rentals under the guise of stopping illegal operators and create hotel monopolies. This year, Hawaii Tourism Authority has vowed to support bills that will impact our legal vacation rentals in the ongoing failed effort by legislators to find and hold illegal operators to account. And because enforcement of laws against illegal operators has failed so miserably, their job to end our legal operations, and strip us of our control over our own, legal vacation rental properties has been made that much easier.

Are there no good bills? There are some bills that would target illegal operators. But with so many hoteliers and property managers unable to compete with our legal and expertly run vacation rentals, their purpose is clear: end them all! Wipe out any and all owner-operated vacation rentals in Hawaii, legal or otherwise.

Please renew your RBOAA membership and donate now to fund the fight to preserve your rights and insure your property and legal use of it stays in your hands, under your control. And when we ask you to offer testimony, do it. And when we ask you to do it again, and again, do it again and again. You won’t regret it, because our record is strong; year after year, attack after attack, your RBOAA helps push back those who see illegal and constitution-violating bills as a fair means to creating monopolies for them.

We are tracking over 20 bills, and I’ve listed them below. But remember, these bills will change; they’re dynamic, and become very different bills as the legislative session progresses. It’s essential that you visit the Hawaii Legislative site and sign up to be provided with critical updates on their progress through committees, the amendments they’re picking up, and the threat many of them will undoubtedly pose to your continued operation and management of your legal vacation rental. Remember: when testimony is sought, especially by RBOAA, offer it.

Here’s a list of bills we’re tracking thus far, with the summary provided by the authors, which we know from experiences, can often hide the horrors inside, or yet to come through amendments, that would strip us of our legally operated vacation rentals:

  • SB354 makes advertising, including online advertising, any transient accommodation or resort time share vacation interest, plan, or unit without the proper registration identification number and proper local contact information a misdemeanor. Subjects any person, including operators, plan managers, and transient accommodations broker who does not post the proper registration number and proper local contact information with the advertisement and also advertises the entire house or unit, rather than a single room, or who has multiple advertisements for multiple properties subject to an unspecified additional fine.
  • HB26 and SB716 make it a misdemeanor for a hosting platform to collect a fee for booking services regarding transient vacation rentals that are not lawfully certified, registered, or permitted under applicable county ordinance
  • HB29 require members in planned community associations subject to HRS 421J and unit owners in condominiums subject to HRS 514B to register units leased as transient accommodations, and to submit reports on same to the state.
  • SB659 establishes the state alternative transit fund to allow counties to offer free or nearly free fares on eco-friendly county buses. Imposes a $100-a-day fine for unlicensed transient accommodations.
  • HB197 and SB184 provide counties with operator names and addresses of transient accommodations contained in registration forms filed with Department of Taxation.
  • HB400 allows counties to regulate transient accommodations hosting platforms.
  • HB419 provides that a county shall be eligible to receive funds from the State for the purpose of enforcing all applicable laws and ordinances relating to transient accommodations.
  • HB514 and SB401 require the Director of Taxation to make available to any county official charged with enforcing land use laws the name and addresses of any transient accommodation business registered with the Department of Taxation.
  • HB631 authorizes each county to impose a surcharge on transient accommodations tax. Changes the transient accommodations tax rate to an unspecified amount. Repeals the distribution of transit accommodations tax revenues to the counties
  • HB1173 and SB198 authorize counties to levy a county surcharge on transient accommodations tax in their respective counties pursuant to certain conditions.
  • HB1348 establishes licensing requirements and enforcement provisions for transient vacation rentals to be administered by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
  • HB1472 and SB986 allow a transient accommodations broker to register as a tax collection agent for its operators and plan managers. Requires operators and plan managers to provide a statement to the transient accommodations broker confirming compliance with all applicable land use and tax laws . . . .
  • SB1292 amends the definition of “transient accommodations” to include additional forms of transient accommodations . . . Makes it unlawful for a hosting platform to provide, and collect a fee for, booking services regarding transient vacation rentals that are not lawfully certified, registered, or permitted under applicable county ordinance . . . .
  • SB713 establishes a 1-time amnesty program for certain delinquent transient accommodations and general excise tax obligations. Allows transient accommodations brokers to register as a tax collection agent for its operators and plan managers . . . .
  • SB380 imposes the transient accommodations tax on resort fees and requires that those fees be included in gross rental proceeds.
  • SB401 requires the Director of Taxation to make available to any county official charged with enforcing land use laws the name and addresses of any transient accommodation business registered with the Department of Taxation.
  • SB460 requires the Hawaii Tourism Authority to develop a list of unit addresses, including housing units and rental units marketed to the visitor industry for occupancy and to post the list on its website.
  • SB184 provides counties with operator names and addresses of transient accommodations contained in registration forms filed with Department of Taxation.
  • SB714 imposes the transient accommodations tax on resort fees that are calculated separately from the advertised transient accommodation’s rate.
  • SB716 makes it a misdemeanor for a hosting platform to collect a fee for booking services regarding transient vacation rentals that are not lawfully certified, registered, or permitted under applicable county ordinance
  • HB181, SB163, HB193, SB175, HB335, SB614 amortize and phase out single family vacation rentals.

There you have it. A lot of bills, and a lot of bills, as we know from years of experience, that have a funny way of ending up with language that would strip us of our ability to operate or control our legal vacation rentals, in the pursuit of the illegal operators that never seem to be held accountable.

Again, if you haven’t already, renew your membership and donate the funds we need to win. And share this email with people, like you, who operate legal vacation rentals in Hawaii, and tell them they need to join RBOAA.

In the weeks ahead, I’m going to ask you to fight to preserve your rights and ensure your property and legal use of it stays in your hands, under your control. I’m going to ask you to offer testimony, and I need you to do it. I wouldn’t ask if it didn’t matter to you, and to all of us. Our record is strong, because of all of us working together.

Now, let’s get going. Stay alert, stay informed, renew your membership and donate the funds we need to win.

Fight on.

Alicia

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