Hawaii Vacation Rental Laws – What Are They?

In 2018 the Big Island of Hawaii began to implement laws relating to vacation rentals in order to help with some issues the Island was having.  In years prior to that other counties such as Maui and Oahu had implemented similar laws with success.  While the laws cover several things, here is what is most applicable to most properties on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Where Can There Be a Vacation Rental?
The general rule is that properties located in resort nodes can be rented out as a vacation rental.  If the property is outside of the resort nodes and was a vacation rental prior to the laws going in effect the homeowners could have applied for a non-confirming use permit to allow the property to continue being a vacation rental.  There are also other rare reasons you can apply for a nonconforming use permit.

Why Is The Big Island Now Implementing This?
The main reason for this aspect of the law is to attempt to limit vacation rental properties next to your standard residential properties.  One reason for this is the simple reason that most people that live on the Big Island of Hawaii do not want vacationers coming and going next door to them.

How Large Can the Vacation Rental Be?
The county of Hawaii limited the size that a vacation rental could be to 5 bedrooms.  One of the reasons for this was the rise of investors building homes that were built solely for the purpose of fitting as many people in it as possible so they could get as high of rents as possible.  This would look like a 10 bedroom home getting build in a community where the standard home is 3-4 bedrooms.  This would bring large numbers of people to a small space disrupting the peace.  This law has not been well enforced if at all.  Most homeowners that have homes of this nature they just claim that the additional rooms are offices, yoga rooms, etc.

On Island Contact
This was the biggest law that was implemented and probably the most needed.  The County of Hawaii required that every vacation rental homeowner had an on island contact to handle emergencies, etc for their guests.  They also added that the on island contact could not be a contact for more than one homeowner unless they were a licensed property manager.  This was to alleviate homeowners from just putting down their housekeeper as the on island contact.  The purpose of this was to make sure vacationers get the best stay possible on the Big Island of Hawaii as well as to make sure that leaks and issues of that nature get handled correctly in larger vacation rental complexes.

The County of Hawaii is still navigating these policies so they change in slight ways from year to year to help enforce what they are attempting to do.  For more detailed information on the policies, visit the Hawaii County Planning Department website.