AirBnb

Hawaii Proposal Would Punish Short-Term Rentals Like Sexual Assaults

Hawaii lawmakers want to make unlicensed short-term rentals a class C felony.

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Andre Seale—VWPics/Newscom

Renting out a home or apartment without paying a fee to the state and keeping detailed records about renters could land Hawaiians in jail for up to five years, if two state lawmakers get their way.

A bill under consideration by the state legislature in Honolulu would make unlicensed short-term rentals a class C felony under state law. If passed, the bill would put short-term rentals on par with other class C felonies, including the illegal possession and use of explosives, third degree sexual assault, and second degree theft.

The bill would also require homeowners using services like Airbnb or HomeAway to report the names and contact information of all renters to a public database maintained by the state Department of Taxation. Failure to do that, or failure to pay mandatory licensing fees to the state, would result in fines of up to $5,000 and jail time.

The bill is sponsored by state Sens. Russell Ruderman (D-Hawaii) and Gil Riviere (D-Oahu). Neither returned requests for comment.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to turn otherwise law-abiding homeowners into criminals just because they've engaged in a consensual agreement to rent their homes or apartments to visitors. It makes even less sense to punish those property-owners in such a harsh manner. It's hard to see how a short-term rental is as serious of a threat to public safety as sexual assault or theft.

"Unfortunately, the introduction of this bill is indicative of opponents' attitudes toward short-term rentals and homesharing in far too many places around the country," says Emily Cullem, a spokeswoman for the Travel Technology Association, a trade association that advocates for innovative, web-based travel solutions. "Rather than viewing innovation as a the enemy and turning homeowners into felons for the simple act of welcoming travelers to the islands, Hawaii should develop 21st century public policy that recognizes the rapidly increasing consumer demand for short-term rentals and their role in the overall tourism marketplace."

For now, short-term rentals are legal in Hawaii, but only in commercial zones or with special permits issued by local governments. A bill that would have required Airbnb and similar platforms to collect and remit tax revenue to the state was passed by the Hawaii legislature last year, but was vetoed by Gov. David Ige, who saw the measure as an attempt to legitimize short-term rentals.

Airbnb, which pushed for the passage of the tax bill, estimated that Hawaii could have collected $15 million annually from users.

Instead of trying to prevent visitors from having access to Airbnb or criminalizing residents who use similar homesharing apps as a way to make a little extra money, state lawmakers should focus on actual public safety issues. If short-term renters are violating laws or otherwise commiting crimes against private and public property, they should of course be prosecuted, but blanket proposals that promise harsh penalties for having a stranger sleep on your couch are not helping anyone.

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  1. I guess I never really thought of sexual assault as a short term rental.

    1. *applause*

      One and done.

      1. Yeah, shut it down.

    2. Wouldn’t prostitution be the short term rental?

    3. This is why you generally only owed damages for carnality to the father, it was a tort against property.

  2. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to turn otherwise law-abiding homeowners into criminals just because they’ve engaged in a consensual agreement to rent their homes or apartments to visitors.

    How quaint.

  3. Coarsening of the culture

  4. Those GOP bastards, protecting the korporashuns at every turn.

  5. It’s hard to see how a short-term rental is as serious of a threat to public safety as sexual assault or theft.

    It denies the state its cut? Do we actually consider the health and safety angle the state always tries to claim?

  6. This is an example of the phenomenon that I expect will prevent seasteading from being the panacea Patri Friedman thinks it will be.

    Once you are on an island, your ability to exit is more curtailed than it is on land.

    1. Correct. When I expatriated, Heroic Mulatto asked me, in all seriousness, why I didn’t attempt to practice on some Caribbean Island or somesuch.

      This is why; islands are small, isolated, and if someone wants to find you, they will. Living on an island, oil rig, or even a sea stead seems no different to me than Masada was to the Sicariis.

      1. I wish you would have asked me instead, doc. I lived in the Caribbean for a couple years and the beauty of it was that there were so many places you could get to, with different legal systems, cultures, etc in such a short time. All you need is a decent boat with a 200 knot range and you’re more free to come and go to several different cultures there than almost anywhere else in the world I could think of.

        If I had the professional connections or ability to run my business there, I’d be relocating to the Caribbean as fast as humanly possible and I’d be buying a nice boat as soon as I found my house.

        1. 200 knot range

          Say what? Eat some spinach, ya landlubber!

          1. He made it from Guadeloupe to Dominica in 3 parsecs.

          2. LOL, I locked up there. a 200 nmi range.

            Also, fuck the both of you.

            1. You’ll have to eat your spinach first!

    2. It’s the implication.

  7. Fuck Hawaii.

    Turks and Caicos is nicer, anyway.

    1. Yeah but it’s full of Turks and Caicos. *spits*

    2. I’m going to Hawaii next month, but neither of the 2 islands these shitheads are from.

  8. Renting out a home or apartment without paying a fee to the state

    The mafia always get their piece.

  9. How come everytime shit like this comes up, I see a “D” behind the assholes’ names? The only thing I despise more than a Democrat is a republican, but dammit they are making it hard to maintain that equal level of hatred. Think about that. 5 years in prison for renting your own private home out to someone.

    Still think you live in the “Land of the Free”?

    1. “How come everytime shit like this comes up, I see a “D” behind the assholes’ names?”
      Because as of the most recent election EVERY member of the Hawaii state senate is a “D”.

  10. What ever happened to “i have some stuff I’d like to sell”?

  11. but blanket proposals that promise harsh penalties for having a stranger sleep on your couch are not helping anyone.

    Not true. They sure are helping the cronies in the hotel industry and most likely themselves.

    In a sane world, they’d be charged with racketeering and possibly tarred and feathered.

    1. Yes, I’m sure the hotels in Hawaii have no one staying there, because of air B&b.

      1. Depending on where you go in HI, the difference in cost can be dramatic. It’s not hard to find really nice Airbnbs there for ~$100/night, but comparable hotels can easily run over $600/night.

  12. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to turn otherwise law-abiding homeowners into criminals

    Makes all the sense in the world — homeowner means a nice juicy asset to seize.

  13. So, a state whose economy is pretty much completely dependent on tourism wants to make it significantly less affordable to visit? Good luck with that.

    1. They don’t want riff raff visiting

  14. I see the hotels have some reps in their pockets

  15. That’s what you get when you deny the state their due, a hefty penalty a cage.

  16. “Unfortunately, the introduction of this bill is indicative of opponents’ attitudes toward short-term rentals and homesharing in far too many places around the country,”

    Actually, it’s indicative of their attitudes towards all economic activity. In short, there should never be any exchange of goods, services, or currency where the government doesn’t get a cut and information regarding the transaction and all parties involved.

  17. Isn’t tourism Hawaii’s main industry at this point? If Airbnb and Couchsurfing take business away from much-more-easily-taxed hotels, it would have a devastating impact on an already impoverished state’s public revenue.

    1. Shortfall in revenue? Why not just mandate the harvesting of organs of registered democrats there? They believe in obedience to the state, and apparently are cool to doing it with late term fetuses. So it shouldn’t be much of a stretch.

  18. Just vacation at places that don’t ban airbnb. It’s that simple. Loss of tourism will cause a counterflow of donations to overwhelm the hotel industry donations that put these bans in place. It’s restaurants and amusements and car rentals and state parks and all the rest against the hotel industry. Who would win?

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