Maui officials hire company to trace illegal vacation rentals

US: Officials on the Hawaiian island of Maui have hired Colorado-based company LODGINGRevs to search out non-compliant vacation rental properties.

The county Planning Department is expecting to receive the first list of potentially illegal operators by the end of this month. The department has usually found illegal short-term rentals through online advertisements, but operators have employed tactics to hide the properties from regulators, said planning director Michele McLean.

“Some only put their ads up after our business hours or on weekends when we don’t have our inspectors on duty,” McLean said. “Some of them put up ads that cannot be viewed by Hawaii IP addresses.”

Rental operators found in violation will first be issued a warning, giving them seven days to shut down. The cases are closed if officials cannot find evidence of continuing operations. If evidence is found, violation notices will be sent, leading to a $1,000 initial fine and $1,000 for every day of violation, McLean said.

“The situation in general is, if we can’t continue to find those ads, it’s hard for us to confirm that they are still operating,” McLean said. “That’s why this contract is going to be so helpful, because that’s one of the things they will do. They will continue to monitor those properties to see if those ads go back up.”

LODGINGRevs can find the properties by extracting data from photographs and can override issues that the department has faced including ads that blocked Hawaii IP addresses.

The county’s contract with the company is for a year, but it could be extended depending on its success.