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Archive for April, 2012

Drumroll, please… and the winner is ….

Thanks to everyone who participated in our iPad giveaway promotion!

The new iPad HD is on its way to lake Tahoe

The new iPad HD found its new home in the lake Tahoe area

We are delighted to have received such an overwhelming response from homeowners all over the world! Properties submitted came from as far as Italy, Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico and New Zealand (see below).

Thank you all for listing your beautiful homes and welcome to the Rentini community!

As many of you know, Rentini recently announced the launch of our new redesigned website and your support and enthusiasm made the launch even more special.

Everyone who participated in the promotion was entered into a drawing to receive an iPad. We had many awesome properties come in from various places. The winner of our drawing, chosen at random, is Lynn from Nevada. Lynn listed her stunning Lake Tahoe property complete with multiple high quality photos, informative description and even created a Rentini powered website for her property.

The new iPad HD found its new home in the lake Tahoe area

Lynn’s new website at Rentini and the new iPad Resolutionary

Please see her website here: http://modernlaketahoe.rentini.com.

Each completed step not only gave participants an additional entry, increasing your chances of winning, but also created an appealing and informative listing to maximize response from potential guests. Please join us in congratulating Lynn and keep an eye out for more great promotions coming up in the next few weeks.

So many beautiful homes!

Paradise on the Virgin Islands

When you think of paradise, what comes to mind? Crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches, palm trees and sipping margaritas as the sun goes down? That’s what I think of. My mind wanders to carefree days, swimming in the ocean and lying under the warm sun of the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean, slightly east of Puerto Rico.

The official name of the country is simply “Virgin Islands”, however some of the islands have the prefix “British” included to distinguish it from the neighboring American territory which is named the “Virgin Islands of the United States”.

One of the prime spots in the US Virgin Islands is Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is the heart of St Thomas’ activities. You can find historical buildings throughout the downtown area from when the town was a bustling port. St Thomas itself is largely a mountainous island and you don’t need to drive, hike or bike far to be treated to a stunning panoramic view of the island and the surrounding ocean.

As St Thomas’ is a luxury beach paradise, the usual ‘beach/island holiday attractions’ are relevant. However, Charlotte Amalie also has some unique attractions to boast about. Main Street is the classic ‘top place’ to check out. With hundreds of shops as well as plenty of local restaurants and cafes, this street is a shopping lover’s paradise. Market Square is one important area which should be explored in Charlotte Amalie. This square is located at the end of Main Street and is the original site of a market place where African slaves were bought and sold. It is still a bustling market place where people can buy fruit, vegetables, spices and fish.

The ’99 steps’ site is a must see. Built in the mid-1700s by the Danes, they were said to be the easiest way to climb up and down the steep steps of Charlotte Amalie. The bricks used to construct the steps were originally from Denmark and while the site is called ’99 steps’, there are actually 103. The 1827 Haagensen House is a beautiful historical house to check out. The house was originally the home of a Danish banker named Hans Haagensen and his wife along with their nine children.

The Fort Christian and Museum building is a place of interest that should be put on your list when visiting Charlotte Amalie. The building was originally constructed in 1680 to defend the Danish Settlement. It is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest building still in use on the island. It has previously been used as the Governor’s residence, a place of worship, a police station and is now a museum. The Seven Arches Museum is also a place to visit, even just to see the building. Built in the 19th century as a Danish residence, the building features seven arches to support the staircase. It continues to be a residence as well as museum filled with West Indian Mahogany furniture and other antiques. For art lovers, the Camille Pissarro Gallery will be of interest. The “Father of French Impressionism”, Pissarro was born and raised in Charlotte Amalie. This building is his childhood home and has now an art gallery featuring art from dozens of painters including himself.

A great place to stay when heading to Charlotte Amalie is in one these canvas eco-cottages on Water Island, just across from Charlotte Amalie. The cottages are a new and unique approach to Caribbean vacationing, and are a mix between camping and a hotel room. The cottages gives you vacation rental style comforts – electricity, bug screens, comfortable beds and clean linens while allowing you to feel close to nature. The cabins have stunning views out over the bays, and you can watch the sun go down while lying in a hammock.

If you’re heading to the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda is the place to be. Virgin Gorda is a favorite among travelers due to its tranquil settings, quiet coves and inlets and natural beauty. The island is the third largest of the British Virgin Islands and measures eight and a half square miles. The main town on Virgin Gorda is Spanish Town which is situated on the southwestern part of the island. Spanish Town is also known as The Valley and offers numerous shopping options. It also is home to Yacht Harbor Marina where you can watch or partake in the many daily sailing activities.

One of the most interesting attractions on Virgin Gorda is the unusual geologic formation known as ‘The Baths’. At The Baths, large granite boulders lay piled on the beach, indicating the island’s volcanic beginnings. These boulders form scenic grottos that are open to the sea. The Baths is a great place for photographs, and always provides a lot of fun for kids.

The Copper Mine National Park is also a must-see attraction on Virgin Gorda, as Virgin Gorda is where copper was first discovered! The National Park contains the ruins of an abandoned 19th century copper mine. When the British took control of the islands, the copper mine was constructed and its first shaft was sunk in 1838. However 24 years later the mine was abandoned and never reopened. What remains is the engine house, the main building and parts of the original stack. If anything, the area is one of beauty and provides some wonderful photo opportunities.

Of course if you’re spending a week or two here, you’re going to want somewhere to stay. South Sound Luxury Waterfront Villa in Spanish Town is the perfect place to spend your vacation. Boasting six bedrooms and sleeping 16 people, this house is perfect for the extended family! This very special waterfront villa has its own private peninsula and sits at the end of Mattie Point. It has water on three sides, a horizon edge pool overlooking South Sound, a waterside dock for the boat with an outdoor freshwater shower to hose off all that sand and a dinghy and three kayaks to get out to the reef for some snorkeling.

Aside from all the attractions unique to each island, like any island holiday, you can plan for plenty of beach time. The islands are a water lover’s paradise. You can snorkel, scuba dive, windsurf, go sailing, fishing, para-sailing, kayaking, canoeing, take a day trip on a chartered boat and of course swim. The beach is inviting for building sandcastles and lying in the sun, especially with a good book!

The Virgin Islands could certainly be defined as paradise! So what are you waiting for, get over there and check it out!

A Weekend in Philadelphia

There is nothing like a disappointing weekend getaway. Everything you expect it to be, it’s not. That’s why I love it when you go somewhere and your expectations aren’t high. You expect to have a good time but don’t expect to be blown away. This was my experience with Philadelphia. It’s what I would describe as a hidden gem of the East Coast.

I was expecting Philadelphia to be like a small town – a miniature, drab and slightly run-down version of Manhattan. How wrong could I be! The center of town is filled with greenery, and clean, open spaces. The city is full of beautiful architecture, and of course, a great deal of history.

One of the most important stops in Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell. The line to get past the guards is usually pretty long, but it moves fast and once inside there’s a very small “museum”, which basically tells you the history of the bell. It’s an iconic symbol of American Independence and Freedom. It was first commissioned in 1752 and was inscribed with the phrase, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It has a big crack in the side, one that occurred over many years, and during its “lifetime” it traveled all around America being a symbol of hope and freedom in various different times in history. When you think about it, that bell has seen a lot!

Just down the road from the exit of the Liberty Bell is the Artist’s House and Garden’s. This was the house of the painter who painted the classic portraits of Washington and Franklin and the gardens are a great place to walk around and enjoy the sunshine. The house was part of the Independence National Historical Park which includes some of the oldest buildings in America as well as vast park-like spaces. The Independence Hall is a must-see, of course, as this is where the Declaration of Independence was signed! Entry is free; however you are required to have a timed-entry ticket from the Visitors Center. These run out around noon, so it’s best to get in early!

Once you’re inside the grounds you can check out the various buildings, see the actual documents of the Declaration and Constitution and go on a tour of the Independence Hall and Congress Hall. Both tours are very worthwhile and full of interesting facts. Make sure you also check out Old City Hall, which is set up to look as it did all those years ago.

For other areas of the National Historic Park you don’t need a ticket to get in. The first bank of America, Carpenter’s Hall (which is where the ‘plotting’ for the Revolution went down, and included some of the original chairs used by Benjamin Franklin), and City Tavern – the original ‘pub’ in the city which is still serving food and drink are all places of interest. They have a lot of character, and have been well maintained.

The National Constitution Center, situated behind the Visitors Center is worth a look. Filled with plenty of information and showcasing various exhibits, this is one place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the Constitution. From there it’s only a few blocks to Christ Church’s graveyard which is the burial place of Benjamin Franklin and his wife. The grave itself is quite plain but it’s still a place to visit and pay your respects. The area beside his grave had been turned into a gate, as the site is right beside the road, so people can look through the fence at the tomb. Or you can pay $2 to go inside.

When William Penn first arrived in Philadelphia, his plan for the city was to have numerous public park squares. Washington Square is one of the most prominent of these spaces. In the early days of Philadelphia (1682), the square was used to graze animals and to bury the city’s African American population. Then, during the Revolutionary War it was used to also bury citizens and troops from the Colonial Army. To mark these burials they have a big monument in the park with a tomb and a statue of George Washington. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier marks the death of all the soldiers in the square and the statue of Washington is said to be looking over his troops. There is also an eternal flame burning in front of the tomb along with rows of flags from colonial America. I didn’t see any mention of the African American population buried in the square. The park itself is gorgeous and even had some cherry blossoms! The memorial is definitely worth a look.

The good thing about Philadelphia is that it’s very walkable and very tourist friendly. It’s all flat and all the main areas of interest are very close together, plus there are signposts EVERYWHERE pointing you in the direction to places of interest in close proximity.

Outside of the immediate Historic District there are plenty of attractions to explore. Betsy Ross’s house is a popular tourist spot. The house is situated in Old City in the next “section” of town. Betsy Ross is widely credited as the woman to first sew the American flag. The house is set up like any house that is a few hundred years old, but you can learn about how she came to sew the flag and explore the gift shop once you’re done. Old City itself is also very beautiful and you’ll want to set aside some time to explore the area. There are old style buildings, cobblestone streets, gorgeous street fronts…it reminded me of British towns. The British influence in Philadelphia is very evident.

Just around the corner from Betsy Ross’s house is Elfreth’s Alley, which is the oldest residential street in America. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1700’s and still has people living there. The houses are so incredible and very well maintained. It’s really like stepping back in time. There are tours available through one of the houses and a small museum to learn about the history of the street.

An easy walk from Old City will bring you to Penn’s Landing. This is the area William Penn docked his ship when he first came to Pennsylvania. It’s right on the river, you can see across the water to New Jersey and in the summer the place is vibrant and exciting! It’s certainly a nice place for a walk and to enjoy the river. In the summer, Penn’s Landing is packed with events, concerts and festivals. It’s also the place to be to go for a river cruise! Not far from Penn’s Landing is Society Hill. Well laid out, and decorated with fairy lights, boutique stores, cafes and restaurants, this part of town was certainly a little upper class and had a wonderful atmosphere.

City Hall is another building that must be put on your list. It’s huge, and heavily influenced by European architecture. You will definitely want your camera when visiting City Hall, and make sure you walk right around the building to see it at all angles. City Hall sits right near JFK plaza where you can find the JFK LOVE ‘sculpture’, and near the Municipal Services Building’s courtyard which has a number of interesting sculptures and statues.

If you to do something a little different in Philly, aside from the historical places and buildings, check out Mutter Museum. This is the museum of weird medical cases. It’s full of skulls, skeletons, “wet specimens” and strange odds and ends. It’s not huge but it’s certainly an interesting way to spend a few hours.

Finally, you can’t go to Philadelphia without trying a Philly Cheesesteak. South of the main town you’ll find the two most famous Cheesesteak outlets – Geno’s and Pats. Both are busy 24/7 and have lines stretching around the block. We were told to make sure you know what you want before you get to the front of the line or they’ll call ‘next’ and you’ll have to line up all over again! It’s quite a production line. There is no inside seating in this place, it’s like a drive through on foot. All the food making in done inside this one roomed building, then everyone lines up outside and there are a few tables on the footpath.

There is so much more to see in Philadelphia, and this is just a small glimpse. It’s one of those places that you should visit at least once; take in the architecture, culture and history. Enjoy the beauty of this hidden gem. I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Murris’ Lighthouses

Lighthouses have long been a fascination throughout the world – and we at Rentini are no less enamored.

We recently got an email from Murris, a fellow lighthouse enthusiast who runs a site dedicated to lighthouses.  Murris’ website talks about all things “light house” and includes many stunning images, such as this one:

A Lighthouse Portrait on a Grassy Hill

Legislation Affecting Vacation Rentals in Hawaii Upsets Investors

Is Hawaii a good place for investors in vacation property? Recent developments in the state legislature have left many in doubt.

Overwhelming fear from homeowners that legislation affecting short-term rentals in Hawaii may cause them to lose return on their investments – possibly having to sell their property or even risk foreclosure.

The highly divisive legislation in question calls for non-resident (read: off-island) vacation rental owners to employ a licensed property manager who would be responsible for collecting taxes on the homeowner’s behalf and who would be the primary contact listed on all solicitations, advertisements, etc. Guests would be required to deal with this agent in place of the homeowner.

The bills have sought, in large part, to be a means of ensuring non-resident owners pay their required taxes, a justification that has angered owners who have consistently paid their taxes. In effect, for non-residents this means the end of the concept of vacation rental by owner, i.e. the self-management of their vacation rental homes.

A slew of legislation has led some to describe the legislative battles as a “war”. Bills that have been fought over include SB2089, HB1706, and HB1707. At play now are HB2078 and SB2947, the language of which is being hotly contested as this story goes to press.

The highly charged opposition to the legislation has sent thousands of pages of testimony to legislators, organized petitions and watch-groups to protect vacation rentals by owner in Hawaii and beyond, and have taken to web boards and online forums to share strategy and information. They describe the legislation as an “onslaught” that unfairly targets non-resident investors of vacation rental property which has quickly garnered Hawaii a reputation as an inhospitable environment for outsiders to do business. Rentini.com has confirmed as much. “Many would-be investors on Hawaiian vacation homes are holding off until this legislation is behind us before going through with their plans,” a Canadian client recently told us.

The technology of the Internet has made do-it-yourself solutions more popular than ever. It is no surprise that vacation rentals by owner has grown into such a huge industry, one that continues to threaten management companies that have traditionally acted as intermediaries, charging large sums of money and taking up to 50% commission plus other fees on rental transactions. Just as travel agents have been hit hard by the Internet, so too have hotels and property management firms felt the sting of new ways of organizing travel.

Individual owners have long complained that this arrangement is deeply unfavorable to them. With a simple Internet connection, many have taken the responsibility of management upon themselves. As reported earlier, a homeowner from California told us:

I know most of the management companies on the Big Island, and I wouldn’t trust the majority of them to manage my home. To me, this is the realtors wanting this legislation. I just don’t think it will work the way they think it will. Two realtors [I know of] (one of them a vacation rental property manager), has lost one home to foreclosure and the other one had to file for bankruptcy. My help on the island had her realtor’s license, but I think she let it expire. What I don’t get, is that I would have to give up the handling of the rent completely and it would go through a management company in Hawaii. I think I will sell before I do that.

Adam Yanow, a vacation rental owner from Canada, expressed his frustration with management companies which he views as the driving force behind the legislation. Fearing foreclosure, Adam writes:

This is just another attempt by rental managers to increase their profit margin at our and our guest’s expense…. I, for example, am at least 20 percent underwater on my mortgage already due to the recession. This bill will force me into foreclosure.

The legislation is also feared by many simply because it would take over a role they have cherished for several years – the role of manager of their vacation home. Marsha Vaughn, a Kihei condo owner living on the main Island, expressed her disappointment in towards the legislative hurdles. “[T]he Hawaiian legislators ha[ve] created not one, not two but at least four different bills,” she writes, “[all] designed to force me to turn the management of the business I so lovingly created over to licensed property managers or real estate agents.”

What has outraged many homeowners regarding these bills has been that as one is successfully deferred its contents have “morphed” into an amended version of another bill. This was the case with HB 2089 that was deferred. The requirement for a licensed property manager to operate the rental was vociferously opposed until the bill’s deferment. Yet in an amendment to HB 2078 this clause was resurrected, reintroduced. In light of this, homeowners have become hyper-vigilant to any amendments that may affect them.

Online message boards have been on fire with homeowners opposed to the recent string of bills. “The intent behind much of it seems, from my perspective, to place the blame for on-island problems directly in the laps of off-island investors,” said one blogger.

“We live in Vancouver and own two condos on Kauai, and I wouldn’t want anyone managing them but us. We take great care with them and have had just the best experiences dealing direct with our guests. I also have two friends in the process of buying in our same complex and both have put their deals on hold until this gets sorted out,” wrote another.

Adam Leamy lambastes Hawaii’s “me-first” policies that threaten NAFTA protections for cross-border investments in vacation rentals, such as his own. “And what a monopoly it will be. Testimony on these bills has revealed that the commissions Hawaii property management firms charge to properties under their ‘care’ can be 30, 40, and 50 per cent, with all manner of hidden costs and property abuses. It’s hard to see how those commissions will decline, or how quality and service will increase once a state-legislated monopoly is in place,” added Leamy.

John Eckel, Vice-President of the Rentals By Owner Awareness Association, has stated that he doesn’t believe it would be wise for the State of Hawaii to pass the legislation as it currently stands. The repercussions can be “damaging for Hawaii.” Citing alleged unconstitutionality of the bills, Eckel warns of the cost of “legal wrangling” that will result should this legislation pass. “It may cost Hawaii dearly,” Eckel said.

A Summer in Pagosa Springs

If you’re looking for something a little bit different this summer, why not head to a part of America that is usually reserved for winter vacations, Pagosa Springs in Southwest Colorado.  It is true Pagosa Springs is a prime spot to visit during the winter months. That is when the hot springs are beckoning, the ice skating rinks are in prime condition and the favorite activities include cross-country skiing, ice fishing, skiing and snowboarding, sleigh rides, sledding and snowmobiling.

The fall period when the temperatures are just starting to drop is also very popular with hunters who hope to harvest elk, deer and other game animals. The summer time is often when vacationers will head towards the beaches and lakes, away from the prime winter destinations. But what if you tried something a little different and looked into all Pagosa Springs has to offer for the summer time?

Situated along the San Juan River and surrounded by the San Juan National Forest, the Weminuch Wilderness and the Rocky Mountains, the natural beauty of Pagosa Springs is simply breathtaking. The area is located north of the New Mexico border and is situated on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide creating an unusually mild climate compared with the surrounding Southwest towns.

The area is named after one of the largest and hottest natural springs in the world, which continues to attract people year round for its relaxation and therapeutic powers. Aside from relaxing in the hot springs, other summertime activities include fishing, hiking and rafting.

Starting at the beginning you’re going to need somewhere to stay. I recommend the Luxury Log Cabin on the Golf Course. This stunning 2,100 sq ft cabin boasts four bedrooms and two bathrooms, comfortably sleeping 12+ guests. Perfect for big family getaways or a vacation with friends. You can overlook the fairway from the extra-large deck or the second story balcony, while the morning hot air balloons drifting past. Perhaps you might even want to go for a ride! For the times you’re not out enjoying all Pagosa Springs has to offer, the home has satellite TV, wireless internet and a fully equipped kitchen.

Once you’ve sorted your accommodation you can plan your trip! Perhaps you want to start by doing a little fishing! There are numerous rivers, lakes and reservoirs around the area which offer endless hours of quality fishing. The area offers warm, lower-elevation waters to fish for catfish, bass, perch and pan fish as well as the higher cool and cold-water lakes, ponds and creeks packed with pike, kokanee salmon and trout. The Piedra River in particular is a canyon river west of Pagosa Springs and the East Fork of the San Juan  are packed with fat brows and foot-long stocked rainbow trout. Other great areas to check out are the Echo Canyon Reservoir, Lake Capote Recreation Area (no state license is required and permits are only $8 for adults), Navajo Reservoir and Williams Creek Reservoir.

If you’re not into fishing but love water activities, there’s plenty for you to do in Pagosa Springs. The many rivers, lakes and reservoirs are the perfect places to get out on the water either kayaking, jet skiing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, floating or motorized boating. Navajo State Park is a favorite reservoir for water sports as it boasts 15,000 acres of water surface and even extends into New Mexico.  Williams Creek Reservoir, Big Meadows Reservoir and Echo Reservoir are the perfect places to take out your canoes or kayaks. Here you can enjoy breathtaking views in a quiet and peaceful surrounding. But for those thrill seekers out there, whitewater rafting on the San Juan River is the way to go. At the start of the summer (May and June) the river is flowing heavily with snow-melt, providing excellent conditions for whitewater rafting. When the temperatures get hot and the river calms down, the best way to cool off is by enjoying a floating trip. Float tubes can be rented and a few hours on the river is a perfect way to spend a day with the family.

If you’re the golf type, you certainly don’t need to go far. Just steps away from the Log Cabin is the 18-hole Pinon course and the 9-hole Ponderosa at the Pagosa Springs Golf Club. Of course if you’re looking for a mini golf style course, there are two of those within the Pagosa Springs area for good family fun.

Of course one of the biggest draw cards of Pagosa Springs is the stunning scenery, natural wonders and of course, the wildlife. With over 3 million acres of national forest of scenery and the Rocky Mountains just in the backyard begging to be explored also, there’s plenty to see and you could spend weeks exploring it all. While there are plenty of scenic drives you can take, the best way to experience it all is to get out on foot, on a bike, or better yet, on horseback! There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Pagosa Springs area simply begging to be walked or run. You can choose between trails through high alpine meadows, along the river, in the canyons or through dense forests. The Turkey Springs area is said to have some of the best tracks in the region.

Biking is another excellent way to see Pagosa Springs, and with the numerous paved roads, single tracks and forest roads there are plenty of opportunities to see the amazing views from your bicycle. For something a little different, check out the area on horseback. The area is a favorite with horse enthusiasts and seeing the area while horse trekking adds something a little extra special to your sightseeing. While you’re exploring the great outdoors it is almost guaranteed you will come across various wildlife species living within the national forest so make sure you take a camera!

There are plenty of other great activities to enjoy in Pagosa Springs, particularly if you’re there with children. The historic train ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad or the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is always a favorite. Both railroads provide museums with history of the trains and various adventures and activities for the whole family. A hot air balloon ride is something the kids are bound to love, and gives you a spectacular view of Pagosa Country. The Chimney Rock Archeological Area is also an excellent attraction which features ancient Pueblo Indian ruins. The area holds numerous events throughout the summer including Native American festivals, full moon programs and educational tours.

For a bit of culture in your vacation, why not catch a live performance at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. If you’re interested in the history of the area, be sure to check out some of the local museums, including the San Juan Historical Museum, the Fred Harman Art Museum or the Parelli Natural Horsemanship World Headquarters and Museum. The Historic Liberty Theater on the main street is also a good place to visit, particularly if you want to catch a movie. Established in 1919, the theatre is the fourth oldest in Colorado! There are also plenty of art galleries, such as Pagosa Photography, the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts Gallery, Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts and the wild Spirit Gallery which are worth checking out, particularly if you’re struck with a rainy day.

Before you leave Pagosa Springs make sure you stop by The Choke Cherry Tree to pick up some home-made candies and chocolates. Pagosa Springs has a lot to offer its summertime visitors, and there is no doubt the visitors will leave the area with a grin on their face after a fantastic summer vacation.

Why not give Pagosa Springs a try this summer!

Legislation Targeting Off-Island, Self-Managed Vacation Rentals Still Kicking in Hawaii

Where’s the aloha in the aloha state? According to off-island resident owners of vacation rentals, the State of Hawaii is putting their business in the cross-hairs.

The controversy in question centers on a slew of legislation calling for non-resident (read: off-island) vacation rental owners to hire rental agents to manage their businesses. Writing in the Vancouver Sun, Adam Leamy, owner of a rental in Maui, summed it up this way:

Four bills are advancing through the Hawaii legislature that target off-island…owners of vacation rental properties. Senate bills (HB2078, SB2089) and House bills (HB1706, HB1707) require off-island owners of vacation rental properties to turn over the management of their rental property to some form of on-island licensed real estate broker or salesperson, managing agent, rental agent, or condominium hotel operator. Curiously, local, on-island owners of vacation rental properties are exempted from the bills and their provisions.

This legislation has given rise to stormy opposition from off-island owners who self-manage their vacation rentals, and Leamy is one of them. Leamy lambastes the “me-first” policies that threaten NAFTA protections for cross-border investments in vacation rentals, such as his own.

Not only are Canadians like Leamy voicing legal concerns, hundreds if not thousands of people are arguing against the discriminatory nature of the bills as such. Attorney Gregory Kugle, representing the Hawaii Vacation Rental by Owners Association, has lodged complaints against the bills on grounds that they’re unconstitutional, in violation of the Commerce Clause. On homeowner forums, there is already talk about lawsuits should this legislation pass in its current form.

Marsha Vaughn, a Kihei condo owner living on the main Island, penned an article in Maui Now in which she expressed her sadness in the face of the legislative onslaught. “[T]he Hawaiian legislators ha[ve] created not one, not two but at least four different bills,” she writes, “[all] designed to force me to turn the management of the business I so lovingly created over to licensed property managers or real estate agents.”

The question “Why?” has produced answers. But detractors argue that even the answers are flawed and foolish. The stated reason why this legislation was borne has been that, as Vaughn says, “[S]ome …people cheat on their taxes.” Or rather, “Because the Department of Taxation can’t figure out how to find the people who do.” This latter point has added fuel to the fire. In targeting off-island owners, Hawaii has offended countless vacation rental owners who assert their good standing vis-a-vis current laws and their tax compliance. They feel under attack, angered by the accusatory nature of the legislation. “We Are Not Tax Cheats,” Vaughnn exclaims.

Indeed, the argument that non-residents are disproportionately tax evaders doesn’t carry much merit. Leamy explains:

Legislators say the measures ensure tax compliance, but the only evidence of non-compliance is anecdotal, and provided by the…licensed real estate brokers or salespersons, managing agents, rental agents, or condominium hotel operators. The state has no data to suggest this is the case, and in a classic case of “legislate first, get facts later,” says it will undertake to find out.

In fact, testimony by the Department of Taxation to the House Committee on Finance in 2007, addressing a Hawaii Tourism Association study of non-compliance vis-a-vis vacation rentals, stated that proposed regulations could backfire:

INCREASED SCRUTINY MAY DRIVE TAXPAYERS UNDERGROUND-The Department points out that after its last audit project with HTA, the Department concluded that, in general, those that rent transient accommodations are tax compliant. The Department fears that any increased scrutiny could potentially backfire and drive otherwise tax compliance individuals ‘underground.’ Taxpayers that are forced ‘underground’ can have a direct impact on collections.

Many local agencies were armed with detailed information on those rentals that were non-compliant at the time. Many feel that the problems could be addressed by the counties on the local level and that the legislation reveals a general failure in local and state government in Hawaii. That the state is cash-strapped is no excuse for current legislation, they say.

What has been shocking about these bills is that as soon as one is successfully deferred its contents reappear in an amended version of another bill, causing off-island owners to again rally against the new morphing of the bill. This was the case with HB 2089 that was deferred. The requirement for a licensed property manager to operate the rental was vociferously opposed until the bill’s deferment. Yet in an amendment to HB 2078 this clause was resurrected, reintroduced. In light of this, homeowners are more vigilant to any amendments that may affect them.

Behind the stated interest of securing rightful tax money for the State of Hawaii, there are surely hidden interests. In a previous article, I wrote that HB 2089 was revealed to be backed by the City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting; Maui Hotel & Lodging Association; Condominium Rentals Hawaii; Poipu Beach Resort Association; West Hawaii Property Services, Inc.; Waikoloa Vacation Rental Management; and four individuals. Testimony in opposition, on the other hand, came from the Hawaii Vacation Rental Owners Association; The Travel Group; Trading Places International; Hanalei Bay Resort; Makana Mai Ka Lani; Hot Spot Tax Services; Sunshine & Rainbows, LLC; Humiston and Company, CPAs; and numerous individuals.

The current legislation, so similar to that early legislation, is lobbied for by roughly the same interests, with property management firms and hoteliers taking lead.

Overwhelming fear that these bills could cause homeowners to lose return on their investments – possibly have to sell their property or even risk foreclosure – is rife. Many would-be investors on Hawaiian vacation homes are holding off until this legislation is far behind us before going through with their plans.

The office of Senator Sam Slom, the lone dissenting vote on much of the legislation, evidently provided a list of amendments on HB 2078 that they expect to see introduced this Friday. They include the following:

1. removing the term “non- resident owners” and replacing it with language that conforms with the Landlord Tenant Code (521-43)

2. deleting the definition of non- resident owner

3. replacing the requirement that owners residing out of state or on another island must hire rental agents to manage their property with the requirement that they must designate an on- island agent

4. Defining the scope and duties of the designated agent to be consistent with chapters 467 and 521 of HRS, specifying that the agent cannot perform the duties of a real estate agent without a license, and clarifying that the agent will serve as a local point of contact.

5. Tying the fines under this section to existing fines for non- payment of taxes under the tax code

6. Requiring that immediate notification be given to the appropriate parties upon a change in contact information for the designated agent

7. Requiring that the GET and TAT tax numbers be listed on any advertisement for a transient accommodation

8. Deleting the tax clearance provision in subsection ( e )

9. Amending the findings and purposes section to reflect the changes to the bill

Although many homeowners still have reservations about displaying a registration ID or website where the ID can be found on all advertisements or solicitations, the general sentiment is that these amendments would be agreeable enough. Most homeowners seem eager to welcome the changes.

All this drama has resulted in some positives. In their opposition to the recent slew of legislature, off-island vacation rental owners have formed new bonds and strengthened old ones. A new NGO devoted to keeping abreast of developments in pending legislation affecting transient rentals has come into being. Its name is the Rental By Owner Awareness Association (http://rboaa.org). Many other allegiances were formed.


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