It's getting tough for tourists to find homey vacation rentals on several Hawaiian islands -- and owners who operate the rentals say they are getting a raw deal.

Maui County officials earlier this year ordered hundreds of vacation home owners to shut down because they were operating without a permit.

Property owners complained that the order was an about-face from the policies of previous county administrations, which allowed owners to operate vacation rentals while waiting out the permit approval process.

The order could also cost some shuttered vacation rentals as much as $100,000 a year.

To postpone the shut-down order, the Maui Vacation Rental Association sued Maui County in U.S. District Court, but to no avail.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright sympathized with the association, telling Maui County officials, "I'm going to apply the legal principles and the law, but I have to say, as a matter of fairness, it just doesn't seem fair."

The order instructs 900 of the 1,200 bed-and-breakfast and vacation home rental units on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai to shut down by January 1, 2008.

County officials began the crack down, it said, because the growth in the number of vacation rentals brought noise and heavy traffic into neighborhoods.

Critics also blamed a boom in vacation rental purchases for contributing to rising real estate prices. Higher prices have made it difficult for residents to own a home in Hawaii.

Maui Vacation Rental Association president, David Dantes said the association does not plan further legal action before the county's deadline.

James Fosbinder, the association's attorney, said suits from property owners seeking damages could come later. Vacation rental owners each stand to lose as much as $100,000 a year.

Fosbinder also said the county is damaging the Islands' flat tourism economy by cutting into the segment offering a less expensive but more authentic, home-based Hawaiian vacation. Without the vacation home rentals, tourists are stuck with motels, hotels and mega resorts.

Log in to comment