In my previous blog post on the new Short Term Vacation Rental registration process for Big Island properties, I posted a link to the Hawaii County website to obtain the packet. As we creep up to the half-way mark on the 180-day registration period, I have had several clients share their experiences with me and I’d like to pass on their tips. As a bonus, when I called the county planning department to clarify a few points, I got a rundown of FAQs they wished were published on their website!
To follow along, you might want to download the application package if you have not already done so.
Registering your Big Island Condo as a Short Term Vacation Rental
Many, perhaps most, owners of unhosted rentals do not live on the island. The first question that comes up is whether someone other than the owner — for example, the rental management company you use or your current on-island representative — can do the work and file the form. The answer is “YES.” Many of the rental management companies are willing to do this for their owner clients for a pretty modest fee.
TIP #1: Applicant
If you are an off-island owner, or you just feel overwhelmed by the process, you may hire someone else to complete and file the application. This is particularly useful for foreign (non-US) property owners as one part of the registration requires a notarized affidavit. Also, note you do not have to use a Hawaii notary; the sample included in the packet is only a sample. You can use an out-of-state notary.
You will need to submit an authorization for the applicant to act on your behalf (#2 on the application form).
TIP #2: Permitted Zone, Registration Only
If you are in a permitted zoning, you have to register but can ignore #11-13 on the application, namely the instructions for proof of prior rentals and notification of neighbors.
Most, but not all, condos — and some single family homes — are found in the zoning districts in which the County will allow short term vacation rental (STVR) under the new law. This is from the first page of the application:
- V (Resort);
- CG (General Commercial)
- CV (Village Commercial);
- Residential and Commercial Districts situated in the General Plan’s Resort and Resort Node areas; or
- RM (Multi-family Residential) for multiple family dwellings within a condominium property regime as defined and governed by chapters 514A and 514B, Hawaii Revised Statutes, (2) If you answered NO to Item (1), your STVR is in an Unpermitted Zoning District.
If you are outside of these zonings, you will be filing items 11-13 for non-conforming use approval. See below for tips on those items.
TIP #3: Proof of Final Approvals from Building Division
This should be easy for you to do if you are in a recently built property, just follow the instructions on the form. Be sure to also get the condo master to prove that the entire project is approved if you have a condo. HOWEVER, if your condo complex is currently renovating amenities or you pulled a permit for renovations on your home or condo, the law says your registration cannot be approved until your permit is closed.
If your home’s permits are not showing up on the Real Property Tax website, you have to go to the Building Department in person. However, my source at the County tells me that the Building Department will tell you to submit the packet to the Planning Department, get rejected, and then bring that letter and the form back to them. Only then will they look up your record. SORRY!
TIP #4: Tax Matters
Copies of your General Excise and Transient Accommodations Tax licenses are easy…assuming you have licenses and have been paying your tax. Please note that for the next item, your property tax clearance, you have to file a form and pay $1; just showing it as paid on the County’s website is not good enough.
TIP #5: Site Plan and Floor Plan
This is one many owners tell me they have been sweating. If you are in a condo, you are probably in luck as your rental manager, the condo property manager or association executive has likely been providing these to your neighbors. You may have to pencil in dimensions on the floor plan.
But if you are in a single family home and do not have these from your building plans, DO NOT submit your own sketch. You will need to hire an architect or at least a draftsman, and that will likely cost you $400 or more.
Non-Conforming Use Application for STVRs in Other Zonings
I realize I have repeated this multiple times. If you are outside of permitted zonings and only if you are outside, you will have to complete the last three items on the application and might want to read the tips below. Otherwise, feel free to go get started on your registration!
TIP #6: Proof of Prior Use
Remember there will be no new short term vacation rentals allowed where the zoning does not allow it. You need to prove that your rental was in operation prior to April 1, 2019.
The County told me that your GET and TAT payment receipts (TIP #4 above) are not enough. If the Schedule E from your tax return shows the address of the property, that is acceptable proof. So are copies of guest reservation confirmations and payment receipts, even screenshots of them if you do this online, showing the property address and dates.
TIP #7: Notification of Neighbors
I have one simple tip and one that is a bit complicated.
The simple tip is you have to have the date of your submission to the Planning Department on your notice that is mailed, so important to make your notice date at least a day later than your submission.
The more complicated tip is for various ways you can generate the required proof of mailing. The County’s registration packet and my previous post tell you how to use the Hawaii County Property Tax website to generate your list. When you hit “download to mailing labels” be sure to check the box to “add parcel ID numbers.” That will add your tax map keys. Print an extra copy, and when you deliver to the post office, have them stamp on that page.
If you don’t do that, type a simple letter saying you affirm that you mailed to the following on such and such a date, have it notarized, and staple to the list of addresses.
ONE FINAL TIP: Always be kind.
Yes, it may take you three days of running around (one client’s report for STVR and NUC), possibly even 20 hours of work (a condo property manager’s report), but remember the poor staff at the Planning Department are dealing with hundreds of owners trying to figure this out. A little empathy and aloha will go a long way.