Aloha. After a horrible year due to the Coronavirus19 Pandemic, things are looking up. See the following.
We wanted to point out some changes and highlight some issues that travelers have encountered.
On October 15, 2020 the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program began, which has allowed thousands of travelers (both visitors and residents) to bypass the mandatory 14 day quarantine. The key to this program is that one must take a State approved Covid-19 test from one of the State’s ‘trusted partners’ within 72 hours of traveling. To date, if the results were not ready in time for travel, the traveler (and all in their party) would have to quarantine until the results were ready and accepted by the Safe Travels program.
1. CHANGE: All test results must be received prior to arriving in Hawaii.
Starting November 24 travelers must have their test results PRIOR to starting the last leg of their trip. Without the results in hand (or uploaded to the State’s Safe Travel App), the traveler (and those in their party) will be subject to the mandatory 14 day quarantine, regardless if the results arrive post-arrival. For much more information, here is the link to the Governor’s press release. https://governor.hawaii.gov/newsroom/hawaii-covid-19-joint-information-center-daily-news-digest-nov-19-2020/
2. As before, the Counties determine what are approved quarantine vacation rentals. We recommend assuring your vacation rental is on your county’s approved list for 14 day quarantines if your guests will be subject to a quarantine and also having your guests send you a copy of their negative test results prior to arrival to protect you from any penalties.
3. There now is a STATE-WIDE MASK MANDATE. Masks must be worn in public unless you are able to socially distance from others by more than 6 feet. The penalty is a misdemeanor charge with a fine of up to $5000 or one year in jail. https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2020/11/16/governor-plans-issue-single-statewide-mask-mandate-aimed-clarifying-rules/
4. PRE-TRAVEL TESTING OPTIONS FOR CANADIANS to begin mid-December. After adding Japanese pre-travel testing options a few weeks ago, the State has now announced pre-travel testing options for Canadians. Canadian airlines, WestJet and Air Canada, will be offering the pre-travel testing. In yesterday’s press release they both said they’d have more information on their websites in the coming days. The State is currently in talks with South Korea and Taiwan to offer pre-testing there. https://governor.hawaii.gov/newsroom/hawaii-covid-19-joint-information-center-daily-news-digest-nov-19-2020/
Please tell your guests that their COVID TESTING FACILITY MUST BE APPROVED by the State of Hawaii. There have been a number of guests who have not followed the guidelines of getting a test done at an approved testing facility – the guest will be required to quarantine or take a flight back home immediately.
We suggest that you advise your guests of the following info:
- Sign up for Hawaii Safe Travel, the site is https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/
- The guest must have a negative Covid 19 test taken no more than 72 hours before your flight’s departure time AND the guest must have the results before the last leg of travel. If they have a multicity flight itinerary, the departure time is from the last city you leave before arriving at a Hawai‘i airport (e.g. if your travel is from Chicago to Seattle to Honolulu, the departure time to look at is your flight from Seattle).
- The test must be done by an Approved Partner with Hawaii – Please make a reservation with the testing facility ASAP (we understand that they can be a long wait for appointments to get tested.)
- Check the State of Hawaii Covid Travel website https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/ (note to date the website has not been updated to reflect yesterday’s change in test result policy) and check it regularly for any updates and changes.
Thank you for your continued support. It’s been a trying year for all of us.
Rental By Owners Awareness Association
Here are a couple important bits of information.
- As of Tuesday August 11, all interisland travel is stopped until August 31. This is to reduce the spread of COVID from Oahu to the outer islands.
- On Maui, there are new rules about vacation rentals. (Thanks to our friends at MVRA for sharing this)
a. No vacation rental may be used as a quarantine location.
b. New or returning residents may use a long term rental for quarantine, provided that no property may be used as a quarantine location more than once in a six month period.
c. Property owners will be held responsible and documentation must be provided to the County if a violation is suspected.
On another note, please remember that everyone at RBOAA is a volunteer. We are giving our time and energies freely. Abuse will not be tolerated. If you feel the need to be rude to us, please take out your frustrations on the nearest telephone pole.
In the meantime, stay well
We have some good news and we have some bad news for your Saturday morning.
First, the good news. Always start with good news I say!
We wrote to you earlier this week about HB460, the Hawaii Senate’s latest attack on vacation rentals. The bill was completely over-the-top in its requirements and we asked you to write to the Representatives and Senators to express your thoughts.
The House members heard your comments and had reservations of their own and they rejected the bill. As the Hawaii legislature is now adjourned for the remainder of the year, this bill is dead.
Mahalo to all of you who took the time to write in.
Okay, now the bad news.
We have all been watching with horror the explosion in the number of cases of COVID 19 across the United States as well as the sharply rising numbers on Oahu.
The Mayors of the neighbour islands are now pressuring the Governor and Lt Governor to delay the August 1 reopening of trans-pacific travel to Hawaii, even with the requirement to have a negative COVID test. There is reason to believe their voices will be heard by Governor Ige.
Stay tuned, and if you have any bookings in August, you will want to watch the news closely.
In the meantime, stay well
As some of you may have heard, the Hawaii Senate Ways and Means committee pulled off one of their favorite – and undemocratic – maneuvers by taking a bill that had passed through the House, gutted all the language out of the bill and replaced with completely new language and a new topic.
As you may have guessed, the new topic was Transient Vacation Rentals – a favourite target of the Senate Ways and Means committee. The new language in HB460 SD1 is draconian and over the top.
Amongst the provisions of the new bill:
1. Requirement to display your Tax Map Key and your physical address on all your advertising
2. Allowing the counties to create a register of properties available for public viewing
3. Prohibiting advertisting platforms from listing ads which don’t comply
4. The ability for counties to subpoena records from owners and advertising platforms
5. All travellers arriving on the island to provide the complete physical address of the place they are staying, with severe penalties for providing false information.
The problems with this bill are many, but the big issues are:
1. Four counties, four different rules in addition to the State requirements
2. Listing the address along with the calendar is a danger to owners when the property is vacant and to guests when they are in residence. Furthermore, the risk is borne only by legal vacation rentals as illegal rentals are not going to post their info and just keep dodging the law.
3. Providing all of our information in a publically available register is a challenge to our privacy that no other industry is subject to.
4. Shifting the burden of data collection onto airlines is ridiculous and is so fraught with bureaucracy and loopholes as to make it unworkable.
We know that the County of Kauai has recently entered into agreements with AirBnB and Expedia to track vacation rental advertisers through the Tax Map Key, a single point of reference which we think is reasonable.
The County of Maui recently engaged LodgingRev to audit all the advertisements on Maui and after a year of work, concluded that there were only seventeen illegal operations on the entire island.
The Senate has sent the Bill back to the House and the House has stated they disagree with the amendments which means that the bill goes to Conference. There, a select group of Representatives and Senators will meet to attempt to reach a compromise agreement.
While we are all for ensuring vacation rentals are legal, this proposal is too much and too far and we want the House to kill it or water it down to the agreement that Kauai has reached at the most.
Please take a moment to email the Representatives and Senators and express your opposition to this bill. Remember to be polite and thank them for their work.
In this edition of the RBOAA newsletter, we wanted to share a whole boatload of information. In fact, we wanted to provide so much information that we couldn’t squeeze it all into one email, so we are instead going to direct you to our website where we have posted all of this great stuff.
But first !!!– The announcement we have been waiting for came out yesterday.
Hawaii will reopen on August 1 to tourists who have taken a molecular Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours before travel and have a negative result. This is great news for the tourist industry in Hawaii and strikes a fair balance between the economy of Hawaii and the health of the residents.
In preparation for your upcoming guests, here are some important items to consider.
1. Enhanced cleaning protocols
2. COVID Safety Measures for our Guests
3. COVID Prevention during your stay
These three documents were compiled by RBOAA volunteers. We have included the contents on our website in an easy “copy & paste & edit” format so you can create your own documents. The link to the information is here: https://rboaa.org/cleaning-guidelines-for-covid-19/
4. It’s no secret that some tourists to the islands are less than respectful. We came across a series of videos that you could share with your guests on Hawaiian culture, land conservation and safety, water conservation and safety and culture. Links to these videos are here: https://rboaa.org/travel-tips/
5. We rely on the support of our members to keep up the work we do. To show your support and renew your membership in RBOAA, you can go here: https://rboaa.org/membership-signup/ and click on either JOIN NOW or DONATE.The form to renew your membership is the same as the form to originate your membership.
As with so many things during this unusual time in our lives, this week’s events moved very quickly and unexpectedly.
The Mayors of the outer islands – Maui, Kauai and Hawaii (Big Island) – all decided to allow transient vacation rentals to re-open on June 16 to host guests who are not subject to quarantine. This means guests who have been in Hawaii for 14 days, who live on the island of your rental or have travelled inter-island to the island of your rental are allowed to stay in your vacation rental.
Rentals to those subject to quarantine are still restricted, although owners can reside in the properties, but must abide by quarantine rules.
All three county mayors pointed out that the ability to rent only extended to legal vacation rentals.
The County of Honolulu ( Oahu ) is still considering their options and at the time of writing, vacation rentals were not permitted to operate.
Governor Ige extended the quarantine to out of state visitors to July 31.
Many members have been asking about property tax deferrals, so we contacted each of the counties.
The county of Hawaii said there were no options for deferral of property tax payments. The county of Kauai said they were still considering the matter. The county of Maui did not reply to repeated requests for information.
The county of Honolulu (Oahu) has already adopted a deferment plan without penalty or interest.
Some members may be aware that there are multiple lawsuits launched against the Governor, the Mayors, the state and counties in regards to vacation rentals and the quarantine in general. RBOAA has not joined in with any of those lawsuits; however, we think that one of them regarding vacation rentals may have been the impetus for the mayors to reverse their earlier positions. It was a well-reasoned argument that essentially stated that there was no legal justification for the ban on vacation rentals.
We are aware that the hotel industry is working very hard to garner whatever little tourist market there will be in Hawaii over the next few years. We have seen statements in the media which are, shall we say, “unverifiable”, about the benefits of hotels. Competition will be stiff for many months. Be prepared.
A group of RBOAA volunteers met for almost four hours on Saturday and debated various strategies.
As we noted on the last newsletter, we believe that the State has opened the door to all accommodations once the quarantine is lifted. However, the County Mayors have all kept Short Term Rentals closed. We know that the county Mayors are rightly under pressure to keep neighbourhoods and communities safe and we also know that there is a level of opposition to the state’s dependence on tourism and, in particular, the impact on residential neighbourhoods.
On the same token, we are operating legal businesses, properly permitted where necessary and there isn’t a logical or legal justification for keeping us closed after the quarantines are lifted.
The strategy we landed on was to send a letter to each of the county mayors explaining our position. At this time, we are not asking for a letter writing campaign – while sometimes necessary, they can be very annoying to the recipients and therefore counterproductive.
We have carefully chosen our language to address the anticipated concerns of the mayors while highlighting the positive attributes of vacation rentals.
If you want to send letters to your Mayor, please feel free to do so. However, you may want to wait to see what kind of response we get from the first letters and adjust accordingly. If you do send a letter, we want to ensure we set a positive tone, that we have our facts correct and that we are prepared to work with them through this unusual time.
Below is a sample letter ( sent to Maui Mayor Victorino as well as Governor Ige ). Similar letters went to the other three mayors.
RE: Request to Reopen Vacation Rentals when Quarantine is lifted
June 7, 2020
Aloha Mayor Victorino,
We would like to thank you for your leadership in this pandemic crisis and your success in keeping the infection rates so low.
We look forward to the day when Hawaii once again welcomes visitors to and between the islands. We understand and agree with the importance of a slow and measured reopening of the economy, balancing the need to protect our residents with the need to return tens of thousands of Hawaiians to work. We also know the tourist industry will take many months to recover.
We are not asking you to accelerate the lifting of the quarantine. However, we are asking that when the quarantines are lifted and when visitors return, they have their choice of staying in either a legal vacation rental or a hotel. We do not want to see hotels allowed to open if legal vacation rentals are required to remain shuttered.
RBOAA represents over 1100 owners of legal vacation rental units across Hawaii. Our businesses support and partner with a large number of workers in the local economy such as cleaners, maintenance people, local contacts, tradespeople and many small businesses, all of whom are unemployed or suffering.
Respectfully, we are asking for a clear statement from you stating that legal vacation rentals shall be permitted to reopen once the inter-island quarantine is lifted ( for Hawaiian travellers ) and once the out of state quarantine is lifted (for all other travellers).
Reopening with safety of our guests, our staff and our community is of paramount concern.
1. Our members and, more importantly, our local cleaners and local contacts are prepared to follow the evolving cleaning and disinfecting recommendations from the CDC and cleaning guidelines from other authorities and agencies, such as VRMA. The two largest advertising platforms, AirBnB and Expedia/Vrbo are also communicating cleaning expectations to owners.
2. All staff working in units or interacting with guests (housekeepers, quality control inspectors, maintenance technicians, or anyone else) will follow State government social distancing and protection protocols.
There are many reasons why we feel the re-opening of legal vacation rentals should be permitted.
1. The vast majority of vacation rentals, over 95%, are located in legally zoned areas, mostly in purpose built complexes in tourist areas, away from residential areas.
2. Collectively, vacation rental units generate 30% of the real property tax revenue collected in the County of Maui.
3. Travellers choose either hotels or vacation rentals based on their personal preferences and both hotels and vacation rentals are integral parts of the tourism economy. As vacation rentals are self-contained units with kitchens and laundry and without daily cleaning, there is less interaction with other guests in common areas and less risk to staff. Many units have keyless entry and contactless check-in, further reducing the risk of social contact.
4. We employ a large number of local contacts, cleaners, maintenance people who are currently unemployed.
5. Vacation rental owners are small business owners and without revenue will struggle to pay mortgages, property taxes, HOA fees, insurance as well as their own and their HOA staff. Vacation rental owners buy local, from paint and linens to furniture and appliances. HOA fees stay within the state.
6. If legal vacation rentals are not allowed to operate, we know that illegal vacation rentals will continue to operate regardless. Legal vacation rental owners already struggle to compete against those operators who do not collect TAT and GET and pay lower property taxes. It would be an added offense if they operate while we remain shuttered. We are happy to work with you to shut down illegal operators.
The slump in tourism is predicted to last for several years and is perfect opportunity for politicians and business leaders to thoughtfully and carefully develop ways to diversify our economy and reduce our dependence on tourism. Attempting to shutter a whole sector of the tourism industry, a sector which has been legally operating for many decades, will negatively affect thousands of small business owners, the Maui County tax base, cleaners, maintenance people, HOA’s, property managers and all the small businesses that depend on our visitors for their survival. We know that some vacation rentals owners will simply not be able to survive on the lower occupancy and will sell out. The market will support the best operators.
The vacation rental industry is an integral part of our economy and should be included in the state’s reopening. These types of rentals provide quality, safe and clean experiences for our visitors while minimizing social contact. We don’t pose a greater risk than the hotels, in fact, our accommodations are safer post COVID with the additional privacy, access and ability to self-contain within the condos.
We urge you to include our industry in your reopening. We are hoping to work with you to reopen as smoothly and safely as possible.
We thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.
In other news – we have decided that we need to re-instate our $100 membership donation rate. We had lowered it to $10 earlier this year in the simpler pre-COVID days, however, we are anticipating an expensive fight over the re-opening. Those of you who donated during the $10 days, your membership is still valid for 2020.
We wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the current situation in Hawaii as it relates to Vacation Rentals.
As of June 1, the state of Hawaii moved into a new phase of recovery from COVID called Act with Care.
This phase allows all accommodations to conduct business. While hotels have always been able to operate in Hawaii throughout the pandemic, as of June 1, there are no State restrictions on legal transient vacation rentals from opening.
There are a few caveats, of course.
1. Until June 16, anyone travelling inter-island is still required to quarantine for 14 days. As host, you are responsible for ensuring your guests abide by the quarantine rules.
2. Travel from outside the state is still restricted as all such travellers are required to quarantine for 14 days. Again, you are responsible for ensuring that they do. The governor has not said when this restriction will be lifted, but we know it will be after July 1. We are expecting the Governor to make an announcement next week.
3. You are responsible for making sure that you comply with safe practices, minimal interaction and social distancing guidelines.
The situation is fluid and rules could change at any time. We are watching for details on the terms and conditions applied when the inter-island quarantine is lifted and when the out of state quarantine is lifted.
The story gets a little trickier when it gets to the counties.
We are confident in saying that the County of Honolulu ( Oahu ) has maintained full restrictions on vacation rentals. (Mayor’s Emergency Order #14)
We believe the counties of Kauai, and Hawaii/Big Island are still imposing restrictions on transient vacation rentals
There is conflicting information about Maui, but we believe it is the Mayor’s intention to continue to block legal transient vacation rentals from resuming operations.
There is a group of RBOAA volunteers meeting virtually on Saturday to discuss next steps, so stay tuned.
Governor Ige announced on May 29 that he intends to extend the 14 day quarantine past June 30.