Could someone explain short stay rental rules in Hawaii?

4 Replies

As I understand it, Short Stay Rentals in Hawaii take two forms.

1) Legal Short Stay Rentals

Legal Short Stay Rentals are only permitted in the Resort Zone area of Waikiki as shown in this map.  

2) Illegal Short Stay Rentals.

Short stay rentals are not permitted in any other part of Hawaii, so although you can find plenty of short stay rentals outside of the Resort Zone area of Waikiki, they are breaking the law, it's just that the police don't bother taking action.

Is my understanding correct?

The reason I ask, is that I have a realtor who found me potential short stay rental investments that are in the apartment zone area of Waikiki. My understanding is that these are illegal. But my realtor insists that as they are in the apartment zone they are fine. Is he telling the truth? 

I know this is a complicated subject, mainly because there are lots of investors who are happy to break the law (because the police don't enforce it) and so this has led people to have wrong opinions about what is legal. 

I don't want to do anything that is illegal (regardless of if the police enforce the law) and so would love to get some opinions from people who have experience with this. 

Hi @Catherine Underwood

You are correct about resort zoning.  You're also correct about the policing of short term rentals, in Waikiki especially.   ;)

If a property is outside a resort zone, but is a legal short term rental then it must have a nonconforming use certificate.  This is a unit by unit basis, not building by building, or block by block.  So you could have a few units in one building that are legal and all the rest are illegal.  Hope this helps!


Simple answer: it depends.

It depend on zoning, it depend on NCU (you can find out if your unit currently has valid certificate), it depend on condo’s by-laws and house rules (it will continue to change).

Honolulu City and Council is currently tabled several bills to regulate and taxed, we won’t know which bill passes, or continue to amend and when the bill into effect.

Short term vacation rentals come with an additional tax burden of 10.25% in Hawaii, the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT). There's also the 4% General Excise Tax (GET), which you will need to apply and register for a GE License. Additionally, since you're looking at Waikiki, there will be an additional 0.5% Oahu Surcharge Tax. The taxes are calculated on your gross income from the rents.

It it seems like your post is limited only to Honolulu, am I correct? The short term regulations vary by county so what is legal in Hawaii county (big island) is not necessarily legal in Maui county Lanai Maui and Molokai NM

happy to offer feedback but it seems like you're actually only concerned with Honolulu Waikiki.

also they (the state legislature) just passed a bill like yesterday that requires Airbnb VRBO to collect a short-term rental taxes for vacation rentals legal or not

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