10 Replies Latest reply: Dec 7, 2018 2:32 AM by droptop RSS

    For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?

    droptop Contributor

      Erinn, perhaps I missed the heads-up-from-VRBO memo.  And as those of us active in the TVR policy issue in Hawaii know, our State and County officials regularly read this forum, so I’ll apologize in advance to owners for the length of what follows, as some of it is intended for our friends in Hawaii State and County governments.

       

      In the last few days, a "Registration Number" box has appeared on our VRBO-HA Hawaii listings into which we should enter our HI Tax ID (or license number, etc., as they are variously called by local authorities).  You may recall, Erinn, that I asked you about this back in October, and your response was that no such feature existed for Hawaii, and that our provision of the information within the "Description" field would have to continue.

       

      Two significant events have occurred since then:  The disastrous October VRBO solicitation letter for local residents to list their properties with VRBO (based on zoning of many recipients who received the letters, the action would have been illegal); and, likely related, the success of a ballot measure on Maui in November assigning initial fines of $20K to owners of illegal TVRs on Maui, and $10K per day of continued illegal operation.

       

      This latter event is made more compelling by an August announcement by Maui County that it had developed a list of illegal vacation rentals using a contracted company.  The County promised to release the list in September.  It didn't.  And with the ballot measure passing in November setting an initial fine of up to $20K for operating an illegal TVR, then $10K a day after that for its ongoing illegal operation, it’s essential that VRBO-HA take no further action to undo the good work done by so many to rein in illegal Hawaii TVRs, and to ease the legislative pressure on legal TVR owners.

       

      Accordingly, many thanks to VRBO-HA for adding a "Registration Number" box on Hawaii owners’ listings.  There was no warning from VRBO-HA to Hawaii owners of the addition of same, but I am glad it is now there after we asked for it in October.

       

      Erinn, I'd like you to talk to your chums who added this feature and who are in charge of it.  Here's why: 

       

      Our informal group, which participates in ensuring fairness and accuracy of Hawaii's TVR legislative efforts, has determined that in just our own listings on VRBO-HA, the surprise addition by VRBO-HA of the “Registration Number” box contains a bigger gift inside: the auto-populated insertion by VRBO-HA of old, out-of-date Hawaii Tax IDs that were replaced by a new series of numbers in August, 2016.  Put simply, VRBO-HA has, on its own initiative and without advance notice to Hawaii owners using the VRBO-HA TVR listing service, added a “Registration Number” box and filled it with incorrect information.

       

      In the case of Maui County (and the other Counties, to be sure) it’s quite likely that the company looking for HI Tax IDs to determine if the TVRs are legal might look for same in the newly created “Registration Number” box. Finding the box to be empty would likely create an issue for the TVR owner.  Finding the box to contain a Hawaii Tax ID fully two years out of date (old numbers have the “W” prefix) would surely do the same.

       

      When I and others informed VRBO-HA, both through this public, open-to-all, “Community Forum” and other avenues of our and Hawaii residents’ and officials’ negative reaction to the solicitation by VRBO-HA of what would have been illegal Hawaii vacation-rental listings, I asked that with VRBO-HA being located in Texas, it might wish to make use of the expertise of its Hawaii customers before it launches any other action that would cause upset or confusion in the state, and jeopardize the ability of legal TVR operators to continue to operate.

       

      I think the surprise addition by VRBO-HA of these “Registration Number” boxes on Hawaii customers’ listings, the unilateral decision by VRBO-HA to populate them on its own, with unverified and incorrect information, and to do so without the legal TVR owner’s knowledge of such an intent is a regrettable response to my suggestion that VRBO-HA, based in Texas, defer to, and work cooperatively with local Hawaii knowledge when it chooses to visit the State through policy and marketing decisions likely to have impact in Hawaii.  VRBO-HA just isn’t listening to good advice.

       

       

      Again, I’m not sure when VRBO-HA added the “Registration Number” box.  Perhaps it was in the lead-up to the holiday weekend when people are a bit distracted.  Despite another failure by VRBO-HA to let its Hawaii customers know in advance about a VRBO-HA action that significantly affects their customers’ interests vis-à-vis Hawaii and County action on, and requirements of, TVRs, this addition of the “Registration Number” box is a welcome addition.

       

      But given the anger in HI towards TVRs, and the local outcry over — and their electeds' reaction to — the VRBO solicitation letter earlier this fall, my sense of it is that HI owners might well be wise to immediately seek out that "Registration Number" box on their listing, and if it’s empty, fill it with their current and proper HI Tax ID Number.  Further, if it has been auto-populated by VRBO-HA with a ID number with the prefix ‘W”, immediately remove that erroneous and out-dated information unilaterally inserted by VRBO-HA and replace it with the correct information.

       

      Again, my apologies to all for the length of this note.  But given the wide audience that participates in reading the VRBO-HA “Community Forum,” it’s important that Hawaii State and County officials know that Hawaii owners who are customers of VRBO-HA were fully surprised by this latest dipping by VRBO-HA of their toes in Hawaii waters, hence either the empty “Registration Number” box on their listings, or one populated by VRBO-HA with old, out-dated information.

       

      Erinn, perhaps you could also pass this one along to your GR people.  Thanks.

        • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
          homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

          Hi droptop,

           

          Thanks as always for your participation and excellent question. We'll report back as soon as we have an answer for you. Thank you.

           

          Erinn

          HomeAway Community Manager

          • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
            laurie_l Contributor

            droptop

             

            I have VR properties on Maui. Would you mind sharing where this is showing up on our listings so that I can ensure that all information is correct.

            THANKS VERY MUCH!

            • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
              homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

              Hi droptop,

               

              We activated the registration number field on the site for owners in Maui County, Hawaii, however, we did not populate the number for anyone. Can you give us examples of where you're seeing this?  Thank you.

               

              Erinn

              HomeAway Community Manager

                • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
                  droptop Contributor

                  It's an HA issue; that seems to be the account whereby VRBO or HA is unilaterally auto-populating old, outdated W-series HI-Tax ID numbers on behalf of its Hawaii customers in the Registration Number field.

                   

                  Curiously, those Hawaii customers who discovered this have noted that, obviously, nowhere in their listing's description is there an old, outdated Hawaii Tax ID.  We're all using the new ones, per the August 2016 switch announced by HI DoTax.  For timeline, I believe it was HI Act 326 in 2012 or so that mandated the use of the the Hawaii Tax ID in the listing.  And HI Act 204 of January 1, 2016, which replaced 326 upon sunset, caused us to continue to the practice. So perhaps what's happening is that HA is picking up content from some original application-for-listing form from years ago.

                   

                  But behind-the-scenes, internal challenges for the VRBO technical boffins isn't really the issue now.

                   

                  This has become another public problem created by VRBO in Hawaii, a state that's commendably very active in TVR legislation and regulation.  The unilateral action by VRBO to create the Registration Number box, and its concurrent failure to let its customers know of its existence (so it sits empty), and further, apparent unanticipated or resolved technical challenges within the effort that have seen the box auto-populated by old, outdated Hawaii Tax IDs, has directly exposed the Hawaii customers of VRBO-HA to legitimate and aggressive action by the State and Counties to target illegal TVRs.  VRBO has made our legal TVR operations appear to be illegal, i.e., because of the unannounced-to-customers addition of the Registration Number box, we're not listing our HI Tax IDs, or have old-outdated data in them, due to auto-population by VRBO.  These are the very characteristics of illegal TVRS in Hawaii, where the fines for same are now $20K upon discovery, and $10K a day of operation after that discovery.

                   

                  So, with respect to VRBO's request for assistance, Erinn -- and I appreciate the VRBO desire for feedback -- perhaps the better action is a more comprehensive one that addresses all the identified issues with this unilateral VRBO action that has placed Maui customer listings on the wrong side of legal:

                   

                  1.  Communicate with all your VRBO Maui customers to inform them that VRBO unilaterally, and without advance notification to Maui VRBO customers, created and placed on their listing a Registration Number box, and that problems have been identified with this action that may make the customer's TVR look to be illegal, i.e., that the Registration Number box is sitting there, empty, or that it may have been auto-populated with an old, outdated, pre-2016 W-series Hi Tax ID;

                   

                  2.  Request that customers immediately check their Maui VRBO listing to see if the Registration Number box is empty or contains an old, outdated HI Tax ID, and that customers make note if they access their listing by logging in through VRBO or HA;

                   

                  3. Request that if the Registration Number box is empty, or filled out incorrectly, that customers use the Edit function for their listing and populate the Registration Number box with the correct HI Tax ID;

                   

                  4.  Kindly ask that Maui VRBO customers then respond to the VRBO email providing VRBO with information as to whether the Registration Number box was blank, auto-populated with the old, outdated W-series Tax ID, and whether they access their listing through VRBO or HA login; and,

                   

                  5.  Apologize to Maui VRBO customers for this unannounced VRBO tinkering with Maui customers' VRBO listings on a matter that is so significant in respect of laws and regulations governing Hawaii TVRs, and declare that going forward, Texas-based VRBO will see its Maui customers as an asset to be communicated with in advance of marketing or listing-adjusting efforts to ensure that such actions respect and do not undermine its customers compliance with Hawaii State or County regulatory and other requirements, or their efforts to demonstrate responsive and legal operation in the Hawaii and its Counties.

                   

                  VRBO would be also be advised -- in light of the precarious position in which it has placed its Hawaii customers, i.e., unilaterally adding a Registration Number box on their listing, but without telling them so it sits empty, or auto-populating it with old-outdated information -- to write to Hawaii State and County officials to explain what's been done by VRBO without notifying its customers in advance or taking due care in implementation, and the implication of illegal operation that the VRBO failures have created for VRBO Hawaii customers, and operators of legal TVRs, as a result.

                   

                  Erinn, I know this has nothing to do with you.  But VRBO is just not learning from its last mistake in Hawaii, or willing to accept that their customers in Hawaii are assets and have a vested entered in helping VRBO to avoid creating these crises in the first place.  All this on the eve of the 2019 legislative session, where bills are no doubt already being drafted by responsible Hawaii State Legislators.  Again, I'd get someone senior at VRBO to reopen the communication channels wth Hawaii State and County officials opened after that disastrous October VRBO solicitation letter encouraging Hawaii recipients to list their homes with VRBO -- despite recipients' addresses being in areas where TVRs are clearly illegal due to zoning -- in order that these new risks created by VRBO for its Hawaii customers with legal TVRs are mitigated.  Owners using this forum to communicate with Hawaii officials on VRBO challenges is one avenue, and we're all grateful for it.  But it's a poor cousin to direct accountability by VRBO with Hawaii electeds and officials with whom the VRBO failures resonate loudest and with greatest consequence for VRBO customers whose TVRs fall under the legislative and licensing powers of said Hawaii government leaders.

                    • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
                      homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

                      Hi droptop,

                       

                      Thank you for your response. Your concerns have been shared with the tax team. However, we once again kindly as if you can provide us with some examples of listings where tax id numbers were auto-populated as we are not seeing this behavior. Thank you in advance for your kind assistance in helping resolve this issue.

                       

                      Erinn

                      HomeAway Community Manager

                        • Re: For Hawaii listings, Erinn, what's going on with this Registration Number box that's just popped up?
                          droptop Contributor

                          Erinn, as noted above and to you privately, I've already asked our group, and those with the auto-population by VRBO of the outdated-since-2016 W-series, HI Tax ID have identified HA as the issue.

                           

                          I appreciate the effort by VRBO to discover where this latest unilateral VRBO action all went wrong.  But per my posting above, as VRBO customers in Hawaii, we are getting a little worried about this VRBO performance pattern -- VRBO acts unilaterally in a state where illegal TVRs and TVRs themselves have rightly received significant legislative attention at the State and County level for the past six years (I suspect at the state level alone, we've been actively involved in furthering dialogue about more than 80 bills), and only after VRBO has taken action that puts us in peril with same officials, do we learn of the VRBO initiative.  We're volunteers, we know Hawaii well, and we are in crisis mode to ensure retaliatory legislative and regulatory action arising from the VRBO mistakes is directed to the appropriate party, not us as legal TVR operators in the State of Hawaii.  I'm very sorry that VRBO is having trouble finding out where this unannounced-to-Hawaii-customers went wrong, I truly am, because I suspect as Hawaii operators of legal TVRs, we'll pay a legislative or regulatory price in the next seven weeks.  But we're using our limited time to avoid the legislative and regulatory consequences arising from the VRBO acton.  In isolating its Hawaii customers in the first instance, and continuing to do so, VRBO is now isolated in its efforts to fix the problem it created.

                           

                          Indeed, I've just looked at the 40-odd other VRBO customers in my building; not a one of them has filled out the Registration Number box.  A taunting sneer of illegal operation to State and County officials if ever there was one.  All because VRBO has yet to tell its Hawaii customers it's added this feature to their listings, and presumably, to advise State and County officials of the communication mistake and associated technical gremlins arising therefrom that cause Hawaii VRBO listings, or perhaps the Maui ones, at least, to present as illegal..

                           

                          I appreciate you sharing this trail with your Tax and, as requested above, your GR colleagues.  I'd suggest you add your legal folks to the dance, because no-one there is listing to good advice of how to manage the VRBO response to this public Hawaii problem of its own creation