6 Replies Latest reply: Oct 26, 2018 11:20 AM by droptop RSS

    VRBO letter in Hawaii. Erinn?

    droptop Contributor

      Erinn, several of us in an informal owners’ group who have been pushing Hawaii state and county legislators to enforce laws to capture illegal TVR operations received a letter at our personal homes in Hawaii, purporting to be from VRBO.


      We immediately confirmed with VRBO that VRBO has been writing to Hawaii homeowners urging them to use their home as a TVR.  VRBO is using the County tax records to harvest the addresses.   I have re-typed the VRBO letter below.


      Hawaii anti-TVR legislation has been a long fight; we began in 2012.  We’ve worked hard to educate HI TVR owners about their responsibilities, and to work with legislators to gain their efforts to step up enforcement of illegal rentals.  And we've worked hard, and at great financial expense, to ensure resulting legislation is balanced.


      Erinn, this VRBO letter makes no reference to zoning or bylaws that prohibit vacation rentals; and yet it’s reached some of us at our personal homes in areas where such short-term rentals are prohibited.  Meaning this VRBO letter has likely reached others in our communities, too.  Some who have worked hard to rid the neighborhoods of such illegal TVRs.


      To be clear, this VRBO letter has been sent to individuals based on County records of home ownership.  It’s arriving in the mailboxes of homeowners in areas where TVRs are prohibited, and where community voices are quite clear on the need for legislators to help them regain control of their neighborhoods from illegal TVRs.


      Erinn, this VRBO letter will, no doubt, fuel further anti-TVR sentiment and legislation from Hawaii in January, when bills are introduced.  Never mind the counties.


      Accordingly, Erinn, could I ask you to talk to your VRBO colleagues who authored and distributed the letter for four reasons:


      1)  Ask them to reconsider their approach, and if VRBO must undertake such blind solicitation on such a controversial topic, insert language which makes it clear that those interested in taking up VRBO on its solicitiation that they open up their home to TVR use should first verify if it is legal for them to do so;


      2)  Ask your head of VRBO policy to write to appropriate state and county officials in Hawaii, referencing the VRBO letter, and making it clear that VRBO is only soliciting listings from owners who have determined that it is legal to offer short-term vacation rentals at the location, and that it will make such a distinction clear in any future solicitations;


      3)  Let everyone on this Community Forum know what other states, counties and localities, i.e., San Diego, have benefitted from this same VRBO solicitation so that legal operators of legal TVRs in such locations can be aware of what our VRBO partner has done that may well cause them to be targeted by anti-TRV action as a result; and,


      4)  Let the Community Forum know the next time such a VRBO solicitation is being planned in order that we can assist VRBO in editing same in order that VRBO does not distribute materials that can be interpreted as promoting illegal rentals, or which will, for lack of writing clarity or sensitivity, draw state or county ire to those who operate legal TVRs.




      Below is the VRBO letter VRBO confirmed to us that it sent out in Hawaii:





      [Addressed to homeowners, per County tax records]



      October 15, 2018


      Dear [Name of home owner from County tax records],


      Right now there’s an unprecedented demand from our travelers for places to stay in [location, HI].  If you’ve ever thought of renting your home as a short-term vacation rental; there’s no better time.


      Listing your home on VRBO is easy and straightforward.  It’s always free to try and there’s no up front commitment.  We’ve got all the tools and insights you need to get started — from helping you decide on the best price for your rental to effectively promoting your rental to our hundreds of millions of travelers.  You can do everything yourself at VRBO.com or take advantage of our consultants who can help you at no additional cost.


      With VRBO, you’re always in control of when to rent, who stays at your place, and your house rules. And all online bookings are covered by $1 million liability insurance and 24/7 support free of charge, so your property is protected before during and after every traveler stay.


      To find out what you could earn renting your home, visit vrbo.com/rent or call us at 1-866-314-7260 (8am-5pm, Mon-Fri) and we can answer and questions and help you set up your listing before the winter rush.


      Hope to hear from you soon,

      Your VRBO Owner Success Team



      1011 W 5th St #300  l  Austin, TX  l  78703  l  www.vrbo.com

        • Re: VRBO letter in Hawaii
          hawaiiparadise Contributor

          Erinn,  I add my voice to this.


          Each of the past, well, many years has seen bills introduced to heavily regulate the VR industry.  Each year the last - and in some ways most extreme - of these would fail right at the end of the legislative session.  However one could feel the tide turning, and the 2018 session saw one such bill - the ballot question enabling a new state tax on investment property which anti-VR forces seemed intent to leverage to seriously disable the VR business model - pass.  To better garner public support, the proceeds would be used to fund public education.  How could such an idea lose?   Fortunately we dodged a bullet again.  The State Supreme Court recently invalidated the question - on a technicality, not as a triumph for property rights or any other VR-friendly consideration.


          Already our governor has indicated intention to pursue the same concept, presumably via some new path.  At the same time the counties are working to step up enforcement of existing VR restrictions, facing some backlash to the idea of "grandfathering" existing VR's that don't conform to zoning but have paid their taxes.   2019 already looks difficult.


          So that's the environment HA/VRBO made it's recruiting pitch.  It might be a win in the very short term, but at the risk of precipitating a major near term loss. 


          The OP has done a great job pointing out opportunities to make the pitch better.  For additional local color, the link below is representative of the reporting the pitch has received.   You'll note one of the recipients was a County prosecutor.  OP's idea #2 may look especially meritorious.


          Kauai condemns mailers that urge homeowners to get into vacation rental business

          • Re: VRBO letter in Hawaii. Erinn?
            homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

            Hi Everyone,


            We really appreciate the well thought out post from the OP. Your thoughts have been passed on, but we encourage you to please reach out directly to our Government Affairs team here: governmentrelations@homeaway.com. Thank you for your continued support and passion for keeping short term rentals viable and legal!



            HomeAway Community Manager

              • Re: VRBO letter in Hawaii. Erinn?
                droptop Contributor

                Erinn, thanks for the suggestion, but on this issue, there's really no need for owners to reach in to VRBO any further than the Community Forum -- maybe just send your VRBO colleagues the Forum postings on this VRBO letter, as VRBO action required in response to it is identified.  But do perhaps suggest they get a move on and reach out to Hawaii state and local electeds and officials to apologize for the VRBO letter and clarify -- this one is fast moving away from VRBO, and none of us in Hawaii wants to see an onslaught of new anti-TVR legislation as a result of the VRBO letter.


                Erinn, could I ask you also to keep the Forum up-to-date on formal VRBO action in respect of the VRBO letter; I think as partners, we'd all prefer to read it here, first, than read about it in local media.

              • Re: VRBO letter in Hawaii. Erinn?
                homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

                Hello Everyone,


                HomeAway takes this issue very seriously. Within hours of being notified, HomeAway proactively reached out to government officials in Kauai to explain the origins of the mistake. We are working to institute procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again and remain committed to maintaining open lines of communication with local officials, customers and community members.


                Thank you.



                HomeAway Community Manager

                  • Re: VRBO letter in Hawaii. Erinn?
                    droptop Contributor

                    Erinn, thank you for your efforts on this, and for reporting back on the actions taken by your colleagues.  It's a strong start by VRBO /HA to admit their mistake, and begin to make amends for it with external audiences.


                    In monitoring Trip Advisor and HI community media, it's clear that the letters have had a negative impact for VRBO with residents and for owners of legal TVRs in Hawaii.  This is as we owners feared.  Accordingly, could I ask you to verify that your colleagues have taken the same reach-out effort with Maui -- where a wickedly toxic anti-TVR measure is on the ballot in two weeks -- and with other Hawaii counties in which the VRBO letter mistake was made?


                    Again, thank you for your efforts.  Never easy to inject oneself into an issue when an organization finds itself in a crisis, so I appreciate the difficulties you have encountered is assisting the Forum thus far.  Please keep up the much-appreciated effort to assist owners monitoring this Homeaway Community Forum in understanding where we stand as a result of this VRBO letter, and the ongoing VRBO/HA actions to respond to the mistake and get it sorted with Hawaii state and county officials.