Vacation rental fines inviting legal trouble

This article was published as a letter to the editor in The Maui News on Nov. 14, 2018.

On Nov. 6, Maui voters decided to drastically increase the fines for illegal short-term vacation rentals on Maui, which could expose the county to dangerous legal challenges.

Article I, Section 12 of the Hawaii Constitution protects citizens from “excessive fines.” Currently, vacation rentals that are not licensed by the county face a fine of $1,000 per day, which already seems excessive. The ballot initiative increases that to $20,000 for the first day, plus $10,000 for each day afterward.

This means that someone operating an unlicensed vacation rental for 99 days would owe $1 million, and this certainly seems to be an “excessive fine.” Such high fines are potentially unconstitutional, and could cost county taxpayers in the end.

Instead of levying excessive fines, Maui policymakers should make it easier for vacation rental owners to operate legally.

Joe Kent

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