March 2016: Letters to the Editor
Landlords and Visitors Benefit from Airbnb
I bought the January issue of Hawaii Business because I saw the cover headline on an article about Airbnb
(“Lodgers and Tax Dodgers”). I wanted to know the facts and how they might pertain to me and the Airbnb unit I offer on the edge of Waikiki. I highlighted the part about money and inquired with my accountant to be sure I was covered. Yes, I am a taxpayer and have my Certificate of Registration to pay both my general excise tax (4.5 percent on Oahu) and transient accommodation tax (9.25 percent statewide).
Ultimately, though, I was stunned by the article’s negative opening about someone who had a bad experience. This was not what I expected and was disappointed that taxes and bad news were combined to educate the public on the facts. This representation of how Airbnb worked made me mad and I wondered who really wrote the article. Was it “big business” wanting its dollar back? Was it a disgruntled neighbor or the truth? Most important, I was upset because so many locals are winning from this opportunity and not just me. Airbnb helps people pay their bills and stay in Hawaii. It has created a new level of Aloha that is the Island culture.
I have lived here 33 years and Aloha is the way I choose to live in just about every aspect of my life. I even produce a weekly program that airs on Olelo Community Television called “It’s All About Love,” which supports our island in “BEING” about love. Love and Aloha are also what I offer people who choose to stay with me, rather than in a hotel, where the feeling may not be present with such impact.
I have a theory that technology is taking us back to relationships and Airbnb is a way to create that anew. Perhaps the hotel industry folks or anyone who wonders why Airbnb is so awesome should book a room and experience what it’s like to stay in a home where comforts are familiar and lifelong connections are made.
If you are a first-time user, I offer these suggestions to avoid the bad news and live in the good news.
1. Rent with a Super Host, someone who has all 5-star reviews. Read their offering, bio and testimonies. They are often travelers, too, so you can read what hosts say about them as well.
2. Choose a property in which the host actually lives. This will provide added security for you and your belongings.
3. Chat with your host in the offered email format before you book to see if they are a match for you and also let them know who you are. Remember, they are opening their home to you.
4. Not all properties are the same, so be careful to select one that’s right for you. The experience you are seeking is seeking you, so be clear on what you are asking for.
Privatizing the building permit process is not the problem, but thinking it will solve all the problems is (“Worth Considering,” January 2016). I have been a City Council member, been a member and chaired the board of adjustment, and have helped the city I lived in update its codes. We got a new set of code books that the building department and contractors loved. Permit times dropped and everyone from the city to those requesting the permits were pleased. If we had a problem with a code, then we referred to the existing county code. This showed that better training and clarifying job titles and responsibilities cut the processing time for permits from months to days or weeks.
Stop blaming the problems on public employees and look at the cause. Changing to private companies means more delays and more money, takes the community out of the process, and upsets people even more. Fix the rules, don’t blame the workers; they get enough pressure as it is.
Posted at hawaiibusiness.com