LOCKOUTS AND TURNING OFF UTILITIES
Hawaii law strictly prohibits the landlord from taking part in any self-help activities in order to remove the tenant from the dwelling unit after the termination of the rental agreement.
One form of self-help activity is a lockout. A lockout is considered as an act of preventing the tenant from entering the dwelling unit. It could be as simple as changing the locks or having someone with the appearance of authority, such as a police officer, tell the tenant to leave the unit.
If the landlord removes or excludes the tenant from the premises overnight without cause or without court order so authorizing, the tenant may recover an amount equal to two months’ rent, or free occupancy for two months, and the costs of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
If the tenant has been locked out of the unit illegally, the tenant can decide to hire a locksmith or enter the unit through another entryway as one possible solution. The tenant can also decide to gather evidence of the lockout through written testimony of witnesses, photographs or receipts connected with hiring a locksmith.
Another form of self-help activity by the landlord is the interference with essential services. Hawaii law strictly prohibits the landlord from interrupting and interfering with running water, hot water, electric, gas, or “other essential service to the tenant contrary to the rental agreement,” as a means of taking possession of the unit.
Such conduct is deemed to be an unfair and deceptive act and practice and could subject the landlord to damages of a minimum of the greater of three times the monthly rent, or $1000 and an additional civil penalty from $500 to $10,000 for every day of violation.
If the tenant does not vacate the rental unit voluntarily after proper termination of the rental agreement, the landlord may file a claim in District Court for summary possession. The filing fee is $120.00, plus a surcharge fee of $10.00 and the sheriff’s fee. The phone number for District Court is 538-5151.