RELEASE: Update on Price Freeze for Commodity Sales, Landlord-Tenant Guidance for the Island of MauiPosted on Sep 25, 2023 in News Releases, OCP
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS
KA ʻOIHANA PILI KĀLEP
Office of Consumer Protectio
JOSH GREEN, M.D.
GOVERNOR | KE KIAʻĀINA
NADINE Y. ANDO
DIRECTOR | KA LUNA HOʻOKELE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2023
Update on Price Freeze for Commodity Sales, Landlord-Tenant Guidance for the Island of Maui
Seventh Emergency Proclamation Relating to Wildfires Identifies Essential Goods and Services that Cannot be Increased in Price
HONOLULU — The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) Executive Director Mana Moriarty today advised the public that certain essential goods and services sold on the Island of Maui remain subject to a price freeze, which was first ordered on August 9, 2023. Unlike prior price freezes, the price freeze now in effect for certain goods and services on the Island of Maui applies only to essential goods and services that are specifically identified in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires.
Goods and services that are not specifically identified in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires are no longer subject to the price freeze. The following essential items remain subject to the price freeze:
(3) dairy and non-dairy milk;
(5) essential childcare products including diapers, wipes, and infant formula;
(6) over-the-counter medicines including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and first aid and wound care products;
(7) hygiene products including toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, hand soap and sanitizer, tissue, toilet paper, and face masks;
(8) durable medical equipment including wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers;
(9) liquified petroleum gas products including propane and butane;
(10) sales and rentals of motor vehicles;
(11) repair of motor vehicles, as defined in section 437B-1, HRS;
(12) rentals for the purpose of storing personal property in a self-service storage facility, as defined in part Ill, chapter 507, HRS;
(13) pet food and pet supplies; and
(14) rentals of residential dwellings.
This price freeze, which is scheduled to remain in effect until November 6, 2023, unless terminated or superseded by separate emergency proclamation, does not extend beyond the Island of Maui. During this declared emergency, the price freeze now in effect for the Island of Maui means that the essential goods and services that are subject to the price freeze must be sold at pre-emergency price levels.
“Our office will investigate complaints and prosecute any offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” Moriarty said. “Following a disaster, price freezes automatically come into effect to protect vulnerable consumers from businesses that would unfairly hike their prices to profit off that vulnerability.”
Because the price freeze generally precludes merchants from raising the price of commodities during the period of the declared emergency, each item sold at a price above the pre-emergency price constitutes a violation of state law. In any legal action initiated by OCP against a merchant, merchants face being ordered to pay restitution to reimburse consumers, in addition to mandatory fines and penalties of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.
The Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires expands a safe harbor for sellers or landlords who pass on additional operating expenses to the consumer or tenant during this declared emergency. Unlike prior price freezes related to the wildfires, a seller or landlord is no longer required to demonstrate that additional operating expenses that are passed on to a consumer or tenant during this declared emergency were incurred because of the emergency or disaster.
The public is encouraged to report to OCP any instances of potential price gouging, meaning any instance when a consumer has paid for goods or services purchased on the Island of Maui at a price that was increased after August 9, 2023, while the price freeze was in effect. From September 9, 2023, the prohibition on price increases applies only to the essential goods and services listed in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires, which are re-listed above for convenience.
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) has also been published by the Office on Consumer Protection for guidance to the public on the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. The FAQs addresses questions about rights as applicable upon the issuance of the Seventh Proclamation. The FAQs and contact information for the Landlord-Tenant Information Center is available at https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/landlord-tenant/.
OCP can be contacted by email at [email protected] and through the Consumer Resource Center at 808-587-4272. Complaints can also be filed online at OCP’s portal at https://web2.dcca.hawaii.gov/ocpcomplaint/.
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FAQs for Residential Landlords and Tenants on the Island of Maui
What you should know about your rights after the Seventh Wildfires Emergency Proclamation, issued on September 9, 2023
Q: When did the emergency restrictions relating to rent increases and terminating existing tenancies begin?
Restrictions on rent increases and terminating existing tenancies began on August 9, 2023, when the Second Proclamation Relating to Wildfires was issued.
Like the Sixth Proclamation Relating to Wildfires, issued August 19, 2023, the Seventh Proclamation prohibits landlords on the Island of Maui from terminating tenancies resulting from a tenant’s failure to pay all or portion of the rent or lease maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement.
Like the Sixth Proclamation, the Seventh Proclamation also suspends the law allowing landlords to obtain a court order for summary possession on the Island of Maui to the extent necessary to prohibit the commencement, continuation, or prosecution of a legal action to terminate a tenancy on the Island of Maui resulting from a tenant’s failure to pay all or any portion of the rent or lease, maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement.
Q: Do the emergency restrictions for rentals apply to commercial leases on the Island of Maui?
These emergency restrictions apply only to residential leases and only on the island of Maui.
Q: When do the restrictions end?
Currently, these emergency restrictions will continue through November 6. The Governor may increase the duration of these restrictions by issuing another proclamation.
Q: Where are these emergency restrictions in effect?
These restrictions apply to residential leases on the entire island of Maui and are not limited to any specific location on Maui, such as the west side of Maui.
Q: What are the restrictions on increasing rents on the Island of Maui during this emergency?
Landlords are prohibited from increasing rents during a tenancy unless the rent increases are contained in a written agreement that was signed before this emergency period. These pre-written rent increases may be given effect as agreed upon in writing.
Q: What are the restrictions on terminating existing residential tenancies on the Island of Maui?
Landlords may not terminate tenancies on the Island of Maui unless: (1) there is a material breach of the lease other than tenant’s failure to pay all or any portion of the rent or lease, maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement; (2) the property is sold to a bona fide third-party purchaser; or (3) when the landlord or an immediate family member of the landlord will occupy the residential unit.
Q: What is an example of a material breach of a lease other than a breach for non-payment of rent?
Failing to perform an obligation under the rental agreement or lease, which constitutes the consideration for entering into the contract, such as failure to follow obligations, rules, and restrictions set by the landlord, willfully destroying or damaging the dwelling unit, or allowing another to willfully destroy or damage the dwelling unit, may be material breaches of the lease.
If you have questions about whether conduct constitutes a material breach of the lease, you may wish to consult an attorney.
Q: Is the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code in effect? Are courts hearing landlord-tenant cases during this emergency period?
The Residential Landlord-Tenant Code (chapter 521, HRS) is in effect throughout the State with certain exceptions that apply only to the Island of Maui. The Seventh Proclamation suspends two sections of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code and the law allowing landlords to obtain summary possession (chapter 666, HRS) in certain situations. Those laws are suspended to the extent necessary to prohibit legal actions to terminate a tenancy for a tenant’s failure to pay all or any portion of the rent or lease, maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement.
Summary possession actions may not commence, continue, or be prosecuted on the Island of Maui through November 6, 2023, if they involve terminating a tenancy for a tenant’s failure to pay all or any portion of the rent or lease, maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement.
The Governor may increase the time for these restrictions by issuing another proclamation.
Other than certain legal actions for summary possession on the Island of Maui, landlords and tenants may continue to file lawsuits affecting landlord and tenant rights on the Island of Maui and throughout the State.
These FAQs constitute guidance from the Office of Consumer Protection. This guidance is non-binding. The Office of Consumer Protection is not your attorney and cannot provide you legal advice. Landlord Tenant
Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Information Center
The Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Information Center offers information to the general public about Hawaii’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. Callers can access the Information Center by calling one of the numbers listed below between 8:00 AM and 12:00 Noon:
Honolulu Office (Oahu/Kauai): (808) 586-2634
Maui Office (Maui/Molokai/Lanai): (808) 243-4648
Hilo Office (Hawaii Island): (808) 933-0910