Residential Landlord-Tenant Code
A prospective tenant should always inspect a rental unit carefully to see if it meets with the tenant’s needs and expectations. All damage and problems needing correction should be identified with the landlord and noted in the rental contract, or the landlord may hold the new tenant responsible for existing problems later. The landlord’s intentions to make repairs or take other corrective actions should also be included in the rental contract, as well as a timetable for these actions.
A tenant’s relationship with the landlord may become an important factor in any rental situation. Knowing this, a prospective tenant should consider the type of person the landlord is before deciding to rent. Temperament is important. And whether the landlord is a particularly finicky individual about details is important, especially if the prospective tenant is very “laid back” and expects the landlord to be just as casual.
A written rental agreement is always recommended, whether the period of rental is month-to-month or for one year. The tenant should read the rental agreement and accompanying documents, such as house rules, carefully. The tenant’s rights, rental conditions and restrictions, designated parking space, and all verbal promises should be clearly stated in the contract. All blank spaces should be filled in, and both the landlord and the tenant should retain signed and dated copies of this agreement.
Along with or included in the rental agreement should be a written inventory detailing the condition and contents of the unit, including the state of cleanliness and any damages or conditions needing correcting. If the inventory listing is separate from the rental contract, signed and dated copies of the inventory should also be retained by both landlord and tenant.
A security deposit is money deposited by the tenant with the landlord to pay for such things as tenant damages to the property, failure to pay rent or cleaning costs because the tenant did not leave the unit at the termination of the rental in as clean a condition as it was at the start (except for normal wear and tear.) Under Hawaii law, the landlord may collect a security deposit equal to but not more than one month’s rent. For example, at the start of a rental costing $600 per month, the landlord may collect the first month’s rent of $600 and another $600 as the security deposit. The total collected will be $1200. It is advisable to pay the rent and security deposit by check, rather than cash, because the canceled check will act as a backup receipt. Tenants should ask for itemized receipts for all payments made.
If emergency repairs are needed to maintain sanitary and habitable conditions, including the repair of major appliances and necessary facilities, the landlord must start repairs within three business days from the time of notification, unless the repairs needed are the result of tenant misuse. If, for reasons beyond the landlord’s control, repairs cannot begin within three business days, the landlord must inform the tenant of the reasons for the delay and set a reasonable, tentative date on which repairs will begin.
If non-emergency repairs are needed, the tenant should notify the landlord in writing. The landlord should begin making repairs within twelve business days after receiving the notice and have the repairs completed as soon as possible. If the repairs cannot be started within twelve days, the landlord should notify the tenant and give an expected date for the beginning of repairs. If the landlord cannot uphold the second date for starting repairs, then the tenant may make the repairs and deduct up to $500 from the following month’s rent for the cost of the repairs. And the tenant must provide the landlord with copies of all receipts connected with the repair work.
If the landlord keeps a tenant’s security deposit at the end of the tenancy, the tenant must be notified in writing as to the reasons for retaining the deposit, and be given the itemized costs for such services as cleaning or repairs that were required, with copies of all receipts received. The balance of the security deposit, after the deductions, must be returned to the tenant no later than fourteen days after the rental agreement is terminated. If the landlord does not notify the tenant within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement that a part or all of the deposit is to be retained, then the landlord must return all of the security deposit. This action will not prevent the landlord from suing the tenant at a later date for damages caused by the tenant.
If you have any questions, call 586-2634 (Monday through Friday, except holidays, from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon) if you are on Oahu. If you are on a neighbor island, call these toll-free numbers:
|274-3141, then 6-2634, then press the # sign|
|984-2400, then press the # sign|
From Big Island:
|974-4000, then 6-2634, then press the # sign|
|1-800-468-4644, then 6-2634, then press the # sign|
This is how you may obtain a copy of the Hawaii Residential Landlord/Tenant Code Handbook, which is published by the State of Hawaii, Office of Consumer Protection. If you wish to purchase a copy of the handbook, it is available at the:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
King Kalakaua Building
335 Merchant Street
Administrative Services Office
Cashier on 3rd Floor
The handbook, which costs $2.00, may also be purchased by mail. Send a
written request to:
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Post Office Box 541
Honolulu, Hawaii 96809
Checks are to be made payable to the Department of Commerce and Consumer
If you have further questions about obtaining a handbook or questions
about the Landlord-Tenant Code itself, call the Office of Consumer
Protection’s Landlord-Tenant Hotline at:
|Kauai:||274-3141 ext. 62634#|
|Maui:||984-2400 ext. 62634#|
|Big Island:||974-4000 ext. 62634#|
|Molokai/Lanai:||1 (808) 468-4644 ext. 62634#|
For a complete copy of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, you may go to any public library and photocopy Chapter 521 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The security deposit is monies paid by or for the tenant. It cannot exceed one month’s rent and it could include other deposits such as key or pet deposits.
The landlord can use the security deposit for unpaid rent, failure to return keys, cleaning costs if the tenant did not leave the unit in as clean a condition as it was at the start of the tenancy, and for accidental or intentional damages to the unit caused by the tenant. The landlord cannot make deductions from the security deposit for normal wear and tear. The landlord has the right to keep the entire security deposit when the tenant wrongfully quits the dwelling unit. Wrongfully quit is defined as a tenant who is absent from the unit for a continuous period of 20 days or more, without paying rent and without written notice to the landlord.
If the landlord keeps a tenant’s security deposit at the end of the tenancy, the tenant must be notified in writing as to the reasons for retaining part or all of the deposit, and be given an itemized list of the deductions, along with the cost of each deduction, and written evidence such as copies of receipts, estimates or invoices for each deduction made. The balance of the security deposit, after the deductions, must be returned to the tenant no later than fourteen days after the rental agreement is terminated. If the landlord does not notify the tenant within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement that a part or all of the deposit is to be retained, then the landlord must return all of the security deposit. This action will not prevent the landlord from counter-suing the tenant at a later date for damages caused by a tenant.
Under Hawaii law, the landlord is in compliance with the 14-day requirement if the notice is mailed to the tenant, preferably certified mail, return receipt requested, and postmarked before midnight on the fourteenth day after the termination date, or if the tenant acknowledges, preferably in writing, receipt of the security deposit within the fourteen-day limit.
If the landlord and tenant disagree about the landlord’s right to retain part or all of the security deposit, the tenant can file a claim in Small Claims Court no later than one year after the termination of the rental agreement.
By law, the landlord is obligated to make repairs due to normal wear and tear or maintenance required as time goes by. In all repair cases, the landlord has a good faith requirement to start the repairs as soon as possible. However, Hawaii law also states that the tenant is responsible to repair any problem caused by his or her misuse.
If emergency repairs are needed to maintain sanitary and habitable conditions, including the repair of major appliances and necessary facilities, the landlord must start repairs within three business days from the time of notification. If, for reasons beyond the landlord’s control, repairs cannot begin within three business days, the landlord must inform the tenant of the reasons for the delay and give an expected date on which repairs will begin.
If non-emergency repairs are needed, the tenant should notify the landlord in writing. The landlord should start repairs within twelve business days after receiving the written notice. If, for reasons beyond the landlord’s control, the repairs cannot begin within twelve business days, the landlord should notify the tenant of the reasons for the delay and give an expected date on which repairs will begin.
If the landlord cannot uphold the second date of starting emergency and non-emergency repairs, the tenant can do the repairs him or herself or hire a competent worker and, in either case deduct up to $500 from the next month’s rent for the cost of repairs. The tenant must provide the landlord with copies of all repair receipts.
When the tenant exercises his or her right to put the landlord on notice to make a repair, the tenant is also required to list every defective condition that the tenant knows or should know of. If the tenant fails to list a defective condition, the tenant must wait six months to use the notification procedures again. However, this six-month limitation does not affect conditions that arise after the notice was given to the landlord.
If the landlord has been cited with a violation by the Building or Health Department, the landlord must start repairs within five business days after receiving the written citation. If, for reasons beyond the landlord’s control, the repairs cannot be started within five business days, the landlord should notify the tenant of the reasons for the delay and give an expected date on which repairs will begin.
If the landlord cannot uphold the second date, the tenant can perform the repairs and deduct up to $500 from the next month’s rent. Otherwise, the tenant can get two estimates of companies who can correct the building or health code violation, and submit the estimates to the landlord. The landlord has the option to substitute workers and materials. If the landlord does not make a substitution of workers or materials, the tenant must hire the worker with the lower estimate and deduct up to $500 or one month’s rent, from the amounts owed to the landlord, whichever is greater. The tenant must provide copies of repair receipts to the landlord.
The landlord-tenant code states that the rent shall be paid at the time and place agreed to by the landlord and tenant. The law does not provide the tenant a grace period for late rent payments.
If the tenant does not pay all or part of the rent on the agreed due date, the landlord must write the tenant a letter, allowing the tenant at least five business days from the day the tenant receives the notice to pay the entire balance of unpaid rent. The letter should also state that if the tenant does not pay the overdue rent by the fifth business day, the rental agreement will be terminated immediately. The tenant must vacate the unit immediately after the fifth business day. The landlord does not have to provide the tenant additional time to vacate the unit.
The landlord is encouraged to send the notice certified mail, return receipt requested, in order to provide proof of proper notification for unpaid rent. If the tenant cannot be notified through the mail or in person, the landlord can post the five business day written notice in a conspicuous place on the dwelling unit.
If the tenant remains in the unit beyond the fifth business day without having paid the rent, and without the landlord’s permission, the tenant becomes what is referred to as a holdover tenant. For every day of holdover, the tenant is liable for double the rent, calculated on a daily basis. The landlord is strictly prohibited by law to lock out the tenant, change the locks, or turn off the utilities as a means to remove the tenant from the unit once the rental agreement has been properly terminated.
If the tenant does not vacate the rental unit voluntarily after the fifth business day, the landlord has sixty days to file a claim in District Court for summary possession, or eviction. 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.
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.
When the landlord or tenant wants to terminate the rental agreement, they must know the type of rental agreement that they have, whether it’s a week-to-week or month-to-month tenancy or a fixed lease for a fixed period of time. Each type of rental agreement has a different termination notice requirement by law. However, for all types of rental agreements, it is highly recommended that the landlord and tenant terminate the rental agreement in writing.
To terminate a week-to-week tenancy, the landlord and tenant can submit an oral or written notice to the opposite party at least ten days in advance.
For month-to-month tenancies, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice at least forty-five days in advance. An oral notice is not sufficient. By law, the tenant can move out at any time within the forty-five days and be liable only for rent up until the date of occupancy. However, the tenant must notify the landlord in advance of the date he or she will vacate. If the tenant wants to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, he or she must give the landlord a written notice at least twenty-eight days in advance. Once again, an oral notice is not sufficient. The tenant is liable for the full twenty-eight days of rent, unless another tenant moves in before the twenty-eighth day.
A landlord or tenant may have a verbal or written fixed lease. If the fixed lease is in writing, the lease should have a termination date stated in the contract and expires automatically on that date. The law does not require any termination notice by either landlord or tenant. However, it is highly encouraged to write or talk with your landlord or tenant about your intentions to renew the lease or move out once the lease expires. In addition, some written fixed leases require the tenant to provide a termination notice. Therefore, the tenant should be very familiar with the terms of the contract and provide notice according to the rental contract.
If the landlord and tenant entered into a verbal fixed lease, the lease automatically ends on the date verbally mentioned or agreed to by the parties. Therefore, it is recommended to document the termination date in a calendar or journal, and the party terminating the agreement is encouraged to communicate with the landlord or tenant before the termination date as a friendly reminder.
When a tenant abandons his or her possessions in a dwelling unit, the landlord must make a determination of property that has value and property without value. The landlord must do this in good faith. For property without any value, Hawaii law allows the landlord to dispose of the property.
For property with value, the landlord can either store the abandoned items at the tenant’s expense, sell the property or donate the items to a charitable organization, except for those items which have title to them, such as a car.
If the landlord chooses to sell OR donate the abandoned items, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing and wait for fifteen days before the sale or donation. The landlord can send the letter to the tenant’s forwarding address, mailing address or last known address, which would be the address of the rental unit.
If the landlord wants to sell the abandoned items, the landlord has an additional requirement. The landlord must advertise the sale for three consecutive days in a daily paper of general circulation within the circuit that the premises is located. The landlord can use the sale proceeds for accrued rent and costs of storage and sale, including the cost of advertising. The balance must be held in trust for the tenant for thirty days. After thirty days, the proceeds are forfeited to the landlord.
Items that are not sold, may be disposed of by the landlord.
Here are some examples of establishing the new due date and calculating the one-time payment covering the days between the original due date and new due date:
Example 1: Third Day Lands on a Week Day
Public Assistance Check Mailed
Example 1: Rent is $1,000 a month. The newly established rent due date is the 4th of the month. The one-time payment needed to establish the new rent due date is calculated by dividing $1,000 by 30 and multiplying the result by 3 days – $1,000/30 = $33.33 daily rate x 3 days = $99.99 due to Landlord.
NEW RENT DUE DATE IS ESTABLISHED ON THE 4TH DAY OF THE MONTH.
Example 2: Third Day Lands on a Weekend and Monday is a Holiday.
Public Assistance Check Mailed
Example 2: Rent is $1,000 a month. The newly established rent due date is the 7th of the month because Saturday, Sunday, and the Monday holiday are not counted towards the three days. The one-time payment needed to establish the new rent due date is calculated by dividing $1,000 by 30 and multiplying the result by 6 days (3 days + Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday) – $1,000/30 = $33.33 daily rate x 6 days = $199.98 due to Landlord.
NEW RENT DUE DATE IS ESTABLISHED ON THE 7TH DAY OF THE MONTH.
The State Office of Consumer Protection is currently recruiting volunteers to assist the Office by staffing the Landlord-Tenant Hotline.
The Landlord-Tenant Hotline strives to provide information to both landlords and tenants when they have questions. This service is available to provide general information and is NOT intended to be a substitute for legal advice on specific problems.
The success rate of providing information to the public is directly correlated to the number of qualified volunteers who commit to the Landlord-Tenant Section of the State Office of Consumer Protection. With more qualified and dedicated volunteers, the Office of Consumer Protection can provide information more quickly and expeditiously in order to meet the public’s demand.
Training and materials will be provided to all interested and selected persons who would like to make a generous commitment to our community. Once a person has been trained in Landlord-Tenant law, they will gain valuable experience working with the public and gain an immeasurable amount of knowledge about the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.
For an application and interview, please call the Volunteer Coordinator at 586-2630, and thank you.
Landlord-Tenant Information Center
8am – 12 noon
M-F except state holidays