When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in Hawai’i?
It’s illegal for Hawai’i landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services,orattempted evictionagainst tenants who are current on rent (even with an expired lease) and have taken one of the following protected actions:
Reporting health and safety violations.
Complaining to the landlord about maintenance.
Receiving a notice of violation from a government agency.
The law allows several exceptions when the landlord can prove certain non-retaliatory, good-faith reasons for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
What Can Tenants Do in Response in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenants can respond to landlord retaliation bysuing for an injunctionto prevent the retaliatory action. If the landlord has already acted in a way that removes the tenant’s possession of the rental property, the tenant can sue torecover the resulting costs,including court and attorney fees.
“…so long as the tenant continues to tender the usual rent to the landlord… no action or proceeding to recover possession of the dwelling unit may be maintained against the tenant, nor shall the landlord otherwise cause the tenant to quit the dwelling unit involuntarily, nor demand an increase in rent from the tenant; nor decrease the services to which the tenant has been entitled, after: (1) The tenant has complained in good faith to… [any] governmental agency concerned with landlord-tenant disputes of conditions in or affecting the tenant’s dwelling unit which constitutes a violation of a health law or regulation or of any provision of this chapter; or (2) …[any] governmental agency has filed a notice or complaint of a violation of a health law or regulation or any provision of this chapter; or (3) The tenant has in good faith requested repairs under section 521-63 or 521-64.”
There are 12 specific exceptions detailed under the anti-retaliation statute. As a summary, the applicable standard is to find retaliation unless the landlord articulates an external, good-faith reason making a rent increase or tenant dispossession reasonable and necessary under the circumstances (for example, if a rent increase is proportionately reflecting recently increased taxes). SeeHaw. Rev. Stat. § 521-74(b) & (d) (2022).
“Any tenant from whom possession has been recovered or who has been otherwise involuntarily dispossessed, in violation of this section, is entitled to recover the damages sustained by the tenant and the cost of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees.”