In Hawaii, a rental agreement is valid if there is an agreement to exchange rent for inhabiting a property. According to Hawaii law, (HRS. Tit. 28. Ch. 521) this agreement grants certain rights to the tenant, for example, the right to a safe and habitable dwelling and the right to take at least one form of alternative action.
Landlords have rights too, such as the right to collect rent on time and receive payment for any negligent or deliberate damages that exceed “normal wear and tear.”
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Hawaii
In Hawaii, landlords are responsible for providing a habitable dwelling and must make requested repairs in a reasonable amount of time (15 days). If they do not, then Hawaii tenants are empowered to make the repairs and deduct the cost for rent or withhold rent, provided they first follow this procedure.
Here is a list of essential amenities that Hawaii landlords are or are not responsible for.
|Electrical wiring and outlets||Yes|
|Bed bugs||Depends on the cause|
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their housing rights (i.e. filing a health or safety code violation).
Tenant Responsibilities in Hawaii
Apart from paying rent promptly and on time, Hawaii tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a clean and habitable condition
- Keep fixtures clean and sanitary
- Make small repairs and maintenance
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Hawaii
Evictions in Hawaii require filing an order to the court. Hawaii landlords are empowered to evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent then the landlord may issue a written 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant still does not pay, then the landlord may begin formal eviction proceedings.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs, then the landlord can issue a 10-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the terms of the notice are not met within the timeframe, then the landlord may file for eviction.
- Illegal acts – Hawaii landlords have broad authority to determine which illegal acts warrant eviction. If a landlord has documentation of illegal activity on the property then they may file a 5-Day Notice to Quit before filing for eviction. Illegal actions that may harm the property or tenant can be grounds for immediate eviction.
Month-to-month at-will tenants are entitled to receive at least 45 days’ notice before being evicted. Week-to-week at-will tenants must receive at least 10 days’ notice before being evicted. If the landlord wishes to evict tenants to destroy the property they must give all tenants at least 120 days’ notice
It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons. Hawaii tenants can also not be evicted for using medical marijuana, provided they have a license and the unit is not smoke-free.
Security Deposits in Hawaii
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 1 month’s rent.
- Time Limit for Returns – 14 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Hawaii landlord wrongfully withholds rent then they must forfeit the security deposits. However, Hawaii law is not clear who gets to claim it then.
- Allowable Deductions – Repairs for damages that exceed wear and tear, unpaid rent, key replacement, repairs for pet damage, late utility bills.
Lease Termination in Hawaii
Notice requirements. If a tenant wishes to terminate a lease then they must give the following amounts of notice.
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. If a Hawaii tenant wishes to break a lease early then they may do so for the following reasons.
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Landlord harassment
If a Hawaii tenant terminates a lease early, then they may be liable to pay the rest of the lease remainder. Hawaii landlords are legally obligated to facilitate the re-rental process.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Hawaii
- Rent control. Hawaii does not currently prohibit or enforce rent control. Thus, landlords are free to charge what they wish for rent.
- Rental increases. Landlords are not limited in how much they can raise rent but they must give 45 days’ notice to month-to-month tenants and 15 days’ notice for renters with leasing periods less than a month.
- Rent-related fees. The state does not limit how much landlords can charge in late fees, but there is a $30 returned check fee limit.
Housing Discrimination in Hawaii
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, familial status, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. State law also adds discrimination protection for individuals based on marital status, age, HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. The Hawaii Civil rights Commission handles cases relating to housing discrimination. The following behaviors may be interpreted as discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group.
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Falsely denying the availability of a unit
- “Steering” applicants in to certain neighborhoods
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
Hawaii does not have information about standardized penalties for discrimination. Tenants can report cases of potential discrimination to the Commission by calling this number.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Hawaii
Landlord Right to Entry in Hawaii
Landlords in Hawaii are required to provide at least 2 days’ advance notice before they enter an occupied unit. It is not clear whether this notice has to be written. Landlords are not required to get permission to enter in the case of emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Hawaii
Hawaii small claims court will hear rent-related cases valued up to $5,000. However, they will not hear eviction related cases. Landlord-tenants disputes have a 6-year statute of limitations, regardless whether the lease is written or oral.
Mandatory Disclosures in Hawaii
Hawaii landlords must make 3 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. Landlords who own homes built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in renting and managing the property.
- General Excise Tax Number. Landlords must also provide the general excise tax number so tenants may file for the low-income tax credit through the state.
Changing the Locks in Hawaii
Hawaii law does not specify whether or not tenants may change the locks with or without landlord permission. However, Hawaii law explicitly forbids landlords unilaterally changing locks as a form of eviction.
Additional Resources for Hawaii Renters
In addition, check your local county and municipality for additional land-lord tenant regulations. To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
Handbook for the Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code – Published by the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, this guide breaks down nearly every provision within the state’s landlord-tenant law and applies it to both parties. It also provides a helpful Q&A section that can provide insight into issues that fall between the legal lines.
Fair Housing Policy– This page, compiled by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, breaks down which classes are protected by state law when it comes to housing. This page can also act as a jumping-off point for individuals looking to file a complaint because it lists phone numbers for the Authority’s offices on each island.
What Should I Do If I have a Landlord/Tenant Problem? – This blog concisely details the steps a landlord or tenant should take if they have a dispute with their counterpart. This includes resolving the dispute through negotiations as well as taking the dispute to small claims court.