Tenants in Hawai’i have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing and allow 12 business days (three business days for utilities and major appliances) for the repairs to be made.
Hawai’i Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Hawai’i landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Water (except in single-family residences)
Garbage containers and service (except in single-family residences)
Anything impacting health, safety, or habitability
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the property beyond wear and tearfrom careful, reasonable use.
Requesting Repairs in Hawai’i
Hawai’i tenants must request repairsin writing, specifying the issueandlisting all known items of landlord noncompliance.The landlord has no obligation to repair anything that the tenant reasonably could have known about but didn’t mention, for six months after any repair request.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i landlords typically have12 business daysto make needed repairs after getting a written request. This is reduced toone weekfor substantial habitability issues, andthree business daysfor issues that relate to essential utilities or major appliances (for example, if a provided refrigerator breaks down).
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i landlordscan refuse to repairin some cases. Rent nonpayment isnotone of these cases. Primarily, the landlord can refuse to repair most issues that weren’t mentioned in a repair notice, for six months after that notice.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i landlords haveno requirement to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs. However, a tenant can cancel the rental agreement for any condition that displaces the tenant from the property for more than a week, so there’s a strong legal incentive for landlords to accommodate during extended repairs.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Hawai’i
Hawai’i tenants, depending on the situation, cancancel the rental agreementif the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. They can alsosue for damages, get an injunctionto force repairs, orrepair and deduct.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenantscan’t unilaterally withhold rent.Some rent deduction is allowed for particular repairs, and in some cases a tenant can request to pay rent into a court-approved fund rather than to the landlord, but stopping rent payment entirely is never allowed for any reason.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenantscan repair and deduct the cost from rent,when repairs haven’t begun after the allowed time (usually 12 days). The deductible amount is $500 per month, totaling up to three month’s rent per six-month period.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenantscan break the leasefor major habitability or safety issues, or situations which substantially prevent the intended use of the property, where the landlord hasn’t finished repairs within one week. There’s a one-week written notice notice requirement for this process, waived for immediate danger or total uninhabitability.
Can the Tenant Sue in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenantscan sueto force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Hawai’i?
Hawai’i tenantscan report landlordsto the local inspections or code enforcement department for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants can also report these issues to the office of consumer protection, which also has the power to help with more general violations of a rental agreement.
It’s illegal for Hawai’i landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services,orthreatened 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 an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason 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.
“The landlord, upon written notification by the tenant of any defective condition on the premises which is in material noncompliance with section 521-42(a) [landlord duties for upkeep] or with the rental agreement, shall commence repairs of the condition within twelve business days of the notification with a good faith requirement that the repairs be completed as soon as possible… In any case involving repairs, except those required due to misuse by the tenant, to electrical, plumbing, or other facilities, including major appliances provided by the landlord pursuant to the rental agreement, necessary to provide sanitary and habitable living conditions, the landlord shall commence repairs within three business days of [notice, and in either case shall notify the tenant if unable to begin repair within the required timeframe].”
“The landlord shall at all times during the tenancy: (1) Comply with all applicable building and housing laws materially affecting health and safety; (2) Keep common areas of a multi-dwelling unit premises in a clean and safe condition; (3) Make all repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition; (4) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, and other facilities and appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order and condition, subject to reasonable wear and tear; (5) Except in the case of a single family residence, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of normal amounts of rubbish and garbage, and arrange for the frequent removal of such waste materials; and (6) Except in the case of a single family residence, or where the building is not required by law to be equipped for the purpose, provide for the supplying of running water as reasonably required by the tenant.”
“Each tenant shall at all times during the tenancy: (1) Comply with all applicable building and housing laws materially affecting health and safety; (2) Keep that part of the premises which the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the conditions of the premises permit; (3) Dispose from the tenant’s dwelling unit all rubbish… in a clean and safe manner; (4) Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits; (5) Properly use and operate all electrical and plumbing fixtures and appliances in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant; (6) Not permit any person on the premises with the tenant’s permission to wilfully [damage]… any part of the premises… (7) Keep the dwelling unit and all facilities, appliances, furniture, and furnishings supplied therein by the landlord in fit condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted; and (8) Comply with all… [rules] in accordance with section 521-52 [reasonable community rules from landlord]…”
“In no event may a tenant repair a dwelling unit at the landlord’s expense when the condition complained of was caused by the want of due care by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”
“At the time the tenant initially notifies the landlord under subsection (c), the tenant shall list every condition that the tenant knows or should know of noncompliance under subsection (c), in addition to the objectionable condition that the tenant then intends to correct or have corrected at the landlord’s expense. Failure by a tenant to list such a condition that the tenant knew of or should have known of shall estop the tenant from requiring the landlord to correct it and from having it corrected at the landlord’s expense under this section for a period of six months after the initial notification to the landlord. Total correction and repair work costs under this section chargeable to the landlord’s expense during each six-month period shall not exceed an amount equal to three months’ rent.”
“If the landlord fails to perform in the manner specified in subsection (c), the tenant may immediately do or have done the necessary work in a competent manner and upon submission to the landlord of receipts amounting to at least the sums deducted, deduct from the tenant’s rent not more than $500 for the tenant’s actual expenditures for work done to correct the defective condition.”
“If any condition within the premises deprives the tenant of a substantial part of the benefit and enjoyment of the tenant’s bargain under the rental agreement, the tenant may notify the landlord in writing of the situation and, if the landlord does not remedy the situation within one week, terminate the rental agreement. The notice need not be given when the condition renders the dwelling unit uninhabitable or poses an imminent threat to the health or safety of any occupant. The tenant may not terminate for a condition caused by the want of due care by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”
“At the request of either the tenant or the landlord in any court proceeding in which the payment or nonpayment of rent is in dispute, the court shall order the tenant to deposit any disputed rent as it becomes due into the court…”
“…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).