Hawaii Habitability Laws

Last Updated: December 7, 2021 by Elizabeth Souza

  • Landlord Responsibilities. Working plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities and smoke detectors. Air conditioning is optional, but if provided, must be kept in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within a “reasonable time” after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant usually can’t withhold rent, but does have right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Hawaii does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Not specifically addressed
Condos Yes
Hotels/Motels No

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Hawaii, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Not specifically addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not specifically addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Multi-family units only or where permittable by law
Provide working HVAC equipment. Not specifically addressed
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not specifically addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). If provided, must be in good working order
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Multi-family units only
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not specifically addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not specifically addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not specifically addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not specifically addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Not specifically addressed
Provide a mailbox. No
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not specifically addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not specifically addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

A landlord is obligated to comply with all building and housing laws materially affecting the health and safety of others and shall make all necessary repairs to keep the dwelling unit in a habitable condition. Landlord’s must also keep all common areas of a multi-dwelling unit in a clean and safe condition.

Making Repairs

Tenants may request emergency repairs orally or in writing. 

  • Sending Notice – Upon receipt of the notice by the tenant, the landlord must make the repairs within three days. If a government agency requires the repairs, the landlord has five days to make them.
  • Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to inspect or make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants at least two days’ notice, unless there’s an emergency, a court order, or the tenant has abandoned the unit.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold Rent – Hawaii tenants are legally allowed to withhold rent until repairs are made.
  2. Repair and Deduct – Tenants have the right to repair and deduct to fix major defects that render the unit unsafe or unfit for habitation. Tenants may immediately hire someone to do the repairs or do the work themselves in a competent manner. A tenant must show the receipts to the landlord and the landlord may deduct no more than $500 from the tenant’s rent.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – Tenants can report their landlord to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Hawaii state law does not allow landlords to retaliate against tenants. It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant in Hawaii who has exercised a legal right, including:

  • Complaining about unsafe or illegal living conditions to the landlord or a government authority.
  • Withholding rent.
  • Exercising a legal right allowed by your state or local law for an uninhabitable unit.

If the tenant has requested repairs, landlord may not take any retaliatory acts such as:

  • Recovering possession of the unit.
  • Increasing rent.
  • Decreasing services.
  • Evicting the tenant.