The Hawaii rental application form is a document that landlords send out to a prospective tenant to determine whether they wish to rent to the applicant. The information requested relates to rental history, eviction history, and financial information that helps determine eligibility.
- Application Fee – in Hawaii, there is no limit on what a landlord can charge as an application fee.
- Discrimination Laws – Hawaii Fair Housing Law provides specific state protections against discrimination based on factors like gender identity or sexual orientation, which aren’t protected federally. Federal law protects race, color, religion, nationality, sex, disabilities, and familial status, with some exceptions.
- Consent for Credit Check – the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires written consent to be collected prior to running a credit check.
Hawaii Rental Application Laws
The following laws apply to the screening process for leasing in the state of Hawaii.
Collecting an Application Fee in Hawaii
Hawaii does not impose limits on how much of an application fee can be charged to applicants.
Illegal Housing Discrimination in Hawaii
Both federal and state laws are in effect in Hawaii to protect potential renters from illegal discrimination during the application process.
Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the following protected classes:
- National Origin (Nationality)
- Familial Status (having or not having children)
- Disability (Physical or Mental)
As a result, asking about any of these items on a rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is not allowed.
Hawaii Fair Housing Laws
Hawaii state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- HIV Infection Status
Asking about any of these items on a rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is not allowed.
Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
In Hawaii, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on if children will occupy the rented premises in any of the below cases:
- Two-family owner-occupied buildings.
- Housing for Older Persons Exemption – landlords may ask for an applicant’s age in the case of age-restricted communities such as senior housing. This federal exemption, known as the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption, can apply to 55+ or even 62+ communities that meet federal requirements.
- Mrs. Murphy Exemption – dwellings with four units or less where one unit is occupied by the owner are exempt from Fair Housing Laws, unless a real estate agent represents the landlord. This does not include advertising discrimination. Additionally, race can never be a factor Civil Rights Act of 1866
- Religious Organizations – certain applicants may be given priority for property that is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that does not rent for commercial purposes. However, other protected classes may not be the basis for making a decision as a result of this exemption. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – private clubs that operate without public access or commercial intent may give priority to applicants for lodgings owned or operated by the club. 42 U.S. Code § 3607, but may not consider race.
Federally, race is a non-exemption criteria that cannot have an influence when considering applicants. (Civil Rights Act of 1866)
Consent for Credit Checks
Before a landlord can run a credit check based on the prospective tenant’s information on the submitted rental application, the Federal Credit Reporting Act requires that written consent must be given by the applicant. This written consent can be given via a statement of such and signature on the rental application form itself, or via a separate consent form (example template).
Hawaii Security Deposit Law
If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in Hawaii:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: Landlords in Hawaii may not charge more than one (1) month’s rent for a security deposit. (HI Rev Stat §521-44 (b)). An additional pet deposit may be charged, also with a limit of one month’s rent.
- Receipt Requirements: There are no specific receipt requirements in Hawaii.
- Financial Holdings: The location of the held security deposit does not need to be disclosed in Hawaii.
Sending Rental Application Forms
Landlords can send rental application forms to tenants in one of two ways:
- Manually – using the PDF and Word templates available for free on our website (see the top right of this webpage), landlords can send a rental application form to tenants via a physical copy or email.
- With Software – most popular property management software services include an online rental application form that can automate the collection and screening process for landlords.
For reviews of popular property management software, click here.
Processing a Rental Application
The next step in the tenant screening process is to use the information on the rental application form to conduct a background check:
- Credit Check – subject to the tenant’s written consent, a credit check will either provide a simpler “pass/fail” report, or a full credit report including the tenant’s credit score and information about their income, employment, past addresses, credit inquiries and more.
- Eviction Check – an eviction check aims to show the tenant’s history of eviction filings or judgments against them at any point in the last 7 years.
- Criminal History Check – a criminal history check aims to show any records involving the tenant in state court criminal records or in databases such as the national sex offender public registry.
Hawaii Eviction Record Search
Evictions can be found in Hawaii’s public record as a civil case, which can be accessed by anyone. In addition to third-party software that collects the information you need, the state’s Judicial Court Directory provides an on-demand record requesting system.
To access the eviction records:
- Go to eCourt Kōkua.
- Select ‘Civil/ Family/ Housing/ Small Claims Case’ under ‘Superior Court Case Look-up’.
- Select the ‘Party Search’ tab.
- Enter the potential renter’s name to access civil court documents.
- Select the Case ID to be taken to the details and docket. Documents available for download will be marked with a PDF icon.
- To purchase a document, select the PDF icon, which will then prompt asking if you would like a regular or certified copy, and add your choice to your cart. Regular copies cost 10 cents per page or $3 per document, whichever is greater. Certified copies cost an additional $2.
- After adding your document(s) to your cart, you’ll need to select the View/Purchase Documents tab and review your cart (visible in the New Documents section). The site will assign a purchase ID and ask for your contact information before you may continue to purchase.
- After payment, you’ll be prompted to return back to the home page by clicking continue. If you return to the View/Purchase Documents tab, your purchase will be available for viewing. You will need to enter the purchase ID and the email associated with the purchase. Note that you only have two calendar days to view and download your document(s).
Responding to Rental Applications
If an applicant meets all of your tenant screening criteria, then there’s nothing you need to do beyond notifying them and moving forward with the normal leasing process.
However, if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e. credit, eviction or criminal history) and you make an “adverse action” against them (EVEN IF the report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for doing so), you are required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”.
An adverse action is defined as either rejecting the applicant or instituting additional/higher requirements than you have for another applicant (i.e. requiring a co-signer, larger security deposit, higher rent or an additional deposit).
In these cases, an adverse action notice is required to be sent to the applicant, and must include the following:
- The agency’s name, address and phone number that supplied the report.
- A statement explaining that the CRA didn’t make the decision for the adverse action themselves, and as a result, that they can’t explain why the decision was made.
- A statement explaining the applicant’s right to dispute such information and their right to a copy of the report in question within 60 days.
To learn more about requirements surrounding adverse action notices, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. To get an idea of what an adverse action notice might look like, see this example letter.
Additionally, to protect against accusations of illegal discrimination, it is always recommended to include the exact reason why the application was not approved in the rejection letter.