Landlord-Tenant Issues 101

I’ve had my fair share of maniacal landlords (you know who you are) and, as a result, I’ve acquired a thorough knowledge of Hawaii’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. But when I had my first crazy-landlord run-in, I didn’t know where to turn. The following information has saved me from a number of bad situations.

These general guidelines, excerpted from the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Protection division Web site, can put a stop to any landlord-tenant issues before they arise.

• Tenants should thoroughly inspect the unit, being sure to identify in the rental contract any damage or other issues that may need to be remedied. The landlord’s intended plan of action with regards to the damage also needs to be noted in the contract.

• Written rental agreements are almost always recommended. The agreement should include the lease term (month to month, six months, a year), and any house rules regarding parking, rental conditions and restrictions and tenant’s rights.

• A security deposit payable to the landlord may be required. This covers tenant damages, cleaning costs or if the tenant fails to pay rent. According to Hawaii law, the security deposit can be equal to but no more than one month’s rent.

• It’s best to pay for your rent and security deposit with a check, as a cancelled check can act as a backup receipt. Always ask for an itemized receipt for all payments.

• If emergency repairs are needed to maintain safe and sanitary conditions, the landlord must start repairs within three business days from notification. If, for reasons beyond his or her control, the landlord cannot make the repairs within three business days from the time of notification, the landlord must inform the tenant of the reasons for the delay and set a reasonable date for when the repairs will begin.

If you have questions about a landlord-tenant issue, call the residential landlord-tenant line at 586-2634, 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

The Residential Landlord/Tenant Code Handbook  is available online. If you’d like to purchase a $2 hard copy, you can pick one up at:

    Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
    King Kalakaua Building
    335 Merchant St.
    Administrative services office, cashier on third floor.

The handbook is also available for purchase by mail. Send a written request to:

    Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
    Cashier’s Office
    P.O. Box 541
    Honolulu, HI 96809

Lastly, if you believe the situation could possibly become litigious, first consider mediation aka alternative dispute resolution. Visit the Hawaii State Judiciary Self-Help Landlord-Tenant Claims Web site to learn more.