Tenants' Rights in Hawaii

Looking at Kaanapali Beach

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Images of Hawaii often promote thoughts of relaxation and a carefree way of life. Despite these visions, the state of Hawaii still has laws which landlords and tenants must follow. These rules are meant to provide structure and to minimize disputes in the daily course of the landlord-tenant relationship. Here are six rights of tenants in the state of Hawaii.

Hawaii Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing

§§ 515.1- 515-20

All tenants in the state of Hawaii have the right to fair housing. Tenants in Hawaii are not only protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act, but they are also offered additional protections by Hawaii’s own state law.

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, seven classes of people are protected. These classes include:

  • Color
  • Disability (Physical and Mental)
  • Familial Status
  • National Origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

The goal of this law is to make sure all prospective tenants and actual tenants are treated equally when they are applying for housing, trying to obtain financial assistance for housing, and during the actual tenancy period. An example of a landlord action that would be considered discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act would be if a landlord had two prospective tenants to choose from to fill a vacancy and was going to charge one prospective tenant a higher rent for the exact same apartment because he or she was a member of a certain race.

The state of Hawaii also has its own rules regarding Fair Housing. These laws can be found in Hawaii Revised Statutes §§ 515.1- 515-20. In addition to the seven classes already protected under Federal Fair Housing, Hawaii’s law includes the following six classes as protected from housing discrimination:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Gender Identity or Expression
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV)
  • Marital Status
  • Sexual Orientation

An example of an illegal and discriminatory rental practice under Hawaii State law would be if a landlord required a prospective tenant to be tested for HIV before the landlord was willing to rent the dwelling to the tenant.

Hawaii Tenant’s Right to the Security Deposit

§ 521-44

Tenants in the state of Hawaii have the right to certain protections when it comes to the security deposit that the landlord collects. Hawaii’s landlord-tenant law places limits on how much a landlord can collect from the tenant, reasons the landlord can make deductions from the security deposit, and how soon after a tenant moves out the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant.

Hawaii landlords are allowed to collect security deposits from each tenant at their rental properties. However, they are not allowed to charge more than the equivalent of one month’s rent as a security deposit. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,000, then the most the landlord could charge as a security deposit is $1,000.

Hawaii law does not have specific rules for how a landlord must store a tenant’s security deposit during the tenant’s tenancy. The landlord-tenant law does state reasons a landlord can make deductions from the deposit. These include covering unpaid rent and for failing to return the keys to the property.

A tenant in Hawaii has the right to have their security deposit returned to them within 14 days of move-out. The landlord must mail this deposit to the last known address of the tenant along with a written itemized list of any deductions that have been taken from the deposit.

Hawaii Tenant's Rights After Domestic Violence

§§ 521-79- 521-82.

Hawaii’s landlord-tenant law offers certain protections to tenants who have been victims of domestic violence. As long as the tenant has some sort of proof that he or she has been a victim of domestic violence, such as an order of protection or police report, the individual can usually terminate their lease agreement early without penalty. In this case, the landlord cannot fine the tenant for breaking the lease.

If the tenant wants to stay in the rental property, the landlord is responsible for changing the tenant’s locks at the tenant’s cost. If a tenant falsely claims to be a victim of domestic violence, the landlord could be awarded up to three times the monthly rent or three times actual damages, whichever is greater.

Hawaii Tenant’s Right to Rent Disclosure

§§ 521-21,521-35,521-64, 521-68

Landlords and tenants usually exchange rent for the ability to reside in a rental unit. Under Hawaii’s landlord-tenant law, tenants have the right to know certain things about the terms of the rent.

The landlord should let the tenant know how much rent is due each term, when and where the rent should be paid, and how long the lease agreement is valid for. Tenants in Hawaii are allowed to make deductions from their rent if the landlord has failed to make a necessary repair within a certain amount of time. Landlords in Hawaii have the right to increase a tenant’s rent but must provide the tenant with a certain amount of written notice before they are allowed to make the increase.

Hawaii Tenant’s Rights After Landlord Retaliation

§§ 521-63, 521-74 and 521-74.5

Landlord retaliation is illegal in the state of Hawaii. Actions that could be considered retaliation by a landlord include increasing a tenant’s rent or decreasing services to the tenant. A tenant has the right to terminate the lease agreement if the landlord refuses to make repairs to the unit in a timely manner. If a landlord has been found to act in retaliation, the tenant could receive actual damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. 

Hawaii Tenant’s Right to Notice Before Landlord Entry

§§ 521-53 and 521-70.

In Hawaii, tenants have a certain right to privacy. The tenant pays rent for this right. Hawaii’s landlord-tenant law spells out certain times when a landlord can legally enter a tenant’s apartment as well as the required notice the landlord must give. In most situations, a landlord must give the tenant 48 hours’ notice before gaining access to the tenant’s unit. Legally allowed reasons for entering the unit include showing the unit to prospective tenants and making necessary repairs.

Times When a Landlord Can Enter

Hawaii law states that a landlord can enter a tenant’s unit at “reasonable times.” This is generally considered normal business hours, such as between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M.

Reasons a Landlord Can Enter a Tenant’s Unit

A Hawaii landlord can legally enter a tenant’s unit for the following reasons:

  • To inspect the property.
  • To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, improvements, alterations or decorations
  • To supply agreed upon services.
  • To show the unit to prospective tenants, prospective or actual buyers, mortgagees or contractors.
  • During a tenant’s extended absence for maintenance or inspections

Exceptions to Notice

A landlord does not have to give two days’ notice in the case of an emergency, such as a burst water pipe. If the tenant has abandoned the unit, the landlord is also not required to give notice before entering the unit.

Hawaii’s Law on Landlord Entry

If you would like to view Hawaii’s Statute on landlord entry, please see Hawaii Revised Statutes §§ 521-53 and 521-70.