Relationships between landlords and tenants are naturally tense: tenants buy the use of someone else’s home for a fixed period of time, and it’s all fine and good until something breaks or gets damaged. Tenants want quick repairs and a stable, safe place to live. Landlords want to minimize costs, steady income and the ability to retake possession at any time.
Laws have been enacted to manage these conflicting interests. In Hawaii, we don’t have rent control, like New York or San Francisco, which gives renters rights equivalent to owners. Instead we have something called the Landlord-Tenant Code. I’ll tell you more about it in this series covering horrific landlords and what to do about them.
(Quiet, private 2/1 for rent in Hawaii. Will consider rent reduction in exchange for yard work. Pets poss. Outdoor shower. $1200 + util.)
Why not cover bad tenants, too? To put it simply, I’ve had years of personal experience with bad landlords in Hawaii and in my dealings with them, I’ve compiled an archive of resources for stranded and screwed tenants. Maybe one day if I ever become a landlord, I’ll write about bad tenants.
The Hawaii Landlord-Tenant Code outlines the responsibilities and remedies for both parties. Unfortunately, the language is vague enough and with enough loopholes that landlords can easily game the system and abuse their tenants. In other words, tenants have to pay to preserve any of their rights while bad landlords prey on tenants’ vulnerability to eviction.
Everyone hates to move, and landlords know this. If tenants are working full-time to make ends meet, can’t afford to walk away from their security deposit, or have kids or pets, moving feels nothing short of daunting and keeps many tenants in dysfunctional or even hazardous housing.
The problems between landlords and tenants are chronic enough that the State Office of Consumer Protection established a free hotline. If you’re having trouble with your landlord, this is the first stop:
Residential Landlord-Tenant Volunteer Center (Hotline)
586-2634 (from Oahu)
8:00 a.m. – 12 noon
Monday through Friday, except State holidays
From the neighbor islands (toll free):
974-4000, ext. 62634 (from the Big Island)
274-3141, ext. 62634 (from Kauai)
984-2400, ext. 62634 (from Maui)
1-800-468-4644, ext. 62634 (from Molokai & Lanai)
If you leave a message, a volunteer will call you back usually within 2 business days. It helps to have a list of specific questions and documented issues ready when the return call comes.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. If you have a serious dispute with your landlord or live in hazardous conditions, consult an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant issues.