Hawaii Landlord Tenant Laws

Hawaiian Rental laws

This article only serves as a summary of Hawaii rental laws between landlords and tenants. It cannot be used as a replacement for an attorney as it is only meant to provide a few answers. These laws apply to residential units and laws governing commercial or business units may be different. There are only four topics covered in this article.

(A).    Security Deposit Rules

This section covers the rules that govern the use of deposit amount, retention, a period of deposit recovery, transfer of interest and deposit disputes.

i.            Use of deposit

  1. Deposit is paid to the landlord to effect costs for any damages, failure to pay rent or if at the time of the rent agreement termination, the tenant failed to return the keys to the residential unit.
  2. To return the unit to as clean a state as it was just before the tenant occupied the unit.
  3. To effect, damage costs for any damages caused by a tenant who wrongfully quits occupation. §521-44

It is the landlord’s, not the tenant’s right to use deposit monies to cover unpaid rent.

ii.            Deposit Amount

The total amount payable as deposit should not be more than one month’s rent. Any all deposits applicable including pet deposits cannot exceed the premises’ one month rent. The deposit cannot be used by a tenant to settle the last month of occupancy’s rent. It can only happen if a written agreement exists between a landlord and tenant, and the tenant gives 45 days notice before vacating. §521-44

iii.            Retention of Deposits

The landlord must produce sufficient in writing, sufficient legal grounds on which they retain the deposits. If the deposit monies have been used to meet, but not limited to, cleaning and damage costs, such costs shall be itemized and copies of receipts for said costs, included. If repairs cannot be done in 14 days, a substitute for the repair services can be used. 14 days after rental agreement termination, the landlord must mail the tenant the notice and any portion of the deposit that remains. Proof of mailing must be obtained by the landlord at the mailing office.

iv.            Deposit recovery period

Procedures by the tenant to obtain part or all of the security deposit must be started within a year after termination of rental agreement. §521-44(c)

v.            Transfer of ownership

If the owner of a rental unit transfers interest of ownership to a new owner, the owner will within 20 days give written notice to the tenant, the amount credited as a security deposit. Failure to provide written notice within 20 days, it shall be assumed that the tenant has paid a security deposit equal to no less than one month’s rent at the time the tenant originally rented the unit.

vi.            Security deposit disputes

Disputes arising from security deposits are to be settled in small claims court. Neither the tenant nor landlord is to have a lawyer present. If the court finds that the landlord -:

  1. Wrongfully yet willfully retained part or all of the deposit, it may award the tenant three times the amount retained, plus the cost of the legal suit.
  2. Wrongfully retained part or all of the deposit, it shall award the tenant damages equal to the retained portion of deposit plus the suit cost.
  3. Lawfully retained the deposit amount, it shall award the landlord damages equal to the portion of the security deposit, plus suit costs. §521-44


(B).     Lease, Rent and Fee Rules

This section covers rent agreements between a landlord and tenant/ lessee.

  1. Rent

It is up to the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement regarding monies payable as rent. Rent is to be paid on the first day of every new month. Holdover Tenants shall pay the fair value of the rent of the premises. If a tenant stays for less than a month, rent will be incurred on a daily basis.

  1. Rent Increment

If there is a monthly payment agreement, the landlord may not increase rent unless he presents the client with written notice 45 days to the date that the increment is effective. §521-74

  1. Late fees

Upon failure of payment of rent on the agreed date, the landlord may institute late fees whose amount is not governed by Hawaii laws.

  1. Prepaid Rent

Other than security deposit and the first month’s rent, the landlord may not impose additional charges on the tenant. The tenant may not use the deposit amount to settle the previous month’s rent unless a written agreement exists to that effect. The tenant may not also present the landlord with a postdated check to offset the next month’s rent.

  1. Tenant repair reductions

Failure by the landlord to make repairs recommended by the health department or safety department, the tenant may make said repairs, submit receipts to the landlord and deduct cost of repairs or services, up to a total of $500 from the rent §521-64

(C).    Notice and Entry Rules

This section covers facts of notice, types of notice, the validity of notice, receivership of notice, entry to tenant premises, lockouts, and utility shut-offs.

  1. Notice

A person is deemed to have notice if -:

  1. The person has actual knowledge of the notice
  2. The person received notification for it.
  3. From all the facts presented to the person at the time in question, the person has reason to have notice
  1. Notice to terminate tenancy
  2. Fixed end date in lease agreement

There is no need for notice as termination is automatic

a.      Yearly Lease with No End Date

There are no laws that govern notice to terminate tenancy when the agreement is a yearly lease with no end date

b.       Month-to-Month Lease

The landlord must provide notice, in writing, 45 prior. The tenant must provide a 28-day notice in writing.

c.      Week-to-Week Lease

A 10-day notice must be provided in writing.

  1. Immediate termination

Immediate termination of occupancy is permissible if the person causes harm or threatens to harm another person.

  1. Termination for non-payment

A 5 day written notice is given before remedy or quit. §521-68

  1. Termination due to condominium conversion

If the landlord wishes to convert the premises to condominiums, he must provide a tenant with a 120-day notice before the termination of the agreement. §521-71

  1. Termination for lease violation

The tenant will issue a ten day notice to remedy or quit. He then must wait another 20 days to file an eviction

  1. Termination for nuisance

The landlord must provide a five day notice, but the tenant can remedy in no more than 24 hours. §666-3

  1. Termination at the beginning of occupancy

The tenant may terminate the rental agreement and vacate the premises within the first week of occupancy if the landlord fails to fulfill clauses in the rental agreement or fails to supply and maintain habitable premise. The tenant can also terminate the agreement beyond the first week of occupancy if the tenant had been promised, either orally or by written agreement, correction of a condition on the premises. §521-62

  1. Entry to Tenant premises

A landlord may gain entry to a tenant’s house with notice for showings and the purpose of maintenance and repairs. The landlord will provide two days notice, with entry only at reasonable hours. No notice is needed for entry in case of emergency. There are no statutes to entry for move out inspections and for pesticide use. The landlord may enter the tenant’s rental unit during a tenants extended absence for purposes of inspection, maintenance, and safekeeping. §521-70

  1. Lock-outs and Utility shut-off

They are illegal and are punishable by up to 2 months rent or free occupancy §521-63

  1. Notice for extended absence

The tenant shall inform the landlord of the intent of extended absence no sooner than the first day of said absence. §521-54


(D).    Required Disclosures and Notes

This section covers all the documents that the tenant should be furnished with, landlord and tenant duties, abandoned property, subleasing, retaliation and disclosure

  1. Documents
  2. Name and addresses

The landlord or their agent must disclose names and addresses of anyone with authority to manage the premises and the names and addresses of anyone that can act on behalf of the owner.

  1. Copy of the lease

The landlord must provide a copy of the lease agreement to the client.

  1. General excise tax number

This is to be provided to the tenant for the purpose of filing for a low-income tax credit. §521-43

  1. Landlord duties §521-42
  2. Comply with all building and housing laws that pertain to health and safety
  3. Make all repairs required to keep the premises as habitable as possible
  4. Keep all common areas in multi-dwelling units in a clean and safe condition.
  5. Maintain any and all electrical and plumbing appliances and other facilities, subject to reasonable wear and tear.
  6. Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences of garbage disposal and organize for the garbage’s frequent removal.
  7. Provide running water except if the law requires the building not be equipped for this purpose.
  1. Tenant duties
  2. Comply with all applicable building and housing laws that affect health and safety
  3. Keep the part of the premises that the tenant occupies as clean and safe as the premises’ conditions permit
  4. Dispose of the rental unit all garbage and other organic or flammable waste in a safe and clean manner
  5. Keep the provided plumbing features in the rental unit used by the tenant as clean as conditions permit
  6. Properly operate and use all electrical and plumbing fixtures and appliances in the rental unit or used by the tenant
  7. Not permit any persons on the premises with the tenant’s permission to destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the rental unit including the unit, any and facilities and any and all equipment.
  8. Keep the unit, facilities, appliances, furniture and furnishings supplied by the landlord in fit condition, reasonable wear and tear expected.
  9. Comply with obligations and regulations instituted by the landlord as rules by the landlord for the purpose of promoting the safety, convenience or welfare of the tenants of the rental unit, or to preserve the landlord’s property from abusive use, or for fair distribution of services and facilities to the tenants. §521-51
  1. Abandoned Personal property §521-56

The landlord may

  1. Sell abandoned property in a commercially reasonable manner.
  2. Store such property at the tenants expense
  3. Donate such property to a charity

However, these three steps may be undertaken if the following rules are observed

  1. The landlord shall make reasonable efforts to notify the tenant of the intention to sell or donate such property by mailing the notice to the tenant’s forwarding address or any other address designated by the tenant or to a previously known address.
  2. 15 days after receiving by the tenant, the landlord may sell the property after advertisement of the property’s sale for at least three consecutive days in the premises circuit or the landlord may donate to property to a charity
  3. After deduction of accrued rent and storage costs, costs of sale and advertising, the proceeds of the sale can be held in trust for the tenant for 30 days, after which the proceeds may be forfeited to the landlord.
    1. Subleasing

The tenant is allowed to exercise his right to sublet his rental unit. The right is subject to the consent of the landlord in agreement. §521-37

  1. Retaliation

A landlord must not terminate or refuse to renew a lease to a tenant who exercises a legal right §521-74

  1. Disclosure

Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also attach an information pamphlet on lead-based hazards to the written lease agreement.

(E).     Small claims court


i.            Small claims court will only handle cases where claimed amounts not to exceed $5000

ii.            Small claims court will handle disputes in a tenant-landlord agreement

iii.            Small claims court will handle cases involving the return of property where the total amount, inclusive of interest and other costs does not exceed $5000

Class action suits are not permitted in small claims courts.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Anthony Lee - April 26, 2017

How do you go about getting someone out of your home that you were renting to, but now you want to evict them? They keep talking about utilities law what is that?

P. Lokelani Ching - May 11, 2019

We have resided in our room/unit within a multi-family dwelling in Waipahu, Hawaii, for approximately 10 years. Earlier today, my 13 year old daughter took it upon herself to express her thoughts and emotions about our landlord, to her face. Because of the state of the incident, the landlord has made a verbal lockout towards my daughter, knowing that this would force me to vacate, since I am her only legal and blood-related guardian. The landlord clearly stated that my 13 year old will not be permitted back to the house, merely because she felt disrespected. Currently, I’ve been having difficulties making the rent payments since I had been placed on Medical Leave from work since February 2019 for a pre-existing condition, where i am required to submit a Medical Release form from my PCP in order to return. Throughout these months I have been extensively communicating to my landlord about any updates about my situation and have been able to catch up with rent up to April 2019. Our current rent is $900/mo.for a one bedroom/studio unit with shared bathroom, shared kitchen and shared laundry with other tenants. Prior to this, rent was $1200/mo., for she had given us a verbal ultimatum to take on paying for 2 rooms or we’d have to vacate. And prior to that, I was paying $1000/mo for a bedroom with 2 closets, which the 4 of us had to squeeze into. During our time here, we have helped her renovate other rooms/units by wall-patching, sanding, painting, made repairs in the attic, renovated bathrooms, repaired some plumbing fixtures(even after she had a professional plumber come), replace electrical sockets and act as caregivers for her late son, while she would compensate us with a pack of cigarettes per task. She is very consistent in doing things or stating things that would trigger a dispute with us, then tell us to get out or move out, followed by, “Even if you have to go homeless!” Or she would say, “I can’t get new tenants because you are here!” Automatically, insinuating that we are the only reason she cannot get any new tenants to occupy her one vacant room, within this 9 bedroom 5 bathroom house. This feels 100% retaliation. Please! We need help.


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