State Rules and Regulations for Hawaii Rental Properties and Landlords

In Hawaii, a lease exists wherever there is an agreement to exchange rent for inhabiting a property. According to Hawaii law (HRS. Tit. 28. Ch. 521), this agreement automatically grants certain rights to the tenant, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take at least one form of alternative action.

Landlords have rights too, such as the right to collect rent in a timely manner and deduce for costs from damages that exceed normal wear and tear.

Hawaii Official Rules and Regulations

Hawaii Security Deposit Law

  • Security Deposit Maximum: Pursuant to §521-44(b), no more than one month’s rent, plus a pet deposit is allowed. Pet deposit only applies to applicants if pets are allowed and the tenant has a pet.
  • Security Deposit Interest: Not required per the Handbook, pg. 25
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No statute available
  • Pet Deposits: A separate security deposit can be required of one month’s rent, if the tenant has a pet. It is not allowed if the tenant does not own a pet or the tenant has a duly qualified service animal that was received due to a disability pursuant to §521-44(b)
  • Non-Refundable Fees: No statute available
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: Security deposit must be returned to the tenant within 14 days after the termination of the rental/lease agreement according to §521-44(c)
  • Permitted Uses of the Deposit:
    • Tenant defaults for intentional or accidental damages resulting from the failure to comply with any section of the Tenant Obligations;
    • Failure to pay rent when it is due;
    • Failure to return all keys to the landlord upon termination of the rental or lease agreement;
    • Clean the unit or pay to have it cleaned upon vacating the premises. Unit must be returned to the same original condition as when the tenant moved in;
    • Compensate for any damages caused by the tenant who wrongfully abandons the rental without notice, and:
    • Compensate for any damages caused by a pet or animal that was allowed according to the rental agreement pursuant to §521.44
  • Require Itemized List/Written Description of Damages and Charges: An itemized list or description of damages and charges is required unless it is proven that the tenant wrongfully quit or vacated the premises without informing the landlord in writing. The landlord shall provide the tenant a written account for any withholdings along with evidence to support the total of all costs to remedy damages caused by the tenant. This includes estimates or invoices of any materials or services, the cost of cleaning and the receipts of supplies and equipment and any charges brought on by the cleaning services pursuant to §521-44(c).
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No statute available
  • Receipt of Deposit: No statute available
  • Failure to Comply: Failure on behalf of the landlord to comply with their obligation to provide the tenant with a written notice of withholdings or any other required information within the 14 day period after termination can result in the landlord forfeiting any portion of the tenant’s security deposit. If this occurs, the landlord must return the entire security deposit to the tenant. Either the landlord or the tenant may sue the other party in small claims court for damages plus the cost of the suit, if any disagreement over the retention of the security deposits persists, according to §521-44(c)(g) and (h).

Leases, Rent, and Fees Under Hawaii Law

  • Rent Is Due: Unless otherwise agreed, rent is due at the beginning of each month. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-21(b))
  • Payment Methods: No statute.
  • Rent Increase Notice: For month-to-month leases, 45-day written notice is required prior to the effective date of the increase. For tenancies less than month-to-month, 15-day written notice is required. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-21(d)(e))
  • Rent Grace Period: No statute (handbook, p. 26)
  • Late Fees: Allowed, but no statute regulates the amount (handbook, p. 4)
  • Application Fees: No statute.
  • Prepaid Rent: At the beginning of a tenancy, the landlord may not require payment beyond the allowed deposits and first month’s rent. No part of the security deposit shall be construed as payment of the last month’s rent, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by both parties and if the tenant also provides 45-day notice prior to move-out. The landlord also shall not require any postdated check to be used for payment of rent. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-44(b)(2) and (e))
  • Returned Check Fees: $30 (unconfirmed)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, but the tenant must follow the process outlined by Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-78.
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, if the landlord fails to remedy the conditions after one week following written notification by the health department or other agency, the tenant may do the repairs or have the work done, submit receipts to the landlord and deduct the costs of repairs, not to exceed $500, from the rent. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-64)
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney’s Fees: Yes, a rental agreement may provide for the payment by the tenant of the costs of a suit, for unpaid rent, and reasonable attorney’s fees not more than 25 percent of the unpaid rent. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-35)
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Re-rent: Yes, the tenant shall be liable to the landlord for the lesser of the following amounts due to abandonment (Haw. Rev. Stat. §521-70(d)):
    • The entire rent due for the remainder of the term; or
    • All rent accrued during the period reasonably necessary to re-rent the dwelling unit at the fair rental, plus the difference between fair rent and the rent agreed to in the prior rental agreement and a reasonable commission for the renting of the dwelling unit.
  • Abandonment/Early Termination Fee: No statute

Evictions in Hawaii

Evictions in Hawaii require filing an order to the court. Hawaii landlords are empowered to evict tenants for the following reasons:

  1. Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent then the landlord may issue a written 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant still does not pay, then the landlord may begin formal eviction proceedings.
  2. Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs, then the landlord can issue a 10-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the terms of the notice are not met within the timeframe, then the landlord may file for eviction.
  3. Illegal acts – Hawaii landlords have broad authority to determine which illegal acts warrant eviction. If a landlord has documentation of illegal activity on the property then they may file a 5-Day Notice to Quit before filing for eviction. Illegal actions that may harm the property or tenant can be grounds for immediate eviction.

Month-to-month at-will tenants are entitled to receive at least 45 days’ notice before being evicted. Week-to-week at-will tenants must receive at least 10 days’ notice before being evicted. If the landlord wishes to evict tenants to destroy the property they must give all tenants at least 120 days’ notice

It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons. Hawaii tenants can also not be evicted for using medical marijuana, provided they have a license and the unit is not smoke-free.

Notices and Entry Under Hawaii Law

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: According to the Handbook pg.3, the termination of the lease is automatic, so no notice is required.
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Yearly Lease with No End Date: No statute available
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month to Month Lease:
    • Landlord must give 45 days written notice pursuant to §521-71(a)
    • Tenant must give 28 days written notice pursuant to §521-71(b)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week to Week Lease: 10 days written notice pursuant to §521-71(d)
  • Immediate Termination of Tenancy: Immediate termination of tenancy is allowed if the tenant knowingly causes or threatens to cause damage to the unit, any person on the premises or commits any blatant violation of the lease agreement or the law pursuant to the following §521-51(1) or (6), §521-52, §521-70(c) or §521-72.
  • Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: Tenant has 5 days to remedy the situation or quit the lease §521-68.
  • Notice of Termination Due to Condo Conversion: If the landlord chooses to convert rental properties from units to condominiums under chapters §514A or §514B, he or she must provide written notice to the tenant at least 120 days or 6 months prior to the termination of the lease or rental agreement pursuant to §521-38.
  • Termination of Lease Violation: The tenant has 10 days to remedy the situation or quit the lease agreement. The landlord must wait an additional 20 days before beginning eviction proceedings pursuant to §521-72.
  • Notice to Terminate for Nuisances: The landlord must give 5 days notice, but the tenant has 24 hours to remedy the situation according to §666-3.
  • Termination at the Beginning of Tenancy:
    • The tenant has the right to terminate the rental agreement and move out of the unit at any time during the first 7 days of occupancy if the landlord fails to conform to the rental agreement or fails in any way to supply and maintain a habitable dwelling in compliance with §521-42(a).
    • The tenant shall also retain the right to terminate beyond the first week of tenancy if the tenant remains in possession based on an oral or written promise by the landlord to correct the noncompliance which would justify termination by the tenant pursuant to §521-62.
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-out Inspection: No statute available
  • Required Notice Before Entry: The landlord is required to give two days notice and entry is allowed only at reasonable times pursuant to §521-53(b).
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes in accordance with §521-53(a).
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes in accordance with §521-53(a).
  • Emergency Entry Allowed Without Notice: Yes in accordance with §521-53(b).
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: If the tenant is absent for an extended period of time, the landlord may enter the unit as reasonably necessary for purposes of inspection, maintenance and general safe-keeping or for any other purposes permitted by §521-53(a) or §521-70(b).
  • Notice Required of Extended Tenant Absence: Landlord can request in the rental agreement that the tenant provide notification an any extended absence from the premises no later than the first day of such an absence pursuant to §521-54.
  • Tenant’s Responsibility to Inform Landlord: The tenant must report to the landlord any defective condition within the unit as soon as it appears. Conditions must be reported whether or not it is known if the landlord is aware of them, and especially if it is believed to be the landlords’ or another tenants’ duty to repair according to §521-55.
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No statute available
  • Lockouts Allowed: Lockouts are not allowed and are punishable by two month’s rent or free occupancy of the unit pursuant to §521-63(c).
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: Shut offs are not allowed and are punishable by two month’s rent or free occupancy of the dwelling pursuant to §521-63(c).

Mandatory Disclosures in Hawaii

Hawaii landlords must make 3 mandatory disclosures:

  1. Lead-based paint. Landlords who own homes built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
  2. Authorized agents. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in renting and managing the property.
  3. General Excise Tax Number. Landlords must also provide the general excise tax number so tenants may file for the low-income tax credit through the state.

Business Licenses:

  • Business License required: No statewide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements. Check with your local governing authority.

Housing Discrimination in Hawaii

Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, familial status, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. State law also adds discrimination protection for individuals based on marital status, age, HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Discriminatory acts & penalties. The Hawaii Civil rights Commission handles cases relating to housing discrimination. The following behaviors may be interpreted as discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group.

  • Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
  • Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Falsely denying the availability of a unit
  • “Steering” applicants in to certain neighborhoods
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations

Helpful Links

State Agencies & Regulatory Bodies

Housing Authorities

Realtor, Landlord, and Tenant Associations

These resources are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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