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By Patrick Price
Updated on May 27, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
The civil codes governing eviction in Hawaii forbid landlords from evicting a tenant without proper cause or in retaliation for complaints. Even if there are legal grounds for an eviction, the landlord must still provide written notice and adequate time to vacate the residence.
Hawaii’s pleasant weather and breathtaking beauty make it a wonderful place to live. Unfortunately, that also means that housing costs in the Aloha State are usually pretty high. If you fall behind on your rent, you may be in danger of getting evicted—that’s why it’s so important to understand the laws concerning eviction in Hawaii.
If you’ve looked at the state civil codes, you’ve noticed that they’re full of dense legal language—which can make it difficult to understand your rights as a tenant. To help you out, Jerry, the renters insurance comparison super app, has put together this guide to Hawaii’s eviction laws.
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Hawaii eviction 101: the three ways you can be evicted
There are many rules that a landlord has to follow when seeking an eviction in Hawaii. First and foremost, they must have a valid reason for evicting you. The following items are considered legally valid causes for eviction:
- Failure to pay rent: If the tenant doesn’t pay rent by the due date, the landlord can give them a five-notice demanding payment. If rent isn’t paid by the end of that five days, the landlord may initiate an eviction lawsuit.
- Violation of the lease or rental agreement: If the tenant has violated the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord must give them a written ten-day notice to cease and desist all violations. Violations of the lease/rental agreement also include any illegal activity occurring in the rental unit. If, after the ten days are up, the tenant continues violating the agreement, the landlord has 30 days to initiate an eviction lawsuit.
- Serious damage to the rental unit or another person: If the tenant seriously damages (or threatens to damage) the property or if they seriously harm (or threaten to harm) another person at the rental unit, then the landlord may immediately initiate an eviction lawsuit—no notice is required.
If the landlord wants to reclaim the property for any reason not listed above, they must provide the tenant with a 45-day notice. If the landlord wants to reclaim the property in order to convert it into a condominium, convert it into a vacation rental, or demolish it, then they must provide a 120-day notice.
Retaliatory evictions and rent increases
Hawaii state law also prohibits retaliatory evictions/rent increases. This means that if you report your landlord to a government entity for negligence or other misconduct, your landlord cannot evict you or raise your rent out of spite.
There are a few caveats to this rule, however. Even if the circumstances for a retaliatory eviction exist, the landlord can still potentially reclaim the property—but one of these conditions must apply:
- The tenant is committing waste
- The tenant is a nuisance to the community
- The tenant is using the unit for something other than a dwelling
- The tenant is using the unity for illegal activity
- The landlord wants/needs to use the unit as their own personal residence
- The landlord wishes to alter or demolish the property
- The landlord wants to sell the property
- The tenant makes a claim/complaint to the Department of Health that turns out to be false
Whatever the cause of the eviction is—assuming that the landlord has followed all procedures and provided appropriate notification—then the tenant must vacate the premises within the applicable time limit. If the tenant fails or refuses to do so, the landlord can initiate an eviction lawsuit.
Key Takeaway It’s illegal in Hawaii for a landlord to evict tenants without proper cause or in retaliation for a complaint.
A timeline of eviction in Hawaii
Hopefully, you’ll never have to face an eviction lawsuit. If you do, however, you’ll want to know what to expect. The entire suit can take a while and involves several steps. Here’s how it works in Hawaii:
|Step||How long it typically takes||What to expect|
|Official notice||24 hours-120 days||The landlord will issue a written warning to notify the tenant of imminent eviction, explain the reasons, and specify how much time they have to correct the problem.|
|Summons and complaint||A few days to a few weeks||If the time allotted for resolving the problem expires and the tenant has not addressed the issue, then the landlord’s next step is to file a complaint with the court. The court will then serve the tenant with a Summons & Complaint|
|Tenant files for appearance||5-7 days||Once they receive the Summons & Complaint, the tenant has 5-7 days to respond and appear in court to present their side of the story. Failure to do so will result in the court ruling on the suit without hearing the tenant’s defense|
|Court hearing and judgment||A few days to a few weeks||The court will review the landlord’s information, the tenant’s response, and any relevant evidence. Then they will issue a ruling on the case|
|Issuance of writ of possession||1 hour-5 days||If the landlord wins the suit, the court will issue a “writ of possession” to inform the tenant that they must vacate the rental unit or they will be removed by force|
|Eviction||A few days to a few weeks||The tenant must move out of the unit within the time period specified in the writ of possession. If, after that time, they still have not vacated the premises, they will be forcibly removed by law enforcement|
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From the time of first notice to the actual eviction, the entire process can take quite a while. If the landlord is very motivated and everything goes smoothly, they can potentially get a writ of possession issue as quickly as 1-2 weeks. More often, though, an eviction process ends up taking several months.
How to resist eviction in Hawaii
If you are excessively behind in rent payments or your landlord has clear evidence that you’ve been continually breaking your lease agreement, there isn’t going to be much hope of winning an eviction suit. However, there are always things that you can try.
Here are a few ways that you can resist eviction in Hawaii:
- Address the cause of the eviction. If you receive a written warning from your landlord, take it very seriously. Pay any past-due rent/fees and resolve any lease violations. If you can resolve the problem within the allotted amount of time, you should be fine.
- Point out a procedural mistake. Regularly refresh your knowledge of the eviction procedure. That way, you can keep a close eye on how your landlord handles everything. If they do not follow correct protocol at every stage of eviction, you might be able to get the suit thrown out.
- Argue that the landlord failed to maintain the property. If you can demonstrate that the landlord has been negligent in their maintenance duties, it might be enough to get you off the hook—especially if the eviction is related to damages that could feasibly be attributed to their lack of maintenance.
- Keep detailed records of all communications with your landlord. Sometimes having emails or texts from these conversations can make a huge difference. If your landlord said or did anything that violated your lease or proper eviction procedure, you’ll have proof.
- Call out any retaliatory behaviors. It’s illegal for your landlord to evict you in retaliation for a complaint you made to them or a government agency. The court won’t necessarily be aware of a retaliation situation, though. The burden is on you to bring such a situation to the court’s attention.
If all else fails, you can always appeal the court’s ruling and make your case again at the next trial. If you believe that you have sufficient evidence of a wrongful eviction or other misconduct on the part of your landlord, you can even sue them right back.
If you win that suit, the landlord will likely be required to pay you damages as well as any court fees—not to mention, you’ll get to keep your home.
How to save money on Hawaii car and renters insurance
The best way to avoid eviction is to follow the rules in your lease and always pay your rent on time. If your budget is tight and you’re worried about having enough cash to cover rent, there are some areas where you can easily reduce your monthly expenses.
For instance, you can save hundreds on your car and renters insurance in just a few minutes using the free Jerry app!
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