What You Need to Know About Hawaii’s Fair Housing Act

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Hawaii’s Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to practice housing discrimination based on someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age, or HIV status. These regulations protect applicants and tenants of rented or leased housing and homebuyers. 
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 introduced the Fair Housing Act (FHA) into federal law. With this expansion, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) was enacted, making it illegal to discriminate against renters and homebuyers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories. 
While Hawaii has had expansive protections for fair housing laws, federal law in 2021 now extends protection to those facing housing discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Even though the Fair Housing Act is federal law, the process for filing a complaint can vary depending on which state you’re living in. To help break down what Hawaii’s Fair Housing Act covers and ensure you have access to fair housing, Jerry, the super app designed to save you money on car, renters, and homeowners insurance, is here with everything you need to know.
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Does Hawaii have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! Hawaii has a Fair Housing Act under Chapter 515, Discrimination in Real Property Transactions. Through Chapter 515, it is illegal to discriminate against applicants, tenants, or homebuyers based on:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex 
  • Gender identity 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • HIV infection
  • Mental or physical disability
  • National origin
  • Familial status 
It’s also illegal to do any of the following in Hawaii based on the protected traits under Chapter 515:
  • Advertise or publish a statement that may indicate an intent to discriminate 
  • Say housing is unavailable when it is available
  • Refuse an inspection by a prospective buyer or tenant
  • Refuse a bonafide offer to buy, rent, or lease or refuse to enter an agreement
  • Offer different units, services, or housing 
  • Ask questions or use an application that discriminates or limits tenants
  • Steer someone to move to a specific area 
  • Discourage someone from applying or putting an offer in for a unit
  • Create unreasonable rules or terms
  • Require different qualifications or selection review depending on the person
  • State or imply a person won’t be considered for the selection process 
These regulations apply to anyone selling or renting a property in Hawaii. Additionally, brokers, real estate agents, or any other person engaging in a real estate transaction, including financial transactions or assistance, are also subject to these regulations. 
Should you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

Chapter 515 outlines general accessibility requirements for fair housing in Hawaii. However,  federal law also mandates these regulations in the 1991 Fair Housing Act. This act addresses the need for reasonable accommodations and modifications. These regulations apply to multifamily dwellings that are newly constructed for the first occupancy on or after March 13, 1991
Reasonable modifications include:
  • At least one accessible entrance that’s the primary entryway for residents and guests
  • Doorways and ramps must be at least 36-inches wide
  • Common areas, like kitchens and bathrooms, are accessible to those with disabilities 
  •  Outlets, light switches, and thermostats must have accessible locations
  • A reinforced wall in all bathrooms with the ability to support a grab bar
Reasonable accommodations are requests to a housing provider to meet the needs of someone with a disability, allowing them to fully enjoy and use the dwelling. 
  • Requesting an emotional support animal be allowed, even if a location or dwelling doesn’t allow pets
  • Requesting that a landlord installs a grab bar for a bathroom at your expense 
  • Requesting a dedicated parking spot due to mobility impairment, even if parking is first-come, first-serve basis
If your reasonable modifications or accommodations aren’t accepted, or your home doesn’t currently meet these requirements, you can file a complaint under the Fair Housing Act. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in Hawaii

Say you’ve spoken to a landlord about an open apartment and set up a time to meet. However, when you show up with your emotional support dog, the landlord tells you someone just signed the papers, and the apartment is no longer available—that’s housing discrimination
Or perhaps your partner comes with you to look at an apartment since you want their opinion but the second the owner shows up, they state they have another building available across town that you’d like better—this is also a violation of your fair housing rights
If you believe you were targeted by housing discrimination based on your race, national origin, sex, disability, religion, HIV status, marital status, age, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation, you have the right to file a complaint. 
Housing discrimination in Hawaii is handled by the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC). To file a complaint, you can call them or fill out a pre-complaint questionnaire and mail or deliver it in person within 180 days of the violation occurring. From there, HCRC will investigate the incident. 
Another option is to file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) online, by phone, mail, or email. You have one year from the date of the incident to file a complaint with HUD. 
When submitting a complaint with HUD, include:
  • Your name and address
  • Name and address of the people involved 
  • Address where the incident occurred
  • Description of the incident
  • Date it occurred

State agency vs. local offices

In Hawaii, it’s recommended to report any illegal discrimination throughout the state directly to HCRC within 180 days of the incident. Depending on where you live, here are the numbers to contact HCRC:
IslandPhone Number
Hawaii808-974-4000 Ext. 68636
Kauai808-274-3141 Ext 68636
Maui808-984-2400 Ext 68636
Molokai and Lanai1-800-468-4644 Ext 68636
Oahu808-586-8636
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You also can contact Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s Fair Housing Officer, who can assist with filing a complaint.    
If you need to file a complaint after 180 days, you’ll need to file a complaint through HUD. 

How to save money on home and renters insurance in Hawaii

From the little island of Lanai to the big island of Hawaii, everyone has a right to fair housing. While Jerry can’t help you find affordable homeowners, renters, and car insurance in Hawaii, we’ll always be happy to help if you're ever back in the continental U.S. 
Jerry is a licensed broker and insurance super app that offers end-to-end support and the easiest and most effective way to find a home or renters insurance policy that is customized for you. You can even bundle your policy with your car insurance for the most savings. 
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FAQ

To report a landlord or fair housing violation in Hawaii, contact the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and fill out a pre-complaint questionnaire. You can call HCRC directly or fill out the form and deliver it in person or by mail to 830 Punchbowl Street, Room 411, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
You can also contact Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s Fair Housing officer at 808-832-4690 or email them at hpha@hawaii.gov.

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