29 Mar 2019
Any Kauai non-resident owner who rents a Kauai property is required by law to have an on-island agent. The Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, HRS 521, regulates the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants. This highlights some of the provisions in the Code.
It is always a good practice to have a written Rental Agreement signed by both parties. However, if none exists, it is considered an Oral Agreement and is still covered under the same law as a written Agreement.
A Rental Agreement should state the amount of rent along with how, where and when it is to be paid as well as any penalty for late payment or a returned check. It should also specify if pets are allowed or not and if they are allowed, any rules regarding this.
It should also state the term of the rental, whether it is weekly, monthly or a specified time period such as six months or a year. If no term is specified, it is considered a month-to-month tenancy.
The landlord may collect a security deposit, but it cannot exceed the amount of one month’s rent. Within 14 days after the tenant vacates, the deposit must be refunded to the tenant or accounted for. If needed, it could be used by the landlord to repair damages caused by the tenant, to clean the property so it is left in as good a condition as when the tenant took occupancy except for normal wear and tear, for lost keys, or as payment of past due rent. It is not the tenant’s choice to use the deposit as the last month’s rent; it is the landlord’s right to use the deposit as unpaid rent if needed.
Prior to a tenant’s occupancy, the landlord must make a written Inventory and Condition Report detailing the condition of the property, appliances and furnishings, if any. This should be detailed and include even minor damages, scratches, stains, etc. When the tenant vacates, if there is no written Inventory and Condition Report, the condition of the property is presumed to be the same as when the tenant initially took occupancy unless the landlord can prove otherwise.
The landlord’s obligations during a tenancy include providing safe and healthy premises, making repairs to keep the property in livable condition, maintaining electrical, plumbing and other facilities in good working order, providing and maintaining garbage bins, and providing an adequate supply of running water.
Tenant obligations include paying the rent on time, maintaining the property in a clean and fit condition, preserving the property from abuse, obeying the rules, and vacating as agreed upon.
If a rented property is sold with a fixed term remaining on the Rental Agreement, both the new owner and the tenant are bound by the terms of the Agreement. Within 20 days of a sale, the new landlord must give written notice to the tenant of the amount of the security deposit that was transferred.
For a landlord to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must give the tenant written notice at least 45 days before the termination date. The tenant may vacate the property at any time within the last forty-five days and is responsible to pay prorated rent for the period that the property is occupied and for notifying the landlord of the day of vacating. There are some situations when a longer written notice is required.
When the tenant wishes to terminate the tenancy, the tenant must give the landlord written notice at least 28 days before the desired termination date. The tenant is responsible to pay rent through the date stated in the notice and be vacated by that date.
These are just some of the highlights of the Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. The full Code is found in Chapter 521, Hawaii Revised Statutes. There is also a Handbook published by the Office of Consumer Protection, a division of the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.