Legal FAQs for Renters in

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on January 20, 2021. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in Hawaii

Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?

Are there any special protections for Hawaii renters during the emergency? How long do they last?

You may be protected from eviction through June 30 under the national CDC Eviction Moratorium. Read more below to see if you’re protected.

Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency order suspending evictions for nonpayment of rent until February 21, 2021.

It went into effect on April 17, 2020 and was extended. It may be extended further.

What do the protections mean for Hawaii renters?

The protection means that through February 21, 2021 in Hawaii:

  • Your landlord cannot give you a notice to quit for not paying your rent.
  • Your landlord cannot file an eviction claim against you for not paying your rent.
  • Hearings on eviction are mostly suspended, and the court will not hear an eviction case against you if it is based on not paying your rent.
  • The court will only issue emergency orders (such as for evictions) if there is a threat to health and safety.
  • Law enforcement cannot enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.

Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency in Hawaii?

Yes, Hawaii renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency (through February 21, 2021), but you may be evicted as soon as special protections end.

Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections or resources if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.

Can my landlord evict me during the emergency in Hawaii?

You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency, through at least October 31, 2020 in Hawaii.

Once the emergency period ends, landlords can begin to enforce evictions against renters once again.

If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency in Hawaii?

Some Hawaii renters may be protected against utility shutoffs during the emergency. It depends on where you live.

Hawaiian Electric has suspended disconnections until February 21, 2021 for all islands except Kauai. Many other companies have said they will not shut off utilities during the emergency. Call for more information.

Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?

What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?

The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.

Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.

Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?

The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:

  • Rent a home in the United States; AND
  • Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
  • Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
  • Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
  • Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
  • Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.

If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.

What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?

The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through June 30, 2021.

This means:

  • If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
  • You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
  • You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.

The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:

  • Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
  • After the CDC Moratorium expires on June 30, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.

The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:

  • Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
  • You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
  • Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.

How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?

To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:

  1. Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
  2. Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
  3. Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
  4. Protections through June 30st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through June 30, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
  5. If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
  6. You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on June 30, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
  7. Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.

If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.

What if I need repairs during COVID-19?

Can I break my lease during COVID-19?

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19?

Are eviction cases still proceeding through Hawaii courts?

My landlord gave me an eviction notice

My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Hawaii. What should I do?

You do not have to leave your home yet.

A landlord is prohibited from giving a notice to evict for non-payment until the Hawaii State eviction moratorium expires. Once it expires, your landlord must give you an official notice that they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons). The notice should give you time to either pay your rent or prepare defenses against eviction.

This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.

These are the Hawaii requirements for an eviction notice:

  1. The notice must be written down.
  2. It has to have your full name and address.
  3. It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for non-payment of rent, a lease violation, or other reason.
  4. The notice must say exactly how much rent you owe and the date the rent became late.
  5. It also has to include the dates of the notice and the when your tenancy began.
  6. The notice needs to include a statement that the landlord may pursue the eviction process if you fail to pay your overdue rent or vacate the property.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Hawaii?

A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way. Many landlords are trying to harass non-paying tenants into leaving - you cannot be legally evicted for non-payment of rent until after the Hawaii State eviction moratorium expires.

Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

Do I have to leave my home by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date in Hawaii?

No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice.

You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.

Landlords can not physically remove you, touch your personal property, change the locks, or cut off your utilities.

After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Hawaii. What if I can't afford to pay it?

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Hawaii?

I've been sued in court for eviction

My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Hawaii. What should I do?

You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit in Hawaii. If they didn't give it you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. In Hawaii, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:

  1. Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Complaint. The landlord can not give you these papers - it has to be a person not involved in the case. This can be the sheriff, police chief, a party authorized by the court, or any person over 18.
  2. One of these people can give the papers to you directly, leave a copy with a member of your household, or post the papers in an obvious place on the property (usually on the door).

You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, you are required to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction.

You will have at least 5 business days after you receive the Summons and Complaint. You should either file a written answer or appear in court (in person or virtually) in order to avoid a default in which the landlord will be allowed to obtain a writ of possession to quickly evict you and the judge may give the landlord permission to remove you from your home.

Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Hawaii?

You can come to an agreement with your landlord, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.

You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.

Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.

Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date (virtually or in person), to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. You can check the state of your case in the court system here. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself (in person or try a virtual option) to make sure this doesn't happen.

You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.

Find local legal help in Hawaii here.

Its information is taken from these sources:Legal Aid Society of HawaiiHawaiian ElectricHawaii utilitiesHawaii Governor emergency orderHawaii courts COVID-19 pageLegal Aid FAQPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerHawaii governor extension of moratorium

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