COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
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
- Are there any special protections for Hawaii renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency order suspending evictions for nonpayment of rent until July 31, 2020.
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 July 31, 2020 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 July 31, 2020), 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:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- 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.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency in Hawaii?
You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency, through at least July 31, 2020 in Hawaii.
Once the emergency period ends, landlords can begin to enforce evictions against renters once again.
- You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through July 2020. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
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 June 30, 2020 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 U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.