The Eviction Process in Hawaii: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Hawaii eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

A landlord must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant in Hawaii. If the landlord does not carefully follow all the rules and procedures, the eviction might not be valid. This article will explain the basic rules and procedures landlords and property managers must follow when evicting a tenant in Hawaii.

Notice for Termination With Cause

If a landlord wants to evict a tenant before the tenant's lease or rental agreement has expired, then the landlord must have legal cause (a reason). Hawaii law defines legal cause as failure to pay rent, violation of the lease or rental agreement, or serious damage to the rental unit or another person. To evict the tenant for one of these reasons, the landlord needs to terminate the tenancy. The landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant notice.

  • Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent: If the tenant does not pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a written five-day notice to pay rent. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has five days to pay rent or the landlord will terminate the tenancy. If the tenant does not pay rent within five days, then the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-68 (2021).)
  • Ten-Day Notice to Remedy: If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement, then the landlord can give the tenant a written ten-day notice to remedy. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has ten days to fix the violation or the landlord will terminate the tenancy. If the tenant does not fix the violation within ten days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 521-52 and 521-72 (2021).) If the tenant continues the behavior or violates the lease or rental agreement in the same way after the date in the notice, the landlord can file for eviction within 30 days after the continued or repeat act; no additional notice is required. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-72(b) (2021).)
  • No Notice Required: If the tenant causes or threatens to cause serious damage to the rental unit or any other person at the rental unit, then the landlord is not required to give the tenant any kind of notice before terminating the tenancy. The landlord can go straight to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-69 (2021).)

Notice for Termination Without Cause

If a landlord wants a tenant to move but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord has to wait until the tenant's lease or rental agreement has ended before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord will still need to give the tenant written notice to move in some cases.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

If the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord must give the tenant a written 45-day notice. This notice must inform the tenant that the landlord is ending the month-to-month tenancy and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of 45 days. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit in time, then the landlord can bring an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-71 (2021).)

Fixed-Term Lease

If the landlord wants to end a fixed-term lease but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord must just wait until the lease has expired before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit by the end of the lease term, then the landlord should stop accepting rent payments from the tenant and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.

It is important to note that in Hawaii, the landlord only has 60 days after the lease term has ended to file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. If the landlord waits longer than 60 days, then the tenant will become a month-to-month tenant. The landlord will then have to give the tenant a 45-day notice to move before being able to proceed with the eviction (see Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-71(e) (2021)).

Tenant Eviction Defenses

Even if a landlord follows all the rules and has a valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant might still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant could also have a valid legal defense to eviction, such as the landlord discriminating against the tenant or the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could increase the cost of the eviction or allow the tenant more time to remain living in the rental unit.

Removal of the Tenant

A landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of a rental unit. Even after the landlord wins an eviction lawsuit against the tenant, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a law enforcement officer with a court order. Hawaii has made it illegal for the landlord to ever try to remove the tenant or create a situation that forces the tenant to move out of the rental unit. A landlord who takes self-help measures can be penalized for illegally evicting a tenant.

Handling a Tenant's Abandoned Property After an Eviction in Hawaii

The tenant might abandon personal property in the rental unit after the tenant is evicted. When the landlord believes the property has value, then the landlord must send the tenant written notice to claim the property before the landlord disposes of it. While waiting for the tenant's response, the landlord can store the property and charge the cost of the storage to the tenant. After giving the tenant notice, the landlord can choose to sell or donate the property.

Sale of abandoned property. The landlord can sell the property after advertising the sale in a daily paper of general circulation within the circuit in which the rental is located for at least three days in a row. The landlord can use the proceeds from the sale to cover unpaid rent and the costs of storing and selling the abandoned property. When there are funds remaining after these deductions, the landlord must hold the funds in trust for the tenant for 30 days. If the tenant doesn't claim the funds during those 30 days, the landlord can keep it.

Donation of abandoned property. If the landlord prefers to donate the property, the landlord can do so 15 days after sending the notice.

The landlord can dispose of any items left after the sale or that the landlord believes to have no value at the landlord's discretion. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-56 (2021).)

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Hawaii law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. Although these rules and procedures can seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.

Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website has a helpful landlord-tenant resource page where you can find the text of Hawaii's landlord-tenant statutes as well as a comprehensive Hawaii residential landlord-tenant handbook.

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