Hawaii Tenant's Rights After Domestic Violence

How Are Victims of Domestic Violence Protected in Hawaii?

Hawaii’s landlord tenant law covers many aspects of the relationship between landlord and tenant. Usually, personal matters are excluded, but not in the case of domestic violence. Hawaii law gives tenants who have been victims of domestic violence certain rights that may not be given to tenants under normal circumstances. Here are the additional protections given to victims of domestic violence in Hawaii.

Definition of Domestic Violence in Hawaii

Under Hawaii’s landlord tenant law, domestic violence has the same definition as domestic abuse. Domestic violence, or abuse, includes any of the following acts against a family or household member. A family or household member includes spouses, couples that have the same benefits as spouses, former spouses, former common law partners, former civil partners, those that have a child in common, parents, children, other blood relatives, those who live in the same rental unit, those who formerly lived in the same rental unit and those who currently or formerly had a dating relationship.

Acts of Domestic Violence Include:

  • Physical Harm
  • Bodily Injury
  • Assault
  • Threat of Physical Harm, Bodily Injury or Assault
  • Extreme Psychological Abuse- Purposely trying to disturb the individual
  • Malicious Property Damage- Purposely damaging an individual’s property in order to cause emotional distress.

    These acts could be committed by an adult against another adult or they could be committed by an adult against a minor.

    Hawaii Tenant's Right to Terminate Lease Agreement

    If a tenant or a member of the tenant’s family living in the rental unit has been a victim of domestic violence, they are allowed to terminate the rental agreement without being penalized for terminating the rental agreement early or being responsible for future rent owed under the original terms of the lease agreement.

    The lease must have been for a term of one year or less.

    Recency of Domestic Violence

    To terminate a lease early without penalty in Hawaii, the domestic violence must have occurred no longer than 90 days prior to the tenant notifying the landlord of their desire to terminate the lease agreement early.

    Timeliness of Notice

    In order to terminate the lease early, the tenant must provide written notice to the landlord at least 14 days prior to their desired move-out date. The desired move-out date can be no more than one hundred and four days after the claim of domestic violence.

    Written Notice

    In order to terminate the lease early, the tenant must provide the landlord with written notice. Not only must this notice include the desired move out date, but it must also include evidence which backs up the tenant’s claim of domestic violence. The tenant must state that the perpetrator of domestic violence knows the address where the tenant or the tenant’s family member lives.

    Any of the following three forms of evidence are acceptable:

    1. A copy of an order of protection that has been issued to the tenant or a member of the tenant’s family by any state, which declares that the individual has been a victim of domestic violence.

    2. A copy of a police report which states that the tenant or a member of the tenant’s family has been a victim of domestic violence.

    3. A copy of a document showing that an individual has been convicted of domestic violence against the tenant or a member of the tenant’s family.

    Tenant Financial Obligations

    The tenant who is terminating the lease agreement is responsible for the rent up until the day of the lease termination, as well as any money he or she already owed to the landlord. This money must be paid to the landlord before the date of termination. The tenant is not responsible for any future rent payments.

    Landlord’s Rights for Tenants Remaining on the Lease

    If the tenant who has been a victim of domestic violence is terminating their lease agreement, but there are other tenants left residing in the rental unit, it is up to the landlord to determine if he or she believes these tenants have the ability to pay the required rent.

    If the landlord does not believe that these tenants have the ability to pay the required rent, the landlord can send a notice to these tenants notifying them that their lease will be terminated early.

    This notice must be sent at least 14 days before the desired date of termination. The landlord cannot charge the tenants any type of early termination fee or other penalty. The tenants are still responsible for paying the rent up until the date of termination.  

    Refunding the Security Deposit

    A landlord is not required to return the security deposit until one of the following conditions is met:

    1. All tenants under the existing lease agreement have terminated the lease agreement.

    2. One or more tenants under the existing lease agreement have terminated the lease early. If there is a court order mandating how much of the security deposit each tenant gets, then the landlord must follow these instructions for dividing the security deposit. If there is no such court order, then the landlord can divide the security deposit equally among the tenants.

    The landlord still has a right to take any legally allowed deductions from the security deposit.

    Hawaii Tenant’s Right to Have Locks Changed

    If a tenant in Hawaii has been a victim of domestic violence and does not want to move from their current rental unit, he or she has the right to have the locks on their unit changed.

    • Written Request:

    The tenant must provide the landlord with a written request of their desire to have the locks on their unit changed.

    • Three Days:

    Within three days of receiving the tenant’s request, the landlord must change the locks. The tenant will be responsible for the cost.

    • Landlord Failure to Change Locks:

    If the landlord fails to change the locks within the three day period, then the tenant can change the locks. The tenant must provide the landlord with a key to the new locks.

    • If Perpetrator of Domestic Violence Lives in Unit:

    The landlord is not required to change the locks on the unit if the person who committed the act of domestic violence also lives in the rental unit. The exception to this would be if the tenant provides the landlord with a copy of a court order requiring the perpetrator to move out of the unit. In this case, the landlord or tenant does not have to allow the perpetrator onto the property unless he or she is accompanied by an officer of the law.

    Landlord’s Rights If Perpetrator of Domestic Violence Is Also a Tenant

    If the domestic violence offender lives in the rental property, the landlord can do one of two things, assuming a court has not already ordered the individual to vacate the property:

    1. Allow the tenant to remain in the property and hold the person responsible for all future rent payments.

    2. Terminate the rental agreement by giving the tenant five days’ notice from the desired date of termination. If the tenant does not vacate the unit by that date, the landlord can file to evict the tenant.

    Tenant False Claim

    If a tenant tries to get out of the lease agreement by falsely claiming to be a victim of domestic violence, the landlord could be entitled to three months’ worth of rent or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees.

    Hawaii’s Law on Domestic Violence

    To view Hawaii’s law on domestic violence, please consult Hawaii Revised Statutes §§ 521-79, 521-80, 521-81, 521-82 and 586-1.