Hawaii Tenant's Rights After Landlord Retaliation

How Hawaii Protects Tenants From Landlord Revenge

Hawaii’s landlord tenant law aims to create a peaceful relationship between landlord and tenant. One clause that helps to keep the peace specifically prohibits acts of retaliation by the landlord. Tenants have the right to live in a property that meets certain health and safety standards and should not fear repercussions after they complain that these conditions are not being met. Learn a tenant’s rights in Hawaii if a landlord tries to retaliate.

Hawaii Tenant Actions That Could Trigger Retaliation

Tenants have certain rights when it comes to their health and safety. If they feel these requirements are not being met, they can contact the proper authorities to complain. The following are actions a tenant in Hawaii may take which could trigger a landlord to retaliate:

  • Complaining to a local government agency, department of health, building department, code enforcement office, office of consumer protection, the landlord or any other government agency about a health or safety issue at the property.

  • The department of health or other government agency has filed a complaint against the landlord about a potential health or safety violation at the property.

  • The tenant has requested that the landlord perform certain repairs.

Acts That Could Be Considered Landlord Retaliation in Hawaii

There are actions that a landlord may take in the state of Hawaii that could be considered acts of retaliation.

These actions could be considered retaliatory if they occurred after a tenant’s action, such as complaining to a government agency about conditions at the property.

  • Make Attempts to Get the Tenant to Move From the Unit- If a landlord attempts to force the tenant to move from the unit, the landlord may be accused of retaliation. The landlord may try to harass the tenant, could change the locks on the tenant’s doors or may remove all of the tenant’s belongings from the unit.


    • Increase a Tenant’s Rent- If a landlord does not like an action a tenant has taken, the landlord may attempt to increase a tenant’s rent in retaliation.


    • Decrease Services to the Tenant- To attempt to get back at a tenant for a tenant’s action, the landlord may decrease essential or necessary services to the tenant, such as heat or hot water.



    • Refuse to Make Repairs- Finally, in order to get back at the tenant, a landlord could refuse to make necessary repairs that the tenant has requested.

    Time Frame for Act to Be Considered Retaliation in Hawaii

    Hawaii law does not have any specific time frame for a landlord’s action to be considered retaliation. A tenant has a better chance of proving retaliation the closer the landlord’s action occurred to the tenant’s action. For example, if a tenant complained about a health violation at the property and the landlord sent the tenant a rent increase letter a week later, the tenant seems to have a pretty strong case for landlord retaliation.

    Cases Where a Landlord Can Legally Recover Possession of a Unit in Hawaii

    In Hawaii, there are situations where a landlord can file to recover possession of the unit, even after a tenant’s complaint, without the action being considered retaliation.

    These situations include:

    • The tenant is using the unit for an illegal purpose, for a purpose not listed in the lease agreement, is a nuisance or is committing waste.


    • The landlord wants to occupy the unit themselves or wants to place an immediate family member into the unit.


    • The landlord is selling the property and/or the new owner wishes to occupy the unit.


    • The landlord wishes to substantially alter, remodel or demolish the unit.


    • After reviewing the tenant’s complaint to the department of health, no violation has been found at the property.


    • The complaint or violation was caused by the action or neglect of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household or a guest of the tenant.


    • The landlord gave notice to the tenant to terminate the tenancy before the tenant made the complaint.

    Cases Where a Landlord Can Legally Increase the Rent in Hawaii

    There are situations where a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent and it will not be considered retaliation, regardless of how close the rent increase occurs to a tenant’s complaint or other action.

    These situations include:

    • The landlord’s property taxes or other costs to operate the property have substantially increased. This increase must have occurred no more than four months prior to attempting to increase a tenant’s rent.


    • The issue the tenant was complaining about was caused by the tenant’s own action or neglect or the action of neglect of a member of the tenant’s family, rental unit or a guest of the tenant.


    • The landlord has proof that he or she is increasing the tenant’s rent so that it is on par with the rent amount that other tenants in the property pay for similar units.


    • The department of health has determined that the property did not have any health or safety violations.

    Tenant Remedies for Retaliation

    If a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs to the unit within one week after receiving written notice, the tenant can file to terminate the rental agreement. If a landlord has been found to have performed an act of retaliation, the tenant may recover actual damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

    Tenants whose landlords have cut off essential services could be awarded up to three times the monthly rent or $1,000, whichever is greater. Tenants who have been wrongfully removed from the premises overnight could receive up to two times the monthly rent.

    Hawaii’s Law on Landlord Retaliation

    If you would like to view the section of Hawaii’s landlord tenant law that discusses landlord retaliation, please see Hawaii Revised Statutes §§ 521-63, 521-74 and 521-74.5.