Hawai`i’s New Rental Agreement and The Fine Print



Our state recently adopted a new rental agreement, effective May 2013, which adheres more closely to the Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act and clarifies a bunch of other things.  Previously, the Hawaii Association of Realtors-approved form was vague, allowing service members the latitude to interpret the language, resulting in a lot of landlords being left in the lurch.

The changes came about because our fiduciary duty as realtors is to those we represent, and usually in a rental situation, those parties are usually the property owners. Previously, however, JAG attorneys would not cite the law, and would instead call for the enforcement of the HAR document, allowing service members to be released from leases without a lot of fuss but with a lot of frustration for landlords.

Now, however, if you sign a lease in the state of Hawai`i and are a service member, you will have to provide the following:

  • written notice with a copy of official orders; oral notice is NOT sufficient. Deployment must be for longer than 90 days.
  • thirty days’ notice, which will take effect the month following the month the notice is given. For example, if you give notice on the 1st of July, you will be responsible for rent until the end of August.

As with all leases, the security deposit does not count as last month’s rent. Further, a clarification was also made regarding moving out in that all repairs and cleaning must be completed by inspection time; if they are not, the tenant will be charged rent until all work is completed. Another small change specifies that after a year’s lease, either party can give notice to terminate the rental agreement. Again, to protect all parties this should be in writing. Last, the agreement makes it standard that pets are not allowed in any rental agreement unless otherwise allowed in writing by the landlord.

As for a landlord, all properties MUST have an on-island representative acting on his/her behalf. It’s against the law, along with landlords who don’t have a short-term vacation license to vacation-rent their properties. A vacation rental is defined as any rental that lasts less than 60 days.

There’s also the statement just before the signature line on the lease which states (in a much more obvious place) that the rental agreement is a legal document, and that all tenants shall be jointly and severally (collectively and individually) responsible for the terms of the lease.