Catherine M. Matthews (R), GRI

Catherine M. Matthews (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter National Association of Residential Property Managers

During our NARPM-sponsored seminar in August, there were lots of good questions for our speakers. I have listed below several submitted questions that have short answers. As always, whenever referring to a lease, I refer to the Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Lease. – Cathy Matthews

Q. I realize there is a new law about pet deposits and a landlord can charge one month’s rent for a deposit. What about if you allow multiple pets -can you charge more than one deposit?

A. No, you can charge only one deposit no matter how many pets there are. The pet deposit can be no more than one month’s rent, but it can be less. The deposit must be used only for violation of the lease or your pet addendum as it pertains to the pet and not for other reasons. Be sure to include a pet addendum when you rent to pet owners. The Hawaiian Humane Society has a good one available for public use on their website.

Q. If a landlord forgets to check that a utility needs to be paid by the tenant on the lease but advertised that the tenant pays all utilities, can the landlord force the tenant to pay the utility?

A. No…not until you sign a new lease.

Q. I rent to a really large multi-generational family. When they moved in they assured me they were quiet and respectful. Now I am getting complaints from neighbors that they are loud, park so many vehicles on the street no one else has space to park or have guests, and they cook really smelly food that annoys them. They do not have a fixed lease. They are on a month-to-month, but I do not want them to get angry with me. Hogging a public street in a neighborhood may be rude to the neighbors but I do not know of any rules against that if they are parking within City guidelines; I honestly can’t say that I know of any rules against smelly food either. The fact that they are a multi-generational family is of no consequence and does not matter. What does matter is that they are on a month-to-month lease.

A. You can provide them a minimum 45-day’s notice and you do not need a reason. You don’t have to list the neighbors’ complaints. If they ask why, you can say that you just don’t want to rent the house out any longer, or say there are personal reasons or say nothing. In a situation like this that you feel may be touchy, I would suggest you do not show the place to prospective new tenants until they move and the place is cleaned. This may lead to an easier break of the tenancy. Keep in mind that the tenant may leave at any time during the 45 days and owe for only the period of time they occupied the house.

Q. Can a landlord require a tenant to have Renter’s Insurance or only make the recommendation?

A. I see nothing in the Landlord Tenant Code prohibiting a landlord from requiring insurance. It is important for tenants to understand that, if anything happens to their personal property while renting, the owner’s insurance does not cover it at all. Just be sure to treat all people equally.

Q. When do you collect first month’s rent and security deposit?

A. This is a business decision, and the answer varies from company to company and person to person. I would strongly suggest you obtain both items prior to giving the tenant the keys. It is a good practice to collect, at a minimum, the first full month’s rent when signing the lease (which is routinely done in advance of moving in). If a tenant changes their mind after signing the lease and does not move in, HRS 521-70e states in part that you may keep the lesser of: 1) All monies deposited with the landlord, 2) One month’s rent as agreed upon in the rental agreement, 3) All rent accrued from the agreed upon date for commencement of tenancy until the unit is re-rented at fair rental value.

Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 237 registered members.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/landlord_tenant or contact an attorney.

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