LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Profiles, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. I am a member of the armed forces and have been living on base. At this time the barracks are getting overcrowded with new members arriving to the Islands. We have been given notice that we need to move off base by the end of next month. I have two other service members who are in the same boat. We all want to share the rent for a single family home. We have been looking for a couple of weeks now and were told by one landlord that only “families” – people who are related – are considered because it is a single family home. Is this correct? It doesn’t seem right.
A. You may be dealing with a landlord who has moved to Hawaii from another state or is simply unfamiliar with local laws. The fact of the matter is that a large number of U.S. cities have single-family zoning ordinances that set a maximum for the number of unrelated people living in a house – generally ranging from 2 to 4 unrelated people. In Hawaii, City and County Ordinance 21 limits the number of “unrelated” occupants in a single family to five individuals. If a family occupies the unit, then it is limited to 3 unrelated individuals. Based on the information you provided, it appears you should be considered eligible to submit an application ‘to rent’ the home.
If you’re renting or looking for an apartment in Hawaii, you’re covered by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law, which protects tenants and prospective tenants alike from illegal housing discrimination. The term “protected class” refers to a group of people whom the law protects against illegal discrimination. A protected class is named for the characteristic that these people share, such as race or religion.
This federal law governing housing discrimination includes the following seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. In addition to these protected classes, Hawaii offers legal protection based on gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, ancestry, age (over the age of majority or emancipated minors) and HIV. Hawaii is one of a majority of states that has its own fair housing law.
There are certain actions which are prohibited on the basis of a “protected class” in the sale or rental of housing. These actions include but are not limited to: refusal to rent or sell housing, refusal to negotiate for housing, making housing unavailable, denying a dwelling, and setting different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling.
Landlords can avoid discriminatory treatment of tenants by creating a set of non-discriminatory procedures and following them consistently regardless of what class the tenant belongs to. They should have a checklist of items to go over with each caller and person who is shown a rental unit, including prior landlord, employment, personal references, and eviction record. Credit checks are also routinely done. Biases or any unrelated information should not affect the landlord’s decision.
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 166 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.