Landlord Tenant Q&A

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

Here are some short questions for which I have provided concise answers. Whenever I refer to a lease I am referring to the Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Lease.

Q. Under what circumstances is a landlord not obligated to give a reason to vacate?

A. If a fixed lease is at its natural expiration or if you are providing 45 days notice on a month to month lease, as a landlord you do not have to provide a reason when giving a tenant notice to vacate. Just be sure your reason, even if unstated, is not discriminatory or in violation of Federal Fair Housing Laws.

Q. When you want to inspect the interior of a unit can you ask the tenant to move furniture and rugs to see the floors?

A. I could not find a law that directly addresses this question. While it is reasonable to look under a throw rug, I don’t believe it is reasonable to ask a tenant to move a heavy sofa, beds, dressers etc.

Q. Should I provide a receipt for rent paid by check?

A. The lease states that receipts will be given for cash received and for checks, if requested.

Q. If a landlord doesn’t refund or notify the tenant about their security deposit after 14 days, is the landlord responsible for twice the amount to be refunded?

A. No, a landlord can be liable for 3 times the amount of the deposit.

Q. If a landlord provides fire extinguishers in a home, are they liable if they do not work during a fire?

A. I suspect this would really be a question for a judge to answer. Keep in mind that as a landlord, if you provide items in the unit, you are responsible for their maintenance.

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. Just be sure to treat all people equally.

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. How much advance rent or pre-paid rent is allowable by law?

A. One month. A landlord cannot accept more than a month’s rent and a security deposit equal to one month’s rent for any reason.

Q. Can a tenant install window coverings without notifying the landlord?

A. It depends on the type of window covering and if it creates holes or damage to the unit. The lease states that “… Tenant will not bore or make any holes by drilling, nailing or fastening any item to the Unit through the use of nails, screws adhesives or like items without the Landlord’s prior written consent.” So if a tenant does violate this clause, they are in violation of their lease and you can provide 10 days notice to rectify the violation. If there is an existing curtain rod and they hang curtains, then I see nothing wrong with this as long as the color does not violate a House Rule. However, I think it is reasonable to expect that most tenants will want some type of window covering and unreasonable of the landlord to prohibit it.

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