Landlord Tenant Q&A

LAURENE H. YOUNG, RMP, REALTOR
Lui & Young Realty, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I live in a 15 unit apartment building. I am 4 months into my 12 month lease. I want to move to another unit in the same building that just became available. The landlord wants to charge me a fee to move from one unit to another. Can he do that?

A. Fees are usually spelled out in your rental agreement. But, even if they aren’t, when a landlord tells you there will be a charge for you to move from one unit to another in the same building, you have a choice to either pay that fee or not move.

The Landlord-Tenant Code does not prohibit the charging of reasonable fees. Your lease does not end for 8 months and is specific to the unit you are currently renting. If you leave that unit, you are technically in violation of your lease. The landlord can accommodate your request to change to a “better” unit but has the right to charge you a fee for that request. The move would require additional work for the landlord including writing up a new lease, checking you out of the old unit, and checking you into the new unit. It would be unreasonable for you to expect that the landlord will do that for free. You would be required to clean the old unit and put it back to the same condition that it was in when you moved in, less normal wear and tear. The landlord would inspect the old unit for damages and charge you for anything that is your responsibility. In addition, since you probably couldn’t move out of one unit and into the other on the same day, you would probably have to pay an additional amount in rent.

Since we are on the subject of additional fees, there are other things the landlord may charge you for. If there is a change in roommates, you should let your landlord know as soon as possible and have a new lease drafted. The new lease would remove the old roommate and add the new roommate. If you are the old roommate, you should make sure this is done before you leave; otherwise you are still responsible for rent if the remaining roommates do not pay. In these types of situations, landlords will usually charge you a fee for drafting of a new lease.

Landlords might also charge a fee if you ask for references when you are looking for a new rental. It takes some time to research information such as your payment history and to fill out forms for you. Landlords may also charge late fees and fees for bounced checks, lost keys, and lock-outs. If they must travel to your location because you locked yourself out of your unit, they will charge you travel time.

If you vacate your unit before the end of the lease, you are responsible for the rent until the end of the lease period. The landlord has to make a good faith effort to find a new tenant but you are responsible for advertising costs and other fees the landlord may charge to re-rent the unit.

Landlords may also charge you a fee for extra keys. We provide 2 unit keys when the tenant moves in, and the tenant is allowed to make extra keys at their own expense. However, if the unit has special keys or fobs that cannot be duplicated, you will need the permission of the landlord to obtain those and may be charged a non-refundable fee. You still need to return the keys or fobs at the end of the lease.

Read your lease carefully to find out if there are other fees or fines you might have to pay. Landlords may charge you fines for lease violations, which may include noise violations or neglecting to maintain the unit.

Sandwich Isles Realty
Kimo Smigielski, Broker-in-Charge
R, ABR, CRS, GRI, e-PRO
List Sotheby’s International Realty
Keiko Kakiyama,
RA, GRI, ABR, SRS, RSPS, SFR
List Sotheby’s International Realty
Hatsumi Y. Campbell (RA)
Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers
Jennifer Lucien (RA)