Landlord Tenant Q&A

CARL L. FRAZIER (R), PB
Owner, Principal Broker
Cornerstone Properties
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers and
National Conference Speaker

Q. I signed a lease with an owner and he told me that a friend of his would be his required on-island agent. He gave me the friend’s name and contact information. The washing machine stopped working and I called the friend to ask about getting it fixed. He said although he knows the owner, that he wasn’t helping him with the rental. I just deposit my rent directly into the landlord’s bank account. His phone number is no longer valid…what do I do?

A. This is a prime example why the law is written the way it is. The law, Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 521-43(f) states: Any owner or landlord who resides without the State or on another island from where the rental unit is located shall designate on the written rental agreement an agent residing on the same island where the unit is located to act in the owner’s or landlord’s behalf. In the case of an oral rental agreement, the information shall be supplied to the tenant, on demand, in a written statement.

Now that person does not have to be a licensed Realtor or Broker, it can be the “friend” as in the question. But I ask you, do you want your friend to pull your teeth? Or fix your car if he is not a mechanic? What is the purpose of having a designated agent if that person cannot do anything? The law clearly states, “…to act on the owner’s behalf.” Clearly this is not happening and the owner may be in violation of the law.

Well, in any case there is a remedy for you in the Landord Tenant Code. It’s a long chapter but it essentially says in HRS Chapter 521-64 c and d: (c) The landlord, upon written notification by the tenant of any defective condition on the premises which is in material noncompliance with section 521-42(a) or with the rental agreement, shall commence repairs of the condition within twelve business days of the notification with a good faith requirement that the repairs be completed as soon as possible; provided that if the landlord is unable to commence repairs within twelve business days for reasons beyond the landlord’s control the landlord shall inform the tenant of the reason for the delay and set a reasonable tentative date on which repairs will commence. In any case involving repairs, except those required due to misuse by the tenant, to electrical, plumbing, or other facilities, including major appliances provided by the landlord pursuant to the rental agreement, necessary to provide sanitary and habitable living conditions, the landlord shall commence repairs within three business days of receiving oral or written notification, with a good faith requirement that the repairs be completed as soon as possible; provided that if the landlord is unable to commence repairs within three business days for reasons beyond the landlord’s control the landlord shall inform the tenant of the reasons for the delay and set a reasonable tentative date on which repairs will commence.

Basically that means, write the landlord since you can’t call and tell him or her that you need to have the washer fixed and please send you his or her new contact info such as a phone number and e-mail. If they do not get back to you, get the washer fixed and take it out of the rent. Item (d) speaks to that: (d) If the landlord fails to perform in the manner specified in subsection (c), the tenant may immediately do or have done the necessary work in a competent manner and upon submission to the landlord of receipts amounting to at least the sums deducted, deduct from the tenant’s rent not more than $500 for the tenant’s actual expenditures for work done to correct the defective condition.

That’s a lot of humbug for sure, but it is the way the law works. I would also ask the friend if he has any contact info on the owner.

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Kimo Smigielski, Broker-in-Charge
R, ABR, CRS, GRI, e-PRO
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Ed Chong, (RA) e-PRO
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