Landlord / Tenant Q&A
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 land- lord that has moved to Hawaii fro another state or is simply unfamiliar with local laws. The fact of the matter is that a large number of US cities have single-family zoning ordinancesthat set a maximum number of unrelated people from 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 in- formation 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 fed- eral 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 lim- ited 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 follow them consistently re- gardless of what class the tenant belongs to. Have a checklist of items to go over with each caller and person who is shown a rental unit. Check prior landlord, employment and personal references and eviction record. Do credit checks. Review the application thoroughly for missing and inaccurate information. Follow these criteria and do not allow biases or any unrelated information to affect your decision.