Landlord / Tenant Q&A
During our annual NARPM-Oahu Chapter sponsored “Mom & Pop” Seminar in August, we held a question and answer session where members of the audience had an opportunity to ask questions of a panel of experts. We had over 250 in attendance and have selected a number of submitted questions that require only short answers to include in this week’s column.
Q. How much can I charge for an application fee?
A. At this point, you can charge whatever you want. However, I would advise you to charge a fair amount which would include whatever you pay to obtain information (the costs of credit reports produced from a consumer credit reporting agency) or pay someone else to gather that information. Based on consumer complaints, the legislature has tried to regulate application fees to include only the actual out-of-pocket costs to the landlord.
Q. Is a landlord required to pay to change a smoke detector battery or keep the smoke detectors in working order?
A. Yes and No. The landlord should make sure that there is at least one smoke detector in each unit and that it is working when the tenant moves in. But, tenants should be responsible while they are living in the unit to make
sure the smoke detectors are still working, and notify the landlord if they no
longer work. The landlord should instruct the tenants to change the batteries
at least yearly. The landlord should also check the smoke detectors to make sure that they are working when they do their regular walk-throughs of the unit. Many times, tenants either disconnect the batteries or just live with the beeping sound because they don’t know what to do. Some smoke detectors don’t need battery replacement and last 10 years, so consider changing to those.
Q. A family applies for my unit but participates in the Section 8 Housing program. Do I have to rent to them?
A. At this point, source of income is not a protected class, so you do not have to rent to Section 8 participants. This is another issue that has come before the State Legislature several times.
Q. My unit is in an AOAO. Does the AOAO need to have a no smoking policy or can I, as an individual landlord, institute a no smoking policy for my unit?
A. Many companies have contracts with credit reporting agencies to get those credit reports. But as an individual landlord, I would just ask the applicant to provide you with a recent (within the last 2 weeks) copy of their own credit report that they can get for free. You can look up criminal backgrounds at the Hawaii State Judiciary website at www.courts.state.hi.us and look under eCourt Kokua.