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landlord/tenant Q&A

LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Manager
Property Profi les, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. My rental is in an association and the board has been talking about no longer having cable service included in the maintenance fee. This has been a topic of much discussion in the complex and many of the residents are upset about the change. The notice just came out that in 60 days the current cable service through the association will end and each unit will need to contract on their own. I just renewed the lease for my tenant for another year and their contract included the basic cable service. Now that the association has made the decision to discontinue the service, can I just tell my tenant that he must pay for the basic cable himself?

A. There are a couple of things going on here.

First, you have a fixed term lease with your tenant indicating that basic cable service will be included. The fact that the association has discontinued the service doesn’t end your obligation to your tenant. Your lease is binding to both you and the tenant and you will need to honor the commitment to provide cable service. Your obligation will end at the end of the fixed term lease and you can notify your tenant that you won’t be paying for the cable service at the end of his contract. You should do so in writing.

If the tenant had been on a month to month contract, then you could have stopped the cable service with a 45-day notice. This goes for any change in the rental price of the unit or the terms of the contract. In a fixed term lease changes to price or terms can only be done at the end of the fixed term or with the consent and mutual agreement of the tenant.

Haw. Rev. Stat. 521-22 states that the landlord and tenant may agree in writing to any period as the term of the rental agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, the tenancy shall be month to month (or in the case of boarders, week to week).

The second part of this scenario would be if the change from the association wasn’t something you obligated yourself to in the lease. Let’s say for example that the board made changes to the house rules – for instance making a rule that from that smoking will no longer be allowed in the common areas. In this instance, the tenant would be obligated to abide by the new rules set forth from the association at whatever time frame they dictate.

If you are using the standard Hawaii Association of Realtors rental lease, then it is spelled out on page 3.

B2. Compliance with Rules. Tenant agrees to comply with all rules that apply to the Unit and to Tenants use of the Unit including, but not limited to: (a) by-laws, house rules, and other rules; (b) any federal state and county laws, and (c) any covenants, conditions and restrictions.

So unfortunately the timing of the change in cable service is not working to your advantage and your obligation to pay for the service stands. It would have been nice if you had advance notice of the association’s decision and could have modified your rental contract to accommodate the change. At this point you are stuck with the cost, but at least it will only be your obligation until the end of the rental term.

As a landlord it is always good to get involved with the board of the association or building. You would help lead the board in making decisions that will benefit the owners and renters of the association and you will have advanced notice of any changes in policy or plans for improvements. Just a thought.

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