Landlord Tenant Q&A: CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI – Hawaii Real Estate – A complete listing of Hawaii Homes on Oahu Honolulu
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Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Frequently asked questions…and our answers.

Q. When renting a fully furnished unit is there a way to get more protection for your furnishings? A. I am not aware of insurance or other protection of that nature that would cover damage to furnishings, unless it is a covered peril in your insurance policy, for example, fire. You can charge more for rent for a furnished unit than a non-furnished unit to cover the wear and tear to your furnishings.

Q. When do you collect first month’s rent and security deposit? A. This question is a business decision and the answer varies from company to company and person to person. I would strongly suggest you obtain both items prior to giving the tenant the keys. It is a good practice to collect at a minimum the first full month’s rent when signing the lease (which is routinely done in advance of moving in). If a tenant changes their mind after signing the lease and does not move in, HRS 521-70e states in part that you may keep the lesser of 1) All monies deposited with the Landlord 2) One month’s rent as agreed upon in the rental agreement 3) All rent accrued from the agreed upon date for commencement of tenancy until the unit is re-rented at fair rental value.

Q. If the tenant is on a term lease with the rent being paid by a charity program for the term of the lease, is it acceptable to collect extra each month to be applied toward the next term lease as long as you keep it in a client trust account? A. No, not if it is your client trust account. You cannot collect more than a security deposit and one month’s rent at a time for any reason. The tenant could set up a separate account for this purpose, but not you.

Q. How do you prove that the tenant didn’t pay rent when they say they did? A. Generally, the burden to prove payment is on the tenant. Disputes arise most commonly about receipt of cash. As a practice, you should be consistent in giving out receipts for all cash paid. Use a numbered receipt book and always give a dated receipt, so if you go to court a judge can see that you follow a pattern. Keep good records.

Q. I pay water and sewer fees for my tenant as they are not separately metered between my home and my rental property. With the costs rising, can I charge a fee for more people in the unit even if they are children? A. As long as the costs are reasonable, it is in the lease, and you are completely consistent, you may add a fee for water usage. You can advertise, for example, that rent is $1,000 per month, plus $10 per person for water usage. The key is consistency and treating everyone fairly and equally.

Q. Can I decline a tenant because I don’t like the way he looks? Too many tattoos and piercings make me nervous. A. Piercings and tattoos are not a protected class under Federal or State Fair Housing regulations. However, I would suggest that you follow a written guideline for accepting applicants, even if you only have one rental property. The guideline should include requirements regarding credit worthiness, stable employment, excellent past rental history, and may include a criminal background check and personal references. If a person meets your criteria in all other areas, I would not support denying them a rental based on looks.

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