Q. I got behind in my rent and my landlord gave me an eviction letter. Since receiving it, I paid up in full but my landlord still wants me out of the property for what seems like no reason to me now.
I have proof showing I paid, and I never had any other problems. Do I have the right to stay in the unit through my lease period or at least until I find another suitable home or can I still be evicted?
A. The landlord is authorized by statute (Haw. Rev. Stat 521-68(a)) to send a demand for the rent that is overdue by giving the tenant a written notice that specifies that the rent must be paid by a specific date (not less than five business days after receipt of the notice) or the rental agreement will be terminated.
If delivery is refused by the tenant then the owner can post the written notice “in a conspicuous place on the dwelling unit.”
If after receiving this demand letter you did not pay the full rent within the prescribed period of time (no less than five business days), the rental agreement can be terminated and the landlord is authorized to bring proceedings in court to recover possession of the dwelling.
Once the lease in breached by non-payment of rent, landlords are within their rights to go forward with an eviction – so long as proper notice and time frames are met.
They have no obligation to allow you to stay in the unit through the end of the lease period or until you can find a suitable replacement property. Not paying your rent on a timely basis opens you up to the possibility that the landlord will go for an eviction via the court process of summary judgment.
You also need to be careful because if a judgment comes down giving possession back to the landlord and you don’t vacate the property, you can be considered a holdover tenant. As a “holdover tenant,” a term that refers to a tenant who stays in the unit without the landlord’s permission, the tenant will owe “a sum not to exceed twice the monthly rent under the previous rental agreement, computed and prorated on a daily basis, for each day the tenant remains in possession.” If the tenant stays with the landlord’s permission, the tenant owes prorated rent for each day in the unit based on standard 30 day pro-ration.
Acceptance of partial rent during the court action does not change the situation and the landlord can continue with summary possession or action to recover the back rent. Even if back rent is paid, the landlord could still sue to recover the cost of any legal action taken.