Landlord Tenant Q&A with LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R)

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

Q. I currently am on a month-to-month contract but a friend of mine told me that she always wants to be on a one year lease. It seems that it is so much more restrictive to sign for an entire year. Am I wrong in my thinking? Should I consider changing from month-to-month?

A. It really depends on what is going on in your life and where you think you will be in six months or a year. A fixed term contract is a contract for a specific period of time. Normally it is for six months, one year or some other fixed time frame. On a fixed term contract the rent does not increase for that period of time. The Rental Agreement provided by Hawaii Association of Realtors states: If a tenant is on a Fixed Rental Agreement, Landlord may not increase the rent prior to the ending date. This is one of the most important provisions of a fixed term. It allows the tenant to be able to budget for the rent, knowing that it will remain constant for that entire period.

The fixed term contract obligates both the landlord and the tenant to the conditions of the lease for that period of time. The landlord can’t change the terms of the contract without the specific agreement of the tenant. On the other side of the coin, the tenant is obligated to honor the terms of the contract as well. If the tenant wants to get out of the contract prior to the end of the term, then they will be considered to be breaking the lease. A landlord should have specific verbiage in the lease outlining what the tenant will be obligated to do in the event they want to break the lease. An example of such conditions could be that the tenant will give written notice of their intention to vacate the unit prior to the end of the contract, tenant will cooperate with showings of the unit to help in securing a new tenant, and tenant will be obligated to pay rent until the landlord is able to secure a new tenant for the property. The rental agreement is a binding contract so the tenant who breaks the lease is still obligated to pay the rent until the end of the lease term, or until a replacement tenant is found – whichever comes first.

On a month-to-month rental agreement, the terms of the contract can be changed with a 28 day notice from the tenant and a 45 day notice from the landlord. For example, to increase the rent, the landlord must give the tenant a 45 day written notice. If the tenant does not agree to this rent increase then they have the option of giving the landlord a 28 day notice to vacate the property.

Also, in terminating a month-to-month contract, similar time frames must be met. The Hawaii Association of Realtors Rental Agreement states: If a tenant is on a Month-to-Month rental agreement, tenant must give written notice at least twenty-eight (28) days in advance to terminate and tenant must pay rent for the 28 days. Landlord must give tenant written notice at least forty-five (45) days in advance to terminate. Tenant may move at any time during the last 45 days and shall notify landlord of tenant’s vacate date and pay a prorated rent for the time tenant occupies the unit. If the unit is to be demolished, converted to a condominium, or changed to a vacation rental, landlord must give tenant written notice at lease one-hundred-twenty (120) days in advance to terminate. Tenant may move at any time during the last 120 days and shall notify landlord of tenant’s vacate date and pay a prorated rent for the time tenant occupies the unit.

Your decision to change to a fixed term contract will be dependent on whether or not you plan to be in the same life circumstance in six months or a year. If you are relatively certain that your life will be consistent for that time frame, then you might want to consider the guarantees of a fixed term contract. If you have any uncertainties, then you may want to continue with your month-to-month contract since you can end it with a 28 day notice.

Q. I currently am on a month-to-month contract but a friend of mine told me that she always wants to be on a one year lease. It seems that it is so much more restrictive to sign for an entire year. Am I wrong in my thinking? Should I consider changing from month-to-month?

A. It really depends on what is going on in your life and where you think you will be in six months or a year. A fixed term contract is a contract for a specific period of time. Normally it is for six months, one year or some other fixed time frame. On a fixed term contract the rent does not increase for that period of time. The Rental Agreement provided by Hawaii Association of Realtors states: If a tenant is on a Fixed Rental Agreement, Landlord may not increase the rent prior to the ending date. This is one of the most important provisions of a fixed term. It allows the tenant to be able to budget for the rent, knowing that it will remain constant for that entire period.

The fixed term contract obligates both the landlord and the tenant to the conditions of the lease for that period of time. The landlord can’t change the terms of the contract without the specific agreement of the tenant. On the other side of the coin, the tenant is obligated to honor the terms of the contract as well. If the tenant wants to get out of the contract prior to the end of the term, then they will be considered to be breaking the lease. A landlord should have specific verbiage in the lease outlining what the tenant will be obligated to do in the event they want to break the lease. An example of such conditions could be that the tenant will give written notice of their intention to vacate the unit prior to the end of the contract, tenant will cooperate with showings of the unit to help in securing a new tenant, and tenant will be obligated to pay rent until the landlord is able to secure a new tenant for the property. The rental agreement is a binding contract so the tenant who breaks the lease is still obligated to pay the rent until the end of the lease term, or until a replacement tenant is found – whichever comes first.

On a month-to-month rental agreement, the terms of the contract can be changed with a 28 day notice from the tenant and a 45 day notice from the landlord. For example, to increase the rent, the landlord must give the tenant a 45 day written notice. If the tenant does not agree to this rent increase then they have the option of giving the landlord a 28 day notice to vacate the property.

Also, in terminating a month-to-month contract, similar time frames must be met. The Hawaii Association of Realtors Rental Agreement states: If a tenant is on a Month-to-Month rental agreement, tenant must give written notice at least twenty-eight (28) days in advance to terminate and tenant must pay rent for the 28 days. Landlord must give tenant written notice at least forty-five (45) days in advance to terminate. Tenant may move at any time during the last 45 days and shall notify landlord of tenant’s vacate date and pay a prorated rent for the time tenant occupies the unit. If the unit is to be demolished, converted to a condominium, or changed to a vacation rental, landlord must give tenant written notice at lease one-hundred-twenty (120) days in advance to terminate. Tenant may move at any time during the last 120 days and shall notify landlord of tenant’s vacate date and pay a prorated rent for the time tenant occupies the unit.

Your decision to change to a fixed term contract will be dependent on whether or not you plan to be in the same life circumstance in six months or a year. If you are relatively certain that your life will be consistent for that time frame, then you might want to consider the guarantees of a fixed term contract. If you have any uncertainties, then you may want to continue with your month-to-month contract since you can end it with a 28 day notice.

Locations Hawaii
Michael Marks
Sandwich Isles Realty
Kimo Smigielski, Broker-in-Charge
R, ABR, CRS, GRI, e-PRO
Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers
Emily Garcia
Agent, REALTOR(A), RS-77391
Coldwell Banker
DAY-LUM Properties

George Madden VII, RS-73958
Coldwell Banker
DAY-LUM Properties

Edith Crabb, RB-8195
Coldwell Banker
DAY-LUM Properties

Tessie Fontes, RS-74487
Kauai Landmark Realty
Phil Fudge, RB & Claire Keaton, RS
Coldwell Banker
DAY-LUM Properties

Howard Meguro, RB-71979