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Landlord Tenant Q&A

lurline_johnsonQ. Like many property managers and landlords, I’ve decided it’s time to “go green” with my rental units. I plan to start by requiring that compact fluorescent bulbs only be used in the apartments. I intend to include an addendum in the lease indicating that the compact fluorescents are to be purchased at the tenant’s expense and to be used exclusively instead of incandescent bulbs. There will be no bulbs in the lighting fixtures when the new tenants move in. If I find that they are using incandescent bulbs, I would like to be able to purchase compact fluorescent bulbs and provide them indicating that their cost will be deducted from the deposit when they move out. Can I put this plan into effect legally through the terms of a signed lease?

A. Making the decision to “go green” is one that many owners are contemplating or implementing at this time. The improvements could include solar powered water heaters, energy efficient appliances, low flow toilets and fixtures, as well as the use of compact fluorescent bulbs. Normally these improvements are provided by the owner in an effort to promote conservation. The Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Form Rental Agreement requires the tenant to “maintain and properly use and operate all electrical, gas, plumbing, and other fixtures and appliances supplied. Tenant is responsible for ordinary maintenance including replacing light bulbs, air conditioning filters, batteries for smoke/heat/motion detectors, and other items. . .”

Expecting a tenant to move into a unit without any light bulbs in place is unreasonable and unsafe. The best way to address the issue is to set the standard by having the compact fluorescent bulbs already in the unit when the tenant takes occupancy. Then having an addendum to the rental lease which requires a tenant to replace any burnt out light bulbs with like kind shouldn’t be a problem unless for some reason they have sensitivity to that type of lighting. For example, someone with scotopic sensitivity syndrome could experience strain or fatigue while reading or working under fluorescent lighting. For this reason enforcing the rule that only compact fluorescent bulbs be used may be an issue for some tenants.

If you have established the requirement that burnt out bulbs need to be replaced with the compact fluorescent type, then when the tenant moves you can check for non-working or non-fluorescent bulbs and replace them – charging that cost to the security deposit.

Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A, a weekly feature, are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM).

NARPM is the only real estate organization dedicated exclusively to residential property management. Its stated mission is to support the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The organization is now represented in approximately 24 states and has a total membership of over 2,000.

The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 145 registered members.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http:// /areas/ocp/landlord_ tenant or contact your attorney.

Lurline R. Johnson
Property Profiles, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property

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