Attorney explains loophole in tenant, landlord lease agreement under Hawaii emergency proclamation

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s eviction moratorium has been extended until Tuesday, June 8. It stops landlords from evicting tenants who can not pay their rent.

One expert explains there is what he calls a “loophole” that goes beyond the moratorium.

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KHON2 was told the moratorium only deals with non-payment of rent, but there are restrictions regarding lease agreements under the emergency proclamation.

“If somebody is on a month-to-month lease, it’s prohibited to evict somebody on a month-to-month lease,” said Dan O’Meara, Managing Attorney Housing and Consumer Unit from Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.

This applies to residents who pay their rent or not. O’Meara says there are two exceptions; A landlord could ask a tenant to leave if the property is under new ownership and they do not want tenants, or if immediate family members of the landlord want to move in.

“I would call those loopholes, right, and you see landlords trying to do the loophole. We’ve seen landlords who say their immediate family is moving back in but then when you look at the property, it’s owned by a corporation. Well, corporation doesn’t really have a family,” O’Meara said.

O’Meara tells KHON2 they try to help tenants who reach out to them.

“If it’s something that we think violates the proclamation, we will engage with the landlord and say you really can’t do that because that’s a violation, you can be fined and all sorts of things right,” said O’Meara. “I’ve personally written probably 30 to 40 letters to landlords on this.”

Sometimes it may not be the landlords trying to find loopholes.

“Tenants are no different than landlords, they look for loopholes too. Sometimes they’re, know they can’t be evicted for not paying so they’re using that loophole and that adds all this tension between landlords and tenants,” he said.

So what happens when a lease actually ends? O’Meara says the landlord does not have to keep the lease going.

“So if it’s done correctly, those landlords can evict a person whose term lease has ended, regardless of whether they paid or not paid. So that is that’s a possibility.”

The state runs a Landlord Tenant Information Center on weekdays. Folks can call 808-586-2634. The line is open from 8:00 a.m. through noon, Monday through Friday, except State holidays. Click here for more information.

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