The Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 521 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) provides the following laws for collecting and returning a security deposit regarding residential rental property:
Lawful Use of Security Deposit
A security deposit is money given by the tenant to the landlord for the following purposes:
- To remedy tenant defaults for damages, for failure to pay rent or for failure to return keys at termination of the rental agreement;
- To put the unit in as clean a condition at the end of the tenancy as it was at the start, except for normal wear and tear; or
- To compensate for damages by a tenant who wrongfully quits the dwelling unit.
Except as discussed below, the application of a security deposit to cover unpaid rent is a right of the landlord, not the tenant.
Amount of Security Deposit
The total amount of all deposits may not be in excess of one month’s rent. This includes the security deposit and any deposits for keys, pets, or anything else. The tenant may not use the deposit as payment for the last month’s rent unless the landlord agrees with the tenant in writing to such a use, and the tenant gives 45 days notice of vacating the premises. In any event, the landlord retains the right to have the tenant pay for damages caused by the tenant.
Retention of Security Deposit
If the landlord has lawful grounds to retain all or any portion of the security deposit, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing of the reasons for retention. Any costs, such as cleaning or specific repairs, must be itemized and copies of receipts included. If the repairs cannot be accomplished within the 14 days, estimates for the cleaning or repair services may be substituted.
The notice, and any portion of the security deposit remaining, after deductions, must be given to the tenant within 14 days after the termination of the rental agreement. In order to comply with this 14-day requirement, the landlord may mail the material to the tenant on or before the fourteenth day. The landlord should obtain acceptable proof of mailing from the Post Office. The landlord may also prove compliance with the 14-day requirement by other types of evidence, such as the tenant’s acknowledgment or the testimony of a witness.
If notice, including the return of any remaining security deposit, is not accomplished within 14 days, all of the security deposit shall be returned to the tenant.
When Rental Property is Sold
If the landlord sells or transfers the landlord’s interest in a dwelling before termination of a rental agreement, the new landlord shall, within 20 days, give written notice to the tenant of the amount credited as the security deposit. If the new landlord does not give written notice to the tenant, it will be assumed that the tenant has paid a security deposit equal to no less than one month’s rent at the time the tenant originally rented the unit.
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