The Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 521 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) allows for landlords and tenants to use the following types of written and oral rental agreements for residential rental property:
A written agreement may be for any length of time: Month-to-month, six-months, one-year or any other term. All promises and house rules should be written into the agreement. Anytime the landlord and tenant make any new agreements or changes to the existing agreement, the new information should be put into writing and signed by both parties.
An oral agreement normally creates a month-to-month tenancy. An oral agreement for a fixed term may not exceed one year in duration. While oral agreements are more easily reached, exact promises and details should not be neglected. Problems often arise when promises are made, but are not clearly spelled out. For example, if the tenant is responsible for yard work, such terms as the following should be clarified and agreed upon:
- Is watering the lawn once a week sufficient?
- Is the tenant required to trim the hedges?
- Who will provide the tools?
The landlord and tenant should agree on the following:
- The amount of rent; how, where and by when the rent is to be paid, and the penalty for late rent or returned checks.
- Any exchange of services which affects the amount of rent, except employment as unit manager or maintenance personnel. (Example: yard work for reduced rent).
- The term of the rental (weekly, monthly, or lease).
- If the landlord’s consent is required for the tenant to sublet the tenant’s dwelling unit or to assign the rental agreement to another.
- Any special provisions for individual tenants.
Terms of Rental Agreements
The landlord and tenant may agree in writing to any time period as the term of the rental agreement. In the absence of such agreement, the tenancy shall be month to month or, in the case of boarders, week to week.
Rent is usually paid on either a monthly or weekly basis. Normally, rent is paid on a monthly basis in a month-to-month tenancy and on a weekly basis in a week-to-week tenancy.
- In a month-to-month tenancy, rent may be increased by the landlord if written notice is given to the tenant at least 45 consecutive days before the effective date of the increase.
- For tenancies which are less than month-to-month a written notice must be given to the tenant at least 15 consecutive days prior to increasing rent.
- A landlord may not give a tenant a notice of termination for the purpose of evading the landlord’s obligations to provide the required period of notice for a rental increase.
Rental Property Inventory
Whether the rental agreement is written or oral, the landlord must, prior to occupancy, make a written inventory detailing the condition of the premises and furnishings (Section 42(a)). The inventory should be explicit and should include the cleanliness of the unit and each portion thereof. All details should be noted, no matter how minor, so that the actual condition is recorded. Duplicate copies of inventory and records shall be signed and retained by both landlord and tenant. If the landlord does not make this written inventory of the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances, the condition is presumed to be the same as when the tenant first moved in, unless the landlord can prove otherwise.
Basic Legal Requirements
The law requires:
- Both landlords and tenants act in good faith in the performance and enforcement of duties, rights or remedies. Section 10.
- Identification of each person authorized to manage the premises. Section 43(a)(1).
- Identification of each owner or person who is authorized to act as owner for service of process. Section 43(a)(2).
- That the tenant has the right to terminate a rental agreement at any time if he cannot move into the unit as promised. Section 61(a)(2).
- Both the landlord and tenant to comply with all applicable building and housing laws affecting health and safety. Section 51(1).
- If the unit is sold during the term of the lease, both the new owner and the tenant shall be bound by the terms of the agreement. Section 45(b).
See also Hawaii Landlord Security Deposit Laws.
Return to Hawaii Landlord-Tenant Laws.