Hawaii residential renters received some additional assurances that they won’t be forcibly removed from their homes under a new coronavirus-related supplementary emergency proclamation signed by Gov. David Ige on Friday.
The order imposes a moratorium that prohibits a landlord from evicting tenants for failing to pay rent, lease or “other related charge.”
According to the section of Hawaii Revised Statutes being suspended by the proclamation, that would mean a stop to evictions not just against those who can’t pay their base rent but are delinquent on maintenance fees, utility charges, taxes or other fees required by the rental agreement or lease.
Failure to comply with any of the proclamation orders could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
“The economic and social impacts of this pandemic have been dramatic,” Ige said at a press conference. “Hawaii went from one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation to now having the highest with 37% unemployed. With no paychecks coming in, families all across the state are worried about how to pay your rent or mortgage or provide for the basic needs of your family.”
The closure of the state Judiciary courthouses in late March, in effect, already suspended eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders. The state Sheriff’s Division already suspended its involvement in eviction actions effective March 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The proclamation imposes the eviction moratorium through April 30.
“We are looking at extending those mandates and looking at what would occur in the month of May,” Ige said.
State Attorney General Clare Connors told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 that she believes the moratorium would include a suspension of eviction proceedings already underway, but that she wanted to look at the issue further with her deputies.
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, D-Kalihi Valley-Moanalua- Halawa, said she’s been told some landlords are trying to offset any break on rents by jacking up the cost of parking stall fees.
Sen. Michelle Kidani, D-Mililani-Waikele-Kunia, noted that failure on the part of tenants to pay rent also may result in landlords not being able to pay their own mortgages.
Catherine Awakuni Colon, director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said banks appear to be helping landlords in that situation.
She urged those with questions on the landlord-tenant issue to check the DCCA website at cca.hawaii.gov.