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Kokua Line: Does the CDC’s new eviction moratorium automatically apply to all tenants with overdue rent?

Question: I am still confused about whether the eviction ban is in force, for whom and for how long. Did the CDC trump Hawaii’s plan or not?

Answer: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new eviction moratorium does apply in all of Hawaii’s major counties, but that doesn’t mean it automatically protects everyone facing eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Besides living in an area with heightened COVID-19 transmission (as virtually all Hawaii residents do at this point), a tenant must be personally eligible, based on annual income (less than $99,000 for individuals) and why they aren’t paying their rent (job loss, extraordinary medical expenses, etc.). The tenant must fill out a form affirming their eligibility and give a copy to their landlord. The CDC order doesn’t protect otherwise eligible renters who fail to do so.

“For it to apply, the tenant has to act. That message is getting lost in the debate,” said Dan O’Meara, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii who specializes in housing. “Every tenant who has missed paying rent should consider the CDC declaration, regardless of the amount.”

Find links to the declaration form in English, Korean, Tagalog, traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and other languages at 808ne.ws/cdcev. You can also read the CDC’s order there.

The CDC’s action is being challenged in court by landlords and advocates for property rights. Assuming it stands, the moratorium is scheduled to expire Oct. 3, “but is subject to further extension, modification, or rescission based on public health circumstances,” according to the order.

To track COVID-19 transmission, go to the CDC’s website at 808ne.ws/tracker and select Hawaii and your county from the pulldown menu.

So, getting back to your question, yes, the CDC order trumps the lifting of Hawaii’s ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent, but only for tenants who are personally eligible and alert their landlords accordingly.

Meanwhile, the separate Hawaii moratorium, which had persisted since April 17, 2020, under Gov. David Ige’s COVID-19 emergency proclamations, expired Friday. Anticipating its demise, the Legislature approved and Ige signed into law changes in the landlord-tenant code that mandate mediation before eviction, regardless of the tenant’s income or why they aren’t paying their rent.

Nothing in the CDC’s order prevents tenants and landlords from moving forward with the process outlined by the state, if that is what the tenant and landlord prefer, or if the tenant is not eligible for the CDC’s protection. For more information about the state’s processes and resources, see mediatehawaii.org/semp and 808ne.ws/evres.

Q: Did they extend the driver’s licenses again? Mine expired Friday.

A: Yes. Under Gov. David Ige’s most recent COVID-19 emergency proclamation, issued Thursday, Hawaii driver’s licenses, instruction permits and state identification cards with expiration dates between March 16, 2020, and Oct. 3, 2021, are considered valid in Hawaii through Oct. 4, 2021.

Q: Can I renew my passport even if it doesn’t expire for a few more months? It’s taking so long to renew that I don’t want to take a chance.

A: Yes, in fact, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends “renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel, even if it still has a few months validity left on it.”

Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond your travel dates, which is another reason, besides the processing delays, to renew early. Find more information at travel.state.gov.

Mahalo

A big mahalo to Earl from Haleiwa. Unknown to us, you paid for our four meals at Shige’s Saimin on the afternoon of July 27. It was so generous of you and made our day. We heard that you pay for a bill each time you dine there. You’re a wonderful person. Your kindness and generosity were greatly appreciated. — Four grateful people


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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