As reported by the Associated Press and Honolulu Star-Advertiser today, June 28th, the federal freeze on most evictions is set to expire July 31st.
Tenant advocates are agitating for extensions to the deadline due to the slow distribution of relief funds from the American Rescue Plan, warning that a spike in evictions and lawsuits could leave tens of thousands of American families without a roof over their heads.
Using U.S. census data as of June 7th, 3.2 million people report being close to eviction nationwide.
In Hawaiʻi, Star-Advertiser reports that Hawaiʻi’s moratorium lasts through August 6th, giving local renters more time to catch up.
Governor Ige backed and signed legislation encouraging landlords and tenants to mediate disputes as a way to prevent evictions this past Monday. It’s meant to stop a torrent of legal disputes flooding local courts when the moratorium expires.
The law requires landlords to notify a mediation center when attempting to terminate a rental agreement instead of going directly to court. It further delays the process of eviction by extending the time at which the landlord may repossess their property. A mediator will then negotiate rent reductions and plans to repay as well as help tenants receive rental assistance money.
What renters can do:
- Stay in touch with your landlord, whether you’re getting along or not. If you’ve made application for rent relief and are awaiting a determination, forward copies of your application and correspondence to your landlord showing that you are trying to resolve the unpaid balance. Good faith efforts may mean the difference between a disgruntled landlord and a cooperative one, and your ability to prove those good faith efforts will help the eviction mediator do the best job possible for both parties.
- Don’t give your landlord a reason to evict you for other reasons: clean up the yard, tidy the lanai, don’t make excessive noise, don’t use illicit drugs on the property. When you take care of the property, the landlord is appreciative. It matters to them that tenants are, regardless of financial situation, invested in a safe and well-kept dwelling.
- Know your renter’s rights under the new Hawaiʻi law. Take advantage of information and contacts available to you – start by reading the brochure at https://www.courts.state.hi.us/special_projects/stae, published by the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary under their STAE (Steps to Avoid Eviction) initiative. There are different brochures outlining steps for each island.
- Understand that the final ruling of mediators is exactly like the final ruling of a court judge. Should you find yourself in mediation, you may be acting as your own “attorney” of sorts. It’s important to have documentation to back your claims – keep records of all your interactions with your landlord and take them with you. Be polite, factual and organized. Think of your records as evidence to support your attempts to work things out with your landlord.
- Should you decide you need help with the process, you can call your attorney for advice or contact Legal Aid Hawaiʻi to ask about the process. You may find that phone call or email invaluable as you prepare for mediation.
Although Hawaiʻi Events Coalition are not attorneys, we can answer some questions you may have, too. Members may contact us with questions and we’ll get back to you with answers within 24 hours. If you’re not already a member, join us!
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This article taken in part from Associated Press via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Subscription required to read the full article here.