(BIVN) – The eviction moratorium in Hawaiʻi will soon be lifted.
Governor David Ige held a news conference on Thursday, where he announced that he has formally notified the Hawai‘i State Legislature and Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald that “he will not be issuing any further eviction moratoria once the current moratorium expires on Aug. 6.”
The eviction moratorium has been in place since April 17, 2020. “At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic caused travel around the world to come to a halt,” said Gov. Ige. “Hundreds of thousands of Hawai‘i residents who depend on the visitor industry for their livelihood were out of work, and I issued the first moratorium to prevent mass evictions. The pandemic is not yet over, but thanks to safe and effective vaccines, many residents are now back at work.”
The State says federal funds are available for Emergency Rent Assistance. “Renters and landlords are encouraged to seek and accept the rental assistance relief being distributed in each county,” a news release stated. “For residents who may not have been able to catch up on their rent payments, the state, counties, Legislature, Judiciary, and service providers are working together to keep people in their homes after the eviction moratorium expires.”
State officials also pointed to Act 57, passed by the Hawaiʻi Legislature this year, which “significantly changes the landlord-tenant code and incentivizes mediation for both renters and landlords”, accordong to the State:
- Renters have more time to seek assistance and to work out agreements to avoid eviction;
- Renters have right to mediation; and
- Initially, the Courts can consider Summary Possession cases for those owing four months of back rent or more.
From the State of Hawaiʻi:
“The Judiciary has been working since last year with agencies and community partners across the state to prepare for the expected increase in eviction case filings once the moratorium is lifted,” said Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “We are grateful to those partners for their efforts. I also want to thank Governor Ige and the Legislature, especially Representatives Troy Hashimoto and Nadine Nakamura, for working collaboratively to enact legislation to help tenants and landlords resolve their disputes during these unprecedented times.”
“We passed legislation this year to support the thousands who may become homeless once the eviction moratorium is lifted. Act 57 gives time for landlords and tenants to work together on a payment plan before the moratorium ends on August 6. Through mediation, a payment plan can be negotiated so landlords can begin getting the back rent owed and tenants can remain in their homes. This is a great opportunity for our community to come together to help each other,” said Sen. Sharon Moriwaki.
“Lawmakers knew the importance of creating an offramp as the eviction moratorium comes to an end. The last thing we want to see is families and individuals suffering economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic becoming homeless. HB1376 will provide a fair and balanced procedure for landlords and tenants to seek rental assistance, mediation, and negotiate a resolution before resorting to an eviction filing,” said Representative Troy N. Hashimoto, the primary introducer of the bill.
“Act 57 creates a terrific process in which landlords and tenants can work with a neutral third party to resolve their differences. The best-case scenario is to keep tenants in their units. The new law also helps prevent the Judiciary from being overwhelmed with cases. The Office of Consumer Protection can provide information to both landlords and tenants,” said Stephen H. Levins, executive director, Office of Consumer Protection.
“Mediation provides landlords and tenants with a chance to negotiate creative agreements that meet the needs of the landlord to be paid, and the needs of the tenant to remain housed. Mediation is not part of the legal system, and landlords and tenants craft their own agreements that work for them. We hope our residents take advantage of our services,” said Tracey Wiltgen, executive director, The Mediation Center of the Pacific, Inc.
“As we recover, we knew this day would eventually come. We thank the Governor, state Legislature, and our community partners for helping to ease the transition for both landlords and tenants. With the recent adoption of Act 57, mediation is now a necessary step before eviction. We want our residents to know that there is still time, and resources are available. We continue to accept applications for Kaua‘i’s Coronavirus Rental and Utility Assistance program where eligible applicants may receive up to $4,500 per month for rent and no cap per month for qualifying utilities. Please consider these resources, know your rights, and seek assistance if needed,” said Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami, Kaua‘i County.
The state urges renters to:
- RESPOND to the mediation center when they contact you.
- APPLY for rental assistance.
- CALL for help with legal assistance if you need it, to make sure you know your rights.
A resource for financial assistance for residents in Hawaiʻi County can be found at HawaiiCountyERAP.org.