Linda Starr is frustrated. She has been a landlord for 15 years, and is having trouble evicting a tenant.
She wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would get rid of the five business days that tenants must be given to pay their rent or remove their property after receiving an eviction notice.
Rep. Mark Hashem introduced House Bill 226 on her behalf, which would get rid of the requirement that landlords give tenants five days to pay delinquent rent once they’re notified of an eviction.
It was one of several measures that the House Housing Committee considered Tuesday.
“What I would prefer is we change the law so that the court is not involved,” Starr told lawmakers, explaining that hiring an attorney can cost as much as $300 per hour.
Stephen Levins from the state Office of Consumer Protection opposed the bill, contending that the current law is adequate.
“The good tenants and the bad tenants — everyone, even if they’re bad — is entitled to due process of law,” he testified.
After the hearing, Hashem said he doesn’t think the Legislature should eliminate the five-day notification window even though he introduced the bill.
But he still believes it’s important to change a requirement for landlords to store tenants’ property. Even though the storage is supposed to be charged to tenants, he doesn’t think that many renters actually return to claim their property, saddling landlords with the bill.
Hashem included a provision in House Bill 1009 that would allow landlords to restrict access to a property if a tenant doesn’t pay rent and has left the property or been evicted, and to dispose of a tenant’s property.
“It would save the landlords thousands of dollars,” Hashem said.
Levins opposed that measure as well, arguing that the current law is “consistent with the way we operate in Hawaii and in the U.S.”
“Someone shouldn’t have all their property taken away right away,” he told the committee.
Victor Geminiani, executive director at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, submitted written testimony against both proposals, arguing that they would “further tip the imbalance of justice against tenants” and “add significantly to the number of people who would face immediate homelessness.”
Hawaii has among the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation, and a severe shortage of affordable housing.
Levins voiced support for House Bill 223, to regulate the screening and application fees charged to prospective tenants and require landlords to provide a copy of a tenant’s credit report upon request.
He said the state’s landlord-tenant hotline receives many complaints that landlords charge exorbitant application fees that make it hard for people to find and afford housing.
Myoung Oh from the Hawaii Association of Realtors opposed the bill. He said that it would unfairly burden landlords with the cost of providing copies of credit reports.
Rep. Tom Brower, who chairs the Housing Committee, deferred the measures and said after the hearing that the group will probably vote on the bills on Thursday.
He’s not sure what he’s going to do with the proposals and hasn’t decided whether the problems even require legislative solutions.
Even if he does move them forward, Brower is not expecting them to pass this session. He said that he called a hearing for them because he wants to consider as many housing-related bills as possible.
“I don’t know what the solution is going to be,” he said. “All of (the bills heard Tuesday), I think, have merit but I don’t know what we’re going to move forward yet.”