Hawaii’s eviction moratorium will be lifted Aug. 6, and renters who owe back payments are being urged to work out a plan or seek out additional resources.
“The eviction moratorium has been in place since April of last year,” Gov. David Ige said, at a news conference Thursday. “The pandemic is not over, but thanks to safe and effective vaccines many more people are back at work. We do know that we need to get back to normal.”
The moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent.
It was aimed at preventing mass evictions during the height of the pandemic, when hundreds of thousands in Hawaii were out of work. Lifting the moratorium is seen as part of a broader transition away from statewide emergency proclamations related to the pandemic.
But government officials and service providers agreed there is widespread concern about the prospect of a significant increase in evictions when the moratorium is lifted.
“We are afraid of the onslaught in the courts with eviction proceedings and also most importantly people out on the streets,” said state Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, a member of the Housing Committee.
Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center of the Pacific, said there are an estimated 10,000 tenants behind in their rent in the islands.
Most owe one to two months of back rent.
She said the Mediation Center is preparing to serve hundreds to thousands of landlords and tenants.
Ige urged both landlords and renters to do their homework on new and significant changes to the state’s landlord-tenant code, including a law that creates a free mediation process.
He acknowledged that the state doesn’t have “perfect information” about how many tenants are behind in rent. “I think all of us are very much concerned about what the impact will be when the moratorium is lifted. We don’t know what the true numbers … are,” he said.
He added: “Until we end the moratorium, there really is no way for us to find out. Hopefully, we can mitigate mass evictions.”
Under the new law that sets up a free mediation process, a tenant must be at least four months behind in rent to qualify for a 30-day pause from the notice of eviction to the mediation process. It’s hoped this will keep people out of the courts and inspire compromise between landlords and tenants.
“We want to create a situation in which those tenants who owe money to the landlord can go to a neutral body to see if it can be worked out,” said Stephen Levins of the Office of Consumer Protection.
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