Hawaii Eviction Process
October 23, 2023
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Eviction In Hawaii
If you own and rent properties in the state of Hawaii, you are responsible for complying with Hawaii eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s eviction laws can be found at HRS § 666-1 to 666-41.
Eviction Process in Hawaii
- Landlord serves a zero- to ten-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Tenant files an answer.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant moves out or sheriff arrives to forcibly remove them.
In Hawaii, summary possession action, or legal procedures to evict a tenant, can begin when the tenant fails to pay rent, breaks a lease term, fails to fulfill their obligations to maintain the unit as per Hawaii law, breaks a housing or building law that endangers health and safety, or uses the rental unit unlawfully.
It’s important to note that landlords may collect rent during the Hawaii eviction process and ongoing litigation without forfeiting their right to evict the tenant for the named breach (HRS § 666-5).
1. Landlord Serves a Zero- to Ten-Day Eviction Notice
Eviction in Hawaii always begins with a Hawaii eviction notice. If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve a Hawaii eviction notice and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are three possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Hawaii:
- Rent Demand Notice: 5 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than five days after receipt of the notice) (HRS § 521-68(a)).
- Lease Violation Notice: 10 days to cure or quit. If a tenant violates a lease term, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the breach and what is required to remedy it, as well as the date on which the lease will terminate if the tenant does not cure the breach (not less than ten days after receipt of the notice). This notice applies when the tenant:
- Fails to maintain the unit as per HRS § 521-51 (In this case, the landlord may remedy the tenant’s failure to comply by billing them for the cost of repairs, cleaning, etc.).
- Breaks a housing or building law materially affecting health and safety.
- Uses the rental unit unlawfully.
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: Immediate. This notice gives no opportunity to “cure” the violation and applies if the tenant causes or threatens to cause irremediable damage to any person or property on the leased premises as per HRS § 521-69(a).
For all evictions, the landlord may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit and civil information sheet with the Hawaii District Court of the circuit where the property is located (HRS § 666-6). Note that each island has their own complaint and court forms. On O’ahu, for instance, landlords must file this Complaint (Assumpsit, Summary Possession/Landlord-Tenant, Damages) form. Complaint forms for the other islands can be downloaded here.
The complaint includes:
- The name of the court division and civil case number
- Both parties’ names and information
- The address of the rental unit
- The type of rental agreement for the premises (written, oral, expired written, or month-to-month agreement)
- A description of the tenant’s lease violation (e.g., amount of unpaid rent or other violation)
- The date the landlord gave written notice to the tenant to correct the situation, and the type of notice given (e.g., 5-day non-payment, 10-day non-monetary default, etc.)
- The type of judgment the landlord is requesting (e.g., judgment of possession, Writ of Possession, monetary judgment)
- The landlord’s and clerk of court’s signature
The landlord must attach a copy of the written rental agreement (if one exists) and the eviction notice to the complaint. They will also need to pay a filing fee of $155.
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
The next step in the Hawaii eviction process is serving the summons. After the landlord files a claim, the clerk of the court where the landlord filed will issue a Summons form, which the landlord should give to an authorized process server with a copy of the complaint (here is the Summons form used on O’ahu). The process server, typically the sheriff, the sheriff’s deputy, the chief of police, or the chief’s authorized subordinate, will then deliver the summons and complaint to the tenant.
The summons includes the following information:
- The names of the court, the landlord (plaintiff), and the tenant (defendant)
- The date when the summons was issued
- The name and address of the landlord’s attorney (or the landlord’s address, if they do not have an attorney)
- The day and time of the court hearing, where the tenant must appear to defend
- A warning that if the tenant fails to attend the hearing, a default judgment will be awarded to the landlord
- A statement that the summons cannot be personally delivered between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless the judge of the court permits it in writing on the summons
- The clerk’s signature under the seal of the court
The summons and complaint may be personally delivered to any person residing at the unit older than 18 years of age or posted at the rental unit (Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4). A certified copy of the complaint and summons should also be mailed by registered mail, prepaid postage, to the tenant, unless it can be proven to the court that the tenant’s mailing address is unknown and can’t be found (HRS § 666-8).
If the sheriff serves the summons, the landlord will be required to pay a fee of either $43 or $50 per hour.
4. Tenant Files an Answer
After the summons has been issued, the court will determine a return day by which the tenant must either file an answer or appear in court. The summons is returnable within whatever time the court decides, at least five days after the summons is served (if service was made in the circuit where the action was started) or seven days (if service was made in another circuit). However, the tenant is not required to file a written pleading or counterclaim (HRS § 666-9; Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12).
5. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment. If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the district court will issue a writ of possession any time after the judgment (Hawaii law does not state how quickly it must be issued). The tenant may still appeal the decision, even after the writ is issued (HRS § 666-11).
If the issue is nonpayment, the tenant can also stay (delay) the writ of possession at this time by paying the rent due with interest at 8% a year, plus all other court costs, expenses, and reasonable attorney’s fees of the landlord (HRS § 666-14). Tenants should contact the court to learn how to file a stay of eviction.
6. Tenant Moves Out or Sheriff Arrives to Forcibly Remove Them
After the writ has been issued, the landlord can take it to the sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, or independent civil process server to have it executed. The cost to have the sheriff serve and execute the writ is $40 or $50 per hour.
The sheriff or process server will serve the writ to the tenant and inform them that they will be forcibly removed if they do not move out within a certain period. Hawaii law does not designate a specific time the tenant has to move out after the writ has been posted, but tenants are generally given 24 hours to a few days (HRS § 666-11).
Evicting a Squatter in Hawaii
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Hawaii, there are two conditions squatters must satisfy to invoke Hawaii squatters rights and claim right of possession: they must have lived in the property for 20 consecutive years, and the property must not be more than five acres (HRS § 657-31.5). Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Hawaii to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Hawaii, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Hawaii eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Hawaii Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in Hawaii, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Service of court summons||$43|
|Service of writ of possession||$40|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
Hawaii Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows the Hawaii eviction process timeline with an estimate of the duration of each part of the eviction process. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||0 to 10 days|
|Tenant response period||At least 5 to 7 days|
|Issuance / service of writ of restitution||Varies|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||Varies|
- Complaint (Assumpsit, Summary Possession/Landlord-Tenant, Damages)
- Hawaii District Court Rules of Civil Procedure – This document includes the specific rules of civil procedure and court policies in Hawaii.
- Hawaii District Court Filing Fees and Costs – This document lists the various court costs and fees for eviction in Hawaii District court. For more information about court costs, see this document as well.
- Handbook for the Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Code – A useful guide to the landlord-tenant laws in Hawaii.
- Hawai’i State Judiciary Landlord Tenant Forms—This page includes links to various landlord-tenant forms that may be needed in court. Note that each island uses a separate set of forms.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Hawaii laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.