The Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 521, is the governing law in Hawaii for the Landlord-Tenant relationship (and found in Hawaii Revised Statutes (H.R.S.) 521). H.R.S. 521-8 defines “Landlord” as “the owner, lessor, sublessor, assigns or successors in interest of the dwelling unit…”. H.R.S. 521-8. “Tenant” is “any person who occupies a dwelling unit for dwelling purposes under a rental agreement.” Id.
A landlord owes certain legal obligations to its tenant(s). First, the “landlord shall, at the beginning of the term, deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the tenant…” H.R.S. 521-41. Further legal obligations include the following:
(a) The landlord shall at all times during the tenancy:
(1) Comply with all applicable building and housing laws materially affecting health and safety;
(2) Keep common areas of a multi-dwelling unit premises in a clean and safe condition;
(3) Make all repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition;
(4) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, and other facilities and appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order and condition, subject to reasonable wear and tear;
(5) Except in the case of a single family residence, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of normal amounts of rubbish and garbage, and arrange for the frequent removal of such waste materials; and
(6) Except in the case of a single family residence, or where the building is not required by law to be equipped for the purpose, provide for the supplying of running water as reasonably required by the tenant.
Prior to the initial date of initial occupancy, the landlord shall inventory the premises and make a written record detailing the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided. Duplicate copies of this inventory shall be signed by the landlord and by the tenant and a copy given to each tenant. In an action arising under this section, the executed copy of the inventory shall be presumed to be correct. If the landlord fails to make such an inventory and written record, the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided, upon the termination of the tenancy shall be rebuttably presumed to be the same as when the tenant first occupied the premises.
H.R.S. 521-42 (emphasis added).
Moreover, “the landlord, upon written notification by the tenant of any defective condition on the premises…shall commence repairs of the condition within twelve business days of the notification with a good faith requirement that the repairs will be completed as soon as possible.” H.R.S. 521-64(c). If a landlord fails to commence such repairs, “the tenant may immediately do or have done the necessary work in a competent manner and upon submission to the landlord of receipts amounting to at least the sums deducted, deduct from the tenant’s rent no more that $500 for the tenant’s actual expenditures for work done to correct the defective condition.” H.R.S. 521-64(d).