Eviction up to landlord, not co-tenant
Question: What can I do to remove a person from my property and household?
He's been living here for the last 20 years and did not contribute to my household. When I called the police, I was advised they could do nothing about it -- that only the owner can kick him out and enforce that right.
What do I need to do to legally get him out of my house?
Answer: According to John Unruh, Legal Aid Americorps housing attorney, one cannot resort to "self-help" to remove a roommate or tenant from one's rental unit (e.g., changing the locks or shutting off the utilities).
The landlord or sublessor needs to file an eviction proceeding in District Court to remove someone from the unit. If this person owes you money pursuant to an oral or written contract, you can file a lawsuit in District Court; however, a statute of limitation will limit the years you will be able to collect for. If the amount is equal to or less than $3,500, you can file in Small Claims Court. It's difficult to know for sure what your options are without more details. You can call the Legal Aid intake line, at 536-4302, for more assistance.
Q: My landlord lives downstairs and his family is really loud, which disturbs me and my family.
I've asked him politely to be considerate, but he won't change his ways. I don't think it's fair I have to pay rent to live in these conditions. Can I stop paying my rent until he stops making noise?
A: According to Mike Callahan, Legal Aid housing attorney, there are few instances in which you may withhold rent. It's always best to pay your rent, as it puts you in a better position to address your concerns. If you don't pay your rent, your landlord can file an eviction action against you. While you might be able to assert a defense, the risk is too high. There are better, safer ways to enforce your rights as a tenant. You can call our intake line for more information or visit our Center for Equal Justice.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.