WHAT'S THE LAW?
With no lease, new owner can evict you
: I have been living in my apartment for more than 20 years. When I first moved in, I signed a one-year lease, but the landlord and I never renewed it after that. I like it here and have never had any problems.
About one year ago the landlord I had been renting from sold the place, so now I have a new landlord. The new landlord gave me a letter saying that I need to move out in 45 days. In the letter she didn't say why she was terminating my lease, and I haven't done anything wrong. What can I do so that I can stay in my home?
Answer: From Legal Aid's housing attorneys, with assistance from paralegal Tatjana Johnson: Unfortunately, if your landlord wants to end your lease, she probably can for almost any reason, or no reason at all, by providing you with 45 days' advance written notice.
Unless your original lease says otherwise, when you remained in your apartment and continued paying rent for more than two months after expiration of your lease, your lease was converted to a "month-to-month" lease. Under a month-to-month lease there is no definite end date to your tenancy (compared with a "term lease," which ends on a specific date). The benefit for tenants is that the month-to-month tenancies are flexible. If you decide to move, you can end your lease by giving your landlord 28 days' advance written notice. But it is a two-way street; your landlord can end your lease by giving you 45 days' advance written notice. The only times that a landlord cannot end a month-to-month lease this way is if the termination is in retaliation for bringing up maintenance problems or if it is because the landlord is unlawfully discriminating against the tenant (for example, if the landlord no longer wants to rent to the tenant because the tenant has kids). If you do not move out, your landlord can take you to court to evict you. If she does, you will likely be responsible for court costs, attorneys' fees and "holdover rent," which is twice the monthly rent for the period you stayed in the apartment after your lease terminated.
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 email@example.com
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.