Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Gender housing law
in effect since July 11

Question: I have a question regarding the limitations on landlords to terminate leases without apparent cause. My partner and I lived in a rented house in Honolulu for four years.

In March, we received a notice to vacate within two months, later amended to three. We had been model tenants, paid rent on time, cared for the house and received glowing references from the landowner to prospective new landlords, as well as in writing to us.

Repeatedly, both orally and in writing, the stated reason for this eviction was so that "major renovations" were to be conducted, "requiring the house to be empty," and that these renovations were to enable the owner to "put it up for sale."

However, it turned out the renovations are NOT major, the house will NOT be sold and there was never ever any intention to sell it.

We were clearly deceived as to the motivation for this eviction. Why? Is there a provision in the law that makes it easier to claim renovation and sale as an excuse to evict a tenant and, if so, what remedies are available to us for abuse of such a provision?

It also came to mind that the ownership was concerned about the fair housing bill that had been passed around that time and felt that they wished to remove two males from this house before it got harder. In other words, "preemptive discrimination." Is there recourse along this line?

Answer: There may be recourse through the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, but it depends on when you were evicted.

The Legislature this year passed House Bill 1715, which added sexual orientation to the list of things that landlords cannot discriminate against in housing. The bill became law as Act 214 on July 11.

"It is unlawful to discriminate against someone in housing on the basis of sexual orientation, the same as it is on race, or familial status or ancestry or any of the other protected bases," explained William Hoshijo, executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

However, if your eviction took place before the law took effect, then sexual orientation "wouldn't be protected," he said. "It's not retroactive."

If you were evicted today and suspected your landlord was biased against same-sex couples, you can contact the commission and ask that it investigate your complaint as a potential violation of the law, Hoshijo said.

You can contact the commission by calling 586-8636 or e-mailing info@hicrc.org. You can also find out about the commission on its Web site, hawaii.gov/labor/hcrc/.

Meanwhile, we also checked with the state Office of Consumer Protection, which oversees the state's Landlord-Tenant Code.

We were told that, if the proper notices were given, a landlord does not have to provide a reason for terminating a tenant's lease. If the lease ended, no notice is required unless the contract has a special provision.

For month-to-month tenancy, the landlord is only required to give a minimum 45-day termination notice.

An exception is if the landlord evicted you out of retaliation. For example, you requested repairs or complained to a government agency and the landlord decided he didn't like that. However, consumer protection officials said there are "numerous defenses to a retaliatory eviction."

They said the Civil Rights Commission would be the more appropriate agency to investigate a complaint like yours.

Act 214

Act 214, which took effect on July 11, prohibits discriminatory practices in real property transactions (housing) on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The law notes that "employment is one of the few areas in which discrimination because of sexual orientation is prohibited. Just as a person should not be denied a job because of the person's sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual), a person should not be denied a home because of the person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression."

A "narrow exception" is provided for housing at religiously affiliated institutions of higher education.


To the staff at the Hawaii Kai Satellite City Hall. I was dreading the process of renewing my driver's license, but was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency and good-natured service I received when I went there on a Saturday morning, Aug. 20. Though there were about eight people in line ahead of me, the workers took care of business quickly and politely. The woman who handled my renewal was nice enough to reshoot my photo when the first picture turned out unflattering. She even let my comb my messy hair. In about 15 minutes, I had my new license in hand, no sweat involved at all. -- Anonymous


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