HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor’s decision to extend the eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent through July 31 is a relief for tenants.
But it’s putting some landlords in a bind.
“It pains people, especially if they’re used to paying their rent," said Dan O’Meara, of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, "Landlords are used to paying their mortgages and so they’re feeling boxed in, too.”
O’Meara said evictions are the no. 1 concern for those seeking help from the agency.
Before the pandemic, O’Meara said, the state averaged about 200 evictions every month.
The moratorium prevented them in April, May, June and ― with the extension July ― meaning a backlog of at least 800 evictions could be filed in August.
There are fewer protections for landlords, but those with federally-backed mortgages can find relief.
O’Meara said the stress seems to be causing more conflict than usual.
“More people sort of, at odds with their landlord. Some landlords are just putting more pressure on people to try and compel them to pay,” he said.
O’Meara said landlords who try to file now to get tenants evicted in August will not get any advantage because he believes those will be thrown out and the landlords will have to refile.
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii can advise both sides on the law and help navigate the twists of the moratorium to help everyone understand their rights.
The Mediation Center of the Pacific can also help tenants and landlords come to an agreement.
“The hole of owing rent is going to get bigger and when the moratorium is lifted, it doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay their rent. They still owe that back rent," said Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the center, who suggest tenants or landlords reach out to them sooner rather than later for mediation.
Wiltgen said the center has helped several groups.
Some were tenants who lost their jobs and were waiting for unemployment checks. The center negotiated and the landlords were willing to wait until the tenants got the claims check then took a larger lump sum.
Wiltgen said they also helped both sides agree to a temporary drop in rent so that the landlord can cover the mortgage.
“A lot of people don’t have enough food to eat,” Witgen said.
"When you’re worrying about where am I going to get my next meal or how am i going to feed the family, it’s difficult to think about I need to go talk to my landlord.”