Renters being told to pay up or move out during pandemic could get legal aid

Renters being told to pay up or move out during pandemic could get legal aid
Advocacy groups say more landlords are violating the emergency eviction ban that's been in effect since April due to rising unemployment. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocacy groups say more landlords are violating the emergency eviction ban that's meant to keep people housed and safe during this public health crisis.

One tenant who asked to remain anonymous said his landlord threatened to kick him out if he didn’t pay the full rent.

“Was mid-June that I started getting text about moving out or pay rent or I have to move out,” said the tenant.

After getting his work hours cut and making only partial rent payments for months, the tenant’s texts shows the landlord told him to come up with the rent in a week or move out. He and his wife and child moved out within days.

“I was furious,” said the tenant. “He just probably got sick of me being short on the rent so I didn’t know what to do.”

But the Managing Attorney of the Housing and Consumer Unit at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Dan O’Meara said even some paying full rent are being harassed.

“They want the tenant off, so they’ve been like shutting off the water every now and then, shutting of the electricity to their portion of the property,” explained O’Meara. “Basically, trying to force him off in that case the tenant has actually been paying his rent and can’t afford to move right now.”

A group of advocates for tenants held a press conference wanted to remind landlords of their responsibilities as the eviction moratorium is in place until Aug. 31st.

“Landlords should know that it’s illegal to threaten eviction, to lock tenants out of their properties and more importantly there are significant consequences for doing that including damages,” said Tom Helper, litigation director of the Lawyers for Equal Justice.

To avoid legal problems, landlords and tenants are encouraged to work out a payment plan or find a solution, which landlords like Nando Corpuz also advises doing.

“I feel the landlord should do everything in their power to help the tenants out and help them find something and I get it we’re both put in a difficult situation but at the same time like I said landlords are in a better position [than] the tenants.”

To give everyone certainty, the advocates also want the government to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of the year.

Tenants threatened with eviction are encouraged to call the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii at 808-536-4302.

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