Lifting the eviction moratorium too early would ‘overwhelm’ the courts, advocates say

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The statewide moratorium on evictions, which has protected renters hard hit by the pandemic for more than a year, is set to expire on June 8.

And Gov. David Ige has not yet decided if he’ll offer an extension.

Advocates for renters said not extending the protections will cause chaos in the legal system.

“The courts would get overwhelmed,” said Dan O’Meara, managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s housing and consumer unit.

O’Meara said not extending the deadline doesn’t make sense since the state Legislature recently passed a bill to require mediation.

The bill, which is before the governor for his signature, also would extend the notice period for evictions from five days to 15.

O’Meara said there’s also hundreds of millions of dollars in rent relief that still hasn’t been provided to tenants. Tenants who get evicted aren’t eligible for the money.

“It would be unfortunate to start a lot of evictions because there’s still a lot of money on the table to help both the landlord and the tenant,” he said.

But real estate executive Steve Sombrero said the moratorium is hurting landlords, who are mostly individual property owners.

“You’re asking these individuals ― these mom-and-pop landlords ― to carry the burden of providing housing during this eviction moratorium. This is very, very unfair to them,” said Sombrero, president of Cushman & Wakefield Chaney Brooks.

He added the extended the eviction moratorium, when combined with the extended unemployment benefits, is discouraging people from returning to work.

“You can’t give them both unemployment and eviction moratorium benefits. It’s time to encourage people to come back to work,” he said.

Meanwhile, the moratorium for cutting off electric service ends next Monday.

But Hawaiian Electric Company said it will not discontinue service for the 15,000 customers who are having the most trouble paying their bills.

Instead, they will be put on a 12-month payment plan ― which could be extended. HECO is also working with the counties and noprofit to provide financial aid.

“We don’t want people to panic ... we want our customers to stay connected. Really disconnection is last resort,” said HECO spokeswoman Shannon Tangonan.

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