Judges, landlords and nonprofits work together to prevent evictions

Judges, landlords and nonprofits work together to prevent evictions

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Delaine Sylvester is what you might call a mom-and-pop landlord. For the past 15 years, she's managed three rental properties. Lately, she's noticed an increase in renters coming up short when the first of the month rolls around.

"People are having trouble paying their rent. Lost their job. Hours cut down. They weren't making as much," Sylvester said.

Three months ago, one of her tenants lost his job in the computer field. The disabled vet fell $1,800 behind in rent.

It's a story district court Judge Hilary Gangnes hears all to often in eviction cases.

"In a good percentage of those, it's just because the tenant has had a temporary setback. So it's not that they can't eventually be able to afford the rent. It's that temporarily they haven't been able to," Gangnes said.

Gangnes said there were about 1,700 eviction cases last fiscal year on Oahu. By the time many of those get to her courtroom, several months have gone by and little can be done to keep the tenant from being evicted.

The key, she said, is for the tenant and the landlord to be proactive.

Gangnes and other judges are working with social service providers, Realtors and attorneys to develop a way to get tenants and landlords help sooner. "The landlords are many times very willing, as long as they can see rent is going to get paid going forward, to work out a payment plan for back rent so they don't have to file suit," Gangnes said.

When Sylvester, the landlord, talked to her tenant about why he was missing rent payments, she decided to call the governor's office to see what options were out there.

She was put in touch with Catholic Charities, and the tenant had to provide a sustainability plan to show how he could pay going forward.

Hawaii News Now had planned to interview the tenant about the process but something else came up. "He's in a job interview," said Sylvester.

As for the back rent, Catholic Charities is covering that through one of its grant programs.

"I should be getting it at the end of the week," Sylvester said.

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