HI Rev. Stat. §521-44 of Hawaii's Residential Landlord-Tenant Code governs security deposits in Hawaii. Security deposit law, together with Hawaii Landlord Tenant law, ensures that all parties to a rental agreement are protected.

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Now, let’s dive in. 

Maximum Charge

Landlords are not permitted to demand a security deposit equal to more than one month's rent from a tenant in Hawaii.

However, there is a further deposit if the tenant has pets. The landlord is allowed to request a further deposit of up to one month's rent as an exemption to the security deposit cap if the tenant has a pet. 

Those with disabilities who rely on service animals have a right to equal and full housing access. As a result, the landlord cannot discriminate against the lessee for having a service animal and vice versa.

A service animal is considered a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability. However, the tenant may not allow the animal to cause any damage to the property.

Security Deposit Laws

A lessee is deemed to have wrongfully quit if they are gone from the dwelling unit for a period of 20 days (or more) without paying rent or giving the landlord written notice. 

In this instance, the landlord is entitled to keep the full security deposit without having to make any additional deductions.

Returning Deposits

Failure to Return Security Deposits

The full security deposit must be returned to the tenant if the landlord refuses or neglects to return it, along with the written notice (which must include written documentation of the cost of the damages) within the allotted time period.

If the landlord wrongfully keeps the security deposit, the small claims court may triple the sum awarded to the tenant (if willfully negligent). 

Otherwise, the lessor gives up the right to deduct money from the security deposit and, if they are at fault for negligence, must refund the entire deposit.

Time Frame

Any unused portion of the security deposit must be returned by the landlord within 14 days, along with a written itemized statement of the damages that were subtracted (unless the lessee wrongfully quit the dwelling unit). 

This notification should contain:

  1. Estimates or invoices for the services and materials.
  2. Written evidence of all the damage the tenant did to the rental property.
  3. The amount of unpaid rent.

This period of time starts on the date specified in the rental agreement for termination. Notice in writing must be sent to the forwarding address of the tenant.

Allowable Deductions

Only after the lessee has left the property is the landlord permitted to take deductions from the tenant’s security deposit. 

Uses for the security deposit include:

  1. Unpaid rent/ failure to pay rent.
  2. Failure to return the keys - This includes parking cards, key fobs, mailbox keys, and garage door openers.
  3. Reimburse the lessee for any sums due for utility services that the landlord rendered but did not include in the rent.
  4. Damage brought on by a tenant who leaves a rental property without permission.
  5. In order for the renter to take ownership of the property, the rental unit must be cleaned.
  6. The cost of the damage brought on by the tenant's breach of their lease's conditions.
  7. Any damage brought on by animals—including service animals— living on the property.

The allowable deductions will fall under both of these categories:

  1. The tenant's violation of the Hawaii Statutes' requirements must have resulted in the damage.
  2. The damage is not a result of normal wear and tear.

Tenant's Obligations

Hawaii landlords may only make deductions from the security deposit if the tenant fails to comply with the requirements of the rental agreement. Furthermore, Hawaii tenants have certain obligations to fulfill, such as:

  1. It is forbidden for anyone—even the tenant—to knowingly destroy, remove, or damage any part of the property, including the furnishings, dwelling unit, its amenities, or accessories.
  2. Keep the rental property and all the plumbing fixtures safe and clean.
  3. Use all appliances and air conditioning, heating, plumbing, and electrical facilities fairly and reasonably.
  4. Should give the landlord early notice of any unsatisfactory condition of the property.
  5. Dispose of all waste and garbage in a safe and clean manner.

The lessor may deduct the cost of repairs from the tenant's security deposit if the damage to the property was brought on by the tenant's failure to follow any of these obligations.

Additional Regulations

New Property Owner's Responsibilities

The initial landlord must give the new lessor a breakdown of the security deposit at or before the time of the ownership transfer if they elect to sell or transfer ownership of the rental unit. 

Furthermore, the lessee must get written notice from the new landlord within 20 days of the transfer stating how much of the deposit is now the new lessor's obligation (Haw. Rev. Stat. 521.44(f)).

However, if the new landlord fails to comply with these requirements, it will be assumed that the lessee has paid a security deposit that is at least one month's rent at the same rate in effect when the tenant originally rented the property. This sum will be the new landlord's obligation in all such situations.

Security Deposit Holdings in Hawaii

Hawaii security deposit laws do not require landlords to keep security deposits separate.

Receipt Requirements

A landlord is not required to give the Hawaii tenant a receipt for the deposit.

Security Deposit Interest in Hawaii

Under Hawaii law, landlords do not have to give interest on held security deposits to tenants.

Final Verdict

By having a thorough understanding of eviction laws, landlord-tenant law, and security deposit laws in Hawaii, you'll be able to build a positive landlord-tenant relationship. This will assist in ensuring that the tenant doesn't fail to pay rent, damage your property, and follows the terms of the lease agreement.


Can You Use the Security Deposit as Last Month's Rent in Hawaii?

The security deposit cannot be applied against the last month's rent unless specifically stated in the Hawaii rental agreement.

Can a Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, a landlord may impose a cleaning fee if the property needs to be cleaned after the tenant moves in to restore it to its original condition. 

Cleaning service receipts must be saved and submitted as part of the deductions.

What Happens If the Lessor Fails to Return the Deposit?

In Hawaii, if a landlord fails to return the deposit, they forfeit the ability to take money from the security deposit and are required to repay the entire amount if it is not returned within 14 days of the move-out date. 

The landlord could be held responsible for the tenant's court costs, legal fees, and triple the security deposit if the case proceeds to a small claims court.

What Does Normal Wear and Tear Constitute?

The term "wear and "tear" is not defined by any specific statutes, although in most circumstances, wear is defined as any deterioration that naturally happens because of proper and consistent use by the renter without negligence. As wall damage and damaged furniture are more likely to qualify as damage, they can be used as a foundation for recouping security deposit money.

Tenant negligence, whether intentional or not, results in damage that does not comply with the tenant's obligations under Hawaii Landlord Tenant Law. These may be eligible for a deduction from security deposits in Hawaii since tenants have a legal obligation to maintain the property (within reason).

Do Hawaii Landlords Have to Charge a Security Deposit?

No, there is no need to include a security deposit in the Hawaii rental agreement. However, it is highly recommended as it decreases the landlord's liability if the tent fails to make rent payments or damages the property.

However, keep in mind that under Hawaii law, the deposit is limited to one month's rent.

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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!