State lawmakers pass bill to give breathing room for wildfire survivors facing evictions

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The Aug. 8, 2023, Lahaina wildfire destroyed more than 2,000 structures, mostly homes, including rental units. A bill pending action by Gov. Josh Green would establish a pre-litigation mediation procedure for tenants who’ve been protected from evictions by emergency proclamations. (8.11.23) PC: Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources

A bill amending Hawaii’s Landlord-Tenant Code would protect wildfire survivor renters from evictions once the governor’s emergency moratorium shielding them expires.

House Bill 2742 establishes a pre-litigation mediation procedure for tenants who are subject to the wildfire survivor eviction moratorium issued under Gov. Josh Green’s emergency proclamations following the Aug. 8, 2023, Lahaina and Upcountry wildfires.

Under the bill, the amended Landlord-Tenant Code would restrict when landlord remedies are available depending on the amount of rent due. The measure appropriates $410,000 to the state Judiciary to contract for mediation services.


The bill includes a legislative finding that, following the Maui wildfires, thousands of residents lost their jobs and have been unable to pay rent. The governor issued emergency wildfire proclamations that have provided protections for struggling renters, including an eviction moratorium that will eventually expire.

“Therefore, a balanced approach is needed to encourage communications and facilitate mediation between landlords and tenants to help reduce the number of summary possession proceedings that are expected to follow the expiration of certain wildfire proclamations,” the measure says.

The state Judiciary submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 2742.


“An early landlord-tenant mediation process… would help both landlords and tenants avoid the eviction process with voluntary agreements,” the Judiciary said.

Such mediation has already been found to be successful when it was implemented in 2021 following the lifting of eviction moratoriums after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Judiciary said.

An early landlord-tenant mediation process implemented through Act 57 for a one-year period resulted in 1,660 landlord-tenant mediation cases involving past-due rent statewide. Of those, 1,415, or 85%, concluded with agreements and enabled more than 1,140 tenants and their families to remain in their residences.


If signed by the governor, the bill would go into effect July 1. Certain provisions are repealed on Dec. 31, 2026, or on the one-year anniversary of the expiration of the governor’s final eviction moratorium emergency proclamation, whichever occurs sooner.

Gov. Green has until June 25 to issue a notice of intent to veto any bills. Any bill not on that list will become law without or without his signature. If a bill is on the “intent to veto” list, the governor then has until July 10 to veto it.

Brian Perry
Brian Perry worked as a staff writer and editor at The Maui News from 1990 to 2018. Before that, he was a reporter at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. From 2019 to 2022, he was director of communications in the Office of the Mayor.
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