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Attorneys for Landlords and Tenants Prepare for Evictions

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal eviction moratorium more than a week ago, clearing the way for evictions to resume. But what are local attorneys anticipating in the coming days?

While landlords throughout the nation have already started the eviction process, there isn’t quite the same surge in Hawai‘i.

That’s because the state’s Act 57 changed the eviction code, requiring landlords to first seek mediation before proceeding with the eviction process.

Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center of the Pacific, said since the state’s moratorium ended, the center saw an influx in mediation notices.

"We received 330 notices in a little over two weeks. So we expect to receive double that, if not more, within the first week or two weeks once that CDC moratorium lifts," Wiltgen said.

Lawyers representing both landlords and tenants are seeing more people reaching out, but not necessarily seeing more eviction cases.

Nalani Kaina, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, said the organization has been fielding calls on how Act 57 applies to them, and if their landlord can evict them.

Kaina said her organization is concerned about the possible confusion regarding the CDC’s eviction moratorium.

"What we don’t know is that for notices that were given at the beginning of August, and for tenants that didn’t respond," Kaina said. "We don’t know if those tenants didn’t respond because they thought the CDC moratorium protected them. And I think that’s what we’re really going to start to see in the courts over the next several weeks."

But tenants aren’t the only ones impacted by the last 18 months.

"The whole notion that landlords are better able to handle this loss than tenants — I think somebody really has to reexamine that because some landlords certainly are able to handle it better than some tenants, but not all of them," attorney David Chee said. He primarily represents landlords.

He said he believes requirements for pandemic relief programs have made it unfair for some landlords who have had to shoulder the costs throughout the pandemic.

"The rental assistance programs are limited to people who make 80% of the area median income or less," Chee said. "So the federal programs help less than half of the people, because half of the folks make more than the area median income."

Chee said he believes renters that qualify for relief have either taken advantage or applied.

In the meantime, both Chee and Kaina advise landlords and renters to take advantage of mediation in order to resolve issues and come to an agreement moving forward.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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