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How the Mediation Process Works on Hawai‘i Evictions

Mote Oo Education

The state’s eviction moratorium expired last month. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium. But there’s an added layer of security in Hawai‘i for the courts and renters.

Act 57 changed the state’s eviction procedures for non-payment of rent and encourages landlords and tenants to first enter mediation before evictions proceed to the courts.

Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center of the Pacific, describes how the process starts.

"So under Act 57, the way mediation starts is the landlord provides a notice to the tenant, and simultaneously provides that notice to the mediation center on the island where the tenant resides," Wiltgen said. "The notices tells the tenant to contact that mediation center."

After receiving the notice, Wiltgen said the mediation center will also try to reach out to the tenant.

The renter then has 15 days to schedule a mediation session.

Wiltgen said it’s important for tenants to be proactive once receiving a notice from their landlord.

"If they schedule a mediation session within 15 days of the notice, it buys them, basically, an extra 15 days," Wiltgen said. "Meaning the landlord cannot move forward with the eviction process for another 15 days, or 30 days from the date of the notice."

Wiltgen said once the mediation session is arranged, a mediator will have private conversations with both the landlord and tenant.

"It gives the mediator a good understanding where each person is coming from, where potential agreements might lie, and also how their line of questioning will be structured to ideally help landlord and tenant reach an agreement," she said. "If they’re able to reach an agreement, then the mediator will help them put that into writing, then it’s electronically sent to landlord and tenant, and then sign it electronically."

Wiltgen said if an agreement can’t be reached, then the eviction goes to court, where it impacts both parties. It’s in everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement.

"It saves the landlord the time and expense," Wiltgen said. "It saves the tenant not only the time, but also it keeps them from being evicted, from having that on their record which would prevent them from possibly renting another unit. They could possibly impact their hunt for a new job. And if they’re getting any kind of benefits, federal or state, if they get evicted they would lose all of those, and never be able to recoup them."

Wiltgen said the Mediation Center of the Pacific have worked on many positive outcomes so far — arranging creative agreements with both landlords and tenants.

She said the center has resolved 31 of 32 notices so far, but still has another 300 cases to process.

Wiltgen advised any tenant having issues with rent or needs assistance should apply for their county’s assistance program.

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