Free Landlord/Tenant Mediation Program Begins on Big Island
* Updated September 23, 7:36 AM
Hawaiʻi County’s two mediation centers have begun conducting free, 90-minute mediations between landlords and tenants.
The mediations come in response to the end of the state eviction moratorium, which concluded on Aug. 6, 2021.
The closure launched Act 57, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Ige. Act 57 states that tenants must be offered the opportunity to mediate when they are served with an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. Mediation is a safe, private, and neutral setting for landlords and tenants to discuss how to move forward.
“Our goal is to help renters and property owners to work together to find solutions, ideally saving both from a lengthy and expensive eviction process in court,” said Kate Sims, landlord-tenant case manager at West Hawai’i Mediation Center. “Through mediation, landlords and tenants are often able to identify positive steps each can take to avoid court altogether.”
Mediators are impartial and help people talk and negotiate. In addition, mediators can assist the parties to develop durable agreements, such as payment plans for back rent, plans for rent going forward, applying for rental assistance together, moving out without an eviction on the tenant’s record, and/or other agreements that support the needs of both landlord and tenant.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has provided Hawai’i Island with $10.4 million in funding for rent and utility grants to assist low-income renters in staying stably housed. These grants are available through June 30, 2022.
Information on the Emergency Rent and Utilities Assistance program, including how to apply and submit required documents can be found at www.HawaiiCountyERAP.org. During mediation, qualified low-income renters will be encouraged to apply for these funds to bring their rent current.
“Given the tight rental market and backlogs in the courts, state lawmakers felt it was important that parties work together to see if eviction can be avoided,” said Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth. “In mediation, landlords and tenants can listen to each other, access rental assistance, and make informed decisions. We hope that through these mediations, we will be able to find creative and thoughtful solutions that will positively impact our communities moving forward.”