I'm the landlord. I want to terminate the lease early.

22 Replies

I have a property in Hawaii which I've rented to some tenants who are making a mess of it, upsetting the neighbors, and incurring violations with the homeowners association. The lease ends November 30th this year, about 6 more months.

I want to take the property back, repair the damages they've done, clean it, and put it up for sale.

My lease is a fixed-date termination lease agreement without any provision for early termination without cause.

The tenants don't really like living in the neighborhood because they feel they are being "looked at under a microscope" and "walking on eggshells". I'm giving them my sympathy and encouraging them to find a place where they would like better, and I'd be willing to terminate the lease early. But the rental market is extremely tight, and I don't think they are going to try and find another place until the lease ends in November.

But I want to take my property back and sell it. With them as tenants, selling it as tenant-occupied with all their mess and clutter will only negatively affect my sales price. I want to sell it like it used to be -- vacant, furnished, and pristine like a 5-star resort hotel room that it used to look like. Right now, it looks like the set for Sanford & Son.

What can I do? Remember, this is Hawaii where the laws favor tenants, and tenants are known to squat because they know it can take months to get an eviction.

Well, I suspect you know what you can do. They have something valuable (possession under a valid lease agreement.) What do you usually do in order to get someone to give up something valuable?

Get out your checkbook.

It's going to take a lot of time, energy, and money to take back the property and restore it.  Might be a better option to cut your losses and sell it to a local investor and let them deal with the headache. 

Easy for me to say, right?

I hope it turns out it well for you!

Here are the options that I see:

1. Find out what your tenants want and what you can do to give your tenants a better incentive to move out on their own accord. I'm not sure where your house is, but the rental market on Oahu is pretty competitive, unless one's willing to move far out. It's particularly tougher for the next couple of months because it's major PCS (moving season) for the military population on the island, so your tenants may very likely have a hard time finding an alternative option at this time. Have you thought about offering cash for keys? If so, you'd have to find that sweet spot where your cash offer will just be enough to motivate your tenants to leave
2. Hire an attorney and start the eviction process if you really do want to list your place as "vacant, furnished, and pristine" and you don't see the tenants accepting a cash-for-keys offer. There is a risk that this route may take a very long time (with no rents received) and you'll receive the property in a condition in which you will have to invest time/energy/money to fix it to prime selling condition
3. Sell your property as-is. The spread between selling your place as-is versus in prime condition may be large, but how much is your time/energy in dealing with the situation worth?

Best of luck!

I've had a few people tell me to "sweeten" the deal (i.e. offer cash money) to the tenants to move out early.

I think the eviction process would be a bad route to go. Not interested in having squatters not paying rent, and my house damaged and gutted by angry tenants.

My house is in Kailua Kona on the Big Island. The rental market is extremely tight, very hard to find rentals. I don't think even offering them money (unless it was a ridiculous amount) would be enough to incentivise them to move out early. The rental market is too tight, very few choices.

It sounds like I'm going to have to put it up for sale as tenant-occupied, or wait until the end of the lease and the tenant moves out.

Is there really any disadvantage to putting the property up for sale now, tenant-occupied, even if the tenants are very messy? I guess I risk a prospective buyer seeing it now as a mess and low-balling my price or writing-off my property as a home to buy.

This is from the Hawaii Tenant-Landlord handbook, page 11:

http://cca.hawaii.gov/hfic/files/2013/03/landlord-...

"However, even if the circumstances for a retaliatory eviction exist, the landlord may recover possession of the dwelling unit if certain other conditions also exist. These other situations are where:
A. The tenant is committing waste; or is a nuisance, or is using the dwelling illegally or not as a home in violation of the rental agreement.
B. The landlord wishes to occupy the dwelling for immediate use as the landlord's own residence or that of the landlord's immediate family.
C. The landlord wishes to substantially alter, remodel, or demolish the premises.
D. The landlord has contracted to sell the property, or to use it as the purchaser's own home.
E. The tenant's complaint to the Department of Health results in a determination that there was no violation of the health laws."

I'm not sure what this means "other conditions also exist". "Also" in addition to what? Of interest is item "B" because I could want to live there again until I sell it, all my possessions are still in the house locked downstairs. Also, if I put the house up for sale, then it sounds like item "D" would work. But I'm not sure what else is required so I can exercise these options.

@Scott K. , perhaps contact the Officer of Consumer Protection to clarify the above and/or a RE attorney who has experience in this realm to make sure that you're looking at all the possible options and which ones make the most sense to you?

Yes, I think I'm at the point of needing to contact someone who knows the law. I'm going to start with calling the Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant Center (hotline) on Monday.

This is the page for Hawaii Departmentof Commerce and Consumer Affairs - Hawaii's Landlord Tenant Code / Termination

http://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/res_lt_msg/_7666/

Doesn't say anything about terminating a fixed lease early, just says that a fixed lease terminates automatically at the end of the lease. Month-to-month leases can be terminated with 45-days notice. But it doesn't say how to terminate a fixed lease early. I'll have to call them on Monday.

@Scott K.

I think your first inclination of not wanting to attempt an eviction is the right one.  You are probably fighting an uphill battle on the nuisance issue.  Neighbors love to complain but when push comes to shove as far as testifying they typically will not want to get involved.

Are they native Hawaiian?  If so, based on my admittedly limit knowledge of the court system on the Big Island, you have no chance ! 

Bottom line, if you want to break the lease find the $$$$ number that they will accept

Ugh... Just wait out the 6 months and be done with this the easy way.

Originally posted by @Scott K. :

I have a property in Hawaii which I've rented to some tenants who are making a mess of it, upsetting the neighbors, and incurring violations with the homeowners association. The lease ends November 30th this year, about 6 more months.

I want to take the property back, repair the damages they've done, clean it, and put it up for sale.

My lease is a fixed-date termination lease agreement without any provision for early termination without cause.

The tenants don't really like living in the neighborhood because they feel they are being "looked at under a microscope" and "walking on eggshells". I'm giving them my sympathy and encouraging them to find a place where they would like better, and I'd be willing to terminate the lease early. But the rental market is extremely tight, and I don't think they are going to try and find another place until the lease ends in November.

But I want to take my property back and sell it. With them as tenants, selling it as tenant-occupied with all their mess and clutter will only negatively affect my sales price. I want to sell it like it used to be -- vacant, furnished, and pristine like a 5-star resort hotel room that it used to look like. Right now, it looks like the set for Sanford & Son.

What can I do? Remember, this is Hawaii where the laws favor tenants, and tenants are known to squat because they know it can take months to get an eviction.

You mentioned that the laws favor tenants, please eleborate. If you take a long at Hawaii's tenant-landlord handbook, you'll see it is actually pretty neutral/or even slight favoring of landlords. A long time landlord in hawaii/on this forum (I won't call him out) can tell you about the eviction he performed in <2 weeks.

Are they violating part of the lease?  Is there any language regarding following homeowner's associations rules?

In some ways you don't have much to lose by putting the property on the market now.  You obviously won't get top dollar, but it might be worth it getting yourself rid of the headache.

If you don't get an acceptable offer, you can either try cash for keys or waiting the tenants out.  I would definitely make sure you have at least a few months between listings, so the lack of interest doesn't impact listing it in top condition.

Originally posted by @Andrey Y. :

You mentioned that the laws favor tenants, please eleborate. If you take a long at Hawaii's tenant-landlord handbook, you'll see it is actually pretty neutral/or even slight favoring of landlords. A long time landlord in hawaii/on this forum (I won't call him out) can tell you about the eviction he performed in <2 weeks.

There's several. For one, in a month-to-month tenancy, as landlord I have to give 45-days notice to terminate the lease (isn't a month 30 days?!), whereas the tenant only has to give 28-days notice to terminate the lease. That certainly favors the tenant. Tenant wins.

As a landlord, if I lockout the tenant without cause, the tenant may recover 2 months free rent. Without cause is a matter of interpretation, that I would have to prove that my cause was justified. No matter what the tenant does to my property without cause, I don't get awarded 2 months free rent payments. At the most, I get a 1-month security deposit. 2-months awarded for the tenant. 1-month awarded for the landlord. Tenant wins again.

In any case, I would much rather have the tenants leave because they want to. Whether it's because they don't like walking on eggshells and being scrutinized by the neighbors and HOA, or because they found a place they like better, I think that would be the best outcome.

Originally posted by @Scott K. :
Originally posted by @Andrey Y.:

You mentioned that the laws favor tenants, please eleborate. If you take a long at Hawaii's tenant-landlord handbook, you'll see it is actually pretty neutral/or even slight favoring of landlords. A long time landlord in hawaii/on this forum (I won't call him out) can tell you about the eviction he performed in <2 weeks.

There's several. For one, in a month-to-month tenancy, as landlord I have to give 45-days notice to terminate the lease (isn't a month 30 days?!), whereas the tenant only has to give 28-days notice to terminate the lease. That certainly favors the tenant. Tenant wins.

As a landlord, if I lockout the tenant without cause, the tenant may recover 2 months free rent. Without cause is a matter of interpretation, that I would have to prove that my cause was justified. No matter what the tenant does to my property without cause, I don't get awarded 2 months free rent payments. At the most, I get a 1-month security deposit. 2-months awarded for the tenant. 1-month awarded for the landlord. Tenant wins again.

In any case, I would much rather have the tenants leave because they want to. Whether it's because they don't like walking on eggshells and being scrutinized by the neighbors and HOA, or because they found a place they like better, I think that would be the best outcome.

 #1) It doesnt matter. As a landlord, either the tenant is great (which means no vacancies for you, you want this), or the tenant will leave - with or without 30 days notice. So thats a moot point.

#2) Why would you ever lockout the tenant without cause? Think about this hard. You would either evict or not. Not lockout. This is binary.

#3) Tenants will stay if they like the place or they keep having income, they will leave if they no longer have income or life circumstances change. This isn't state dependent. See #1.

Originally posted by @Jesse T. :

Are they violating part of the lease?  Is there any language regarding following homeowner's associations rules?

In some ways you don't have much to lose by putting the property on the market now.  You obviously won't get top dollar, but it might be worth it getting yourself rid of the headache.

If you don't get an acceptable offer, you can either try cash for keys or waiting the tenants out.  I would definitely make sure you have at least a few months between listings, so the lack of interest doesn't impact listing it in top condition.

They are routinely violating then remedying parts of the lease. For example, the lease requires that they comply with the HOA rules. One HOA rule says no storage of trash bags in the driveway (must be in containers). So I'll get a warning/fine from the HOA, notify the tenant they have 5 days to remedy the problem, and by that time trash day has rolled around and the trash bags are gone. But then next week, it repeats itself. The trash bags are out for 2-3 days but not more than 5 days to trigger an immediate termination of the lease based on failure to remedy.

Same goes for noise disturbance. They blast their ghetto music at volume 11. The neighbors complain. I notify the tenant that they are disturbing the neighbors and to stop it. They stop it. But then next weekend they're blasting ghetto music again.

I hear what you're saying about listing the property while it's occupied, and I'll probably do that. I'm losing -$700 each month the house is rented, which is a lot better than losing -$3,000 a month. I'm renting it out to slow the bleeding. But in 6 months when the lease ends, I will have lost -$4,200. So the question is -- if I sell it now as tenant occupied, will I not lose more than $4,200 than if I was to wait until the winter? The winter is the high-season and would be the time to get top-dollar. For a $600,000 home this could be quite a significant difference. Based on recent sales and current inventory, I'm thinking ~$580K now as-is, damaged, messy, dirty, in the low-season, tenant-occupied, vs. ~$630K in the high-season when it's empty, clean, and restored to pristine condition. A pristine house in the neighborhood (same model as mine) sold for $645K at the tail end of the high-season. Currently all the houses are listed for $550K-$590K.

Because it will probably take 3-4 weeks to clean and repair the house after it's been abused by the tenants who are due to move out Nov 30th, I will be missing 25% of the high-season which runs from mid-November to mid-March. I probably won't have it restored back to it's original condition until late-December.

That's why I want the tenants to move out sooner. If they would move out September 30th, that would give me 6 weeks to get it ready for sale for the high-season.

You need to read up on some landlord tenant law in your area. It sounds like these are bad tenants that are causing problems and you are not giving and filing the correct notifications. As far as I can tell Hawaii is not a tenant friendly state but more fair as someone above mentioned - you ABSOLUTELY do not lock them out of their dwelling. You also currently have very little cause for eviction because you have not been doing the proper paper work. I'll admit, I don't know the process in your state but you need to start with a lease infraction letter. A piece of paper saying they are in violation of the HOA rules and that the matter needs to be rectified in 3 days. Keep giving them every time they do them. Call the neighbors as well and notify them that you are on their side but you cannot do anything unless you've got more than their word. Ask your neighbors to write you letters stating their concerns. Ask them to call the police, as much as they feel bad doing it, because you need the written reports on record. Again, a police report for noise disturbance is yet another lease infraction (or it should be if you've written the lease correctly). And if they are leaving it messy and unsafe, or unsanitary, or a health or fire hazard you have found yet another lease infraction providing its in your lease or in your HOA bylaws. Build up a case, you're the landlord in control of the property and you just need to do it correctly. Its extra leg work on your end but it will give you ease of mind and can potentially save you $4200 if they leave on their own rather than going through with an eviction.

Good news! I'm happy to report that my tenants agreed with me that "it's just not working out" and have signed a "Quit and Vacate" letter which I wrote to terminate the lease early and vacate the property on July 31 (2 days from now).

I'm able to remotely monitor the outside of my property with security cameras (this was disclosed to the tenants on signing the lease) and have not seen any "moving" activity. This concerns me -- they signed a Quit and Vacate letter, they know it ends July 31, it clearly states that they will not have any access to the property after July 31, but I see no effort by them to move out and they have a TON of stuff -- we're talking hoarder-levels, so much that it's piled up outside. I don't see how they can get it all moved out in 2 days.

On August 1, I'm wondering what my options are. Can I call the police and say they are trespassing? Can I change the locks on the entry doors? Can I consider all their stuff on the property as "abandoned property" and throw it away?

Run your numbers and figure out what it is worth to you in a cash for keys situation. Present that offer making it clear that this offer expires on a certain date. They will either take it or leave it and then you deal with it at the end of the lease.
Originally posted by @Joe Bertolino :
Run your numbers and figure out what it is worth to you in a cash for keys situation. Present that offer making it clear that this offer expires on a certain date. They will either take it or leave it and then you deal with it at the end of the lease.

 Thanks for the reply. My most recent post (above) says that we reached a mutual agreement to end the lease early and they signed a "Quit and Vacate" letter stating that they agree to terminate the lease on July 31 and vacate the property on July 31, four months ahead of the original lease November 30 termination date.

My most recent concern is what can/cannot I do on August 1 when they haven't moved out. Are they trespassing? Can I change the locks? Technically as of August 1, I've regained possession of the property and there is no more lease.

Come Aug 1 if they haven't vacated, you have a holdover tenant, but with a lease still in effect kind of.  Hopefully they will just leave.  Here in WA I would have to seek an eviction of some sort.  If they still have physical possession, I can't just go change locks, unfortunately.  Not in my state.

As much as I would love to recommend sending over "Big Tony" to reason with them, legal remedies are all very state-specific.  Research HI landlord-tenant law and get competent legal help if needed @Scott K.

@Scott K. , if the tenants haven't moved by August 1, you should consult a HI real estate attorney.

Regarding holdover -- the Quit and Vacate letter that they signed says that they are also agreeing to no renewal, no holdover, and no access to the property after July 31. Now, I don't know if they can sign away their holdover rights like that in Hawaii, if holdover is even a right.

I'll probably have to talk with the lawyer again. Uggh, $200 per hour.

Did you succeed in getting the tenants to move out? Also, are you continuing to rent or did you sell? My husband and I just bought a property in Honolulu and have not leased it yet. We had a rental in the Bay Area and hope the real estate law climate is more favorable here. 

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