A new law in Hawaii has opened the door for landlords to better protect their properties while allowing pets, addressing the needs of both pet-owning tenants and landlords. Section 521-44 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes now allows landlords and property managers to collect an additional security deposit to protect against pet damage.
According to U.S. Pet Statistics (a website maintained by the Humane Society), 47% of U.S. households have at least one dog. On O’ahu, pet ownership is particularly high: the Humane Society estimates that over 60% of households include pets (there is limited data on pet ownership for the other Hawaiian Islands).
Prior to November 1, 2013, a landlord could only collect a maximum of one month’s rent to cover any damage created by a tenant, including damage inflicted by the tenant’s pets. The only way for landlords to avoid liability for damage caused by pets was to simply ban pets altogether (a difficult proposition, in areas with 60% pet ownership).
In renters' markets, where reliable, credit-worthy tenants are hard to come by, prohibiting pets can mean vacant leasing units sitting on the market for months.
But Hawaii landlords and pet owners both win with the signing of Senate Bill 328, which allows landlords to collect a pet deposit in addition to the one month's rent security deposit. A pet security deposit is also capped at one month’s rent and is restricted to damages caused by a tenant’s pet. This means many more properties available to tenants with pets, as more landlords will feel comfortable accepting them, and less liability for the landlord.
A word to the wise for pet-friendly landlords however: make sure that the property’s insurance policy includes liability coverage for all breeds. If there is a breed restriction, and the landlord leases to a tenant with that particular pet breed, the landlord may be liable for any injuries that animal causes. This can cost infinitely more than a one-month security deposit; landlords who want to accept a tenant with a restricted pet should consider requiring that the tenant obtain renters insurance that includes liability coverage for the pet breed.
For more information, Hawaiian landlords and property managers can find the full text of the new law here.