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Big Island mediation program set to help tenants, landlords

HILO (AP) — Tenants and landlords have been offered free mediation services by a Hawaii County program aimed at preventing a flood of evictions following an eviction ban during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rapid Response Landlord Tenant Mediation Program intends to help residential and commercial tenants and landlords reach agreements about individual cases rather than resorting to legal action, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

Democratic Gov. David Ige issued a moratorium last month outlawing eviction of residential tenants for failing to pay rent through May 31 as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has left many residents furloughed or unemployed.

Once the moratorium ends, tenants who were unable to pay rent will have overdue payments due all at once, Hawaii County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said.

The Kuikahi Mediation Center and the West Hawaii Mediation Center plan to offer free mediation services through the initiative.

Many landlords cannot afford to lose tenants, while tenants could experience difficulty paying months of back rent at once, so both parties should be motivated to reach an agreement, said Julie Mitchell, executive director of the Kuikahi Mediation Center.