Buying Advice

Exploring Kauai Leasehold: What Happens When the Lease Ends?

Imagine waking up to the soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore, greeted by the warm Kauai sun. For many, this dreamy scenario has led to the pursuit of a slice of paradise in the form of real estate. However, on Kauai, a unique property ownership system known as “leasehold” adds a twist to this dream. Let’s delve into the complex world of Kauai leasehold and uncover what happens when the lease eventually comes to an end.

The Leasehold Conundrum: A Different Path to Property Ownership

On Kauai, land is typically divided into two categories: fee simple and leasehold. While fee simple ownership grants you full rights to the land and the structures on it, leasehold ownership involves owning the building but leasing the land it stands on for a set period, usually anywhere from 30 to 99 years. This arrangement has its roots in historical land divisions and has been used to create affordable housing options.

The Ticking Clock: Navigating Lease Expiry

Leasehold properties on Kauai inevitably come with an expiration date. When the lease term ends, the property reverts to the landowner, often the state or a private entity. The looming question then becomes: What happens to the building and the investments made by the leasehold owner?

  1. Renewal or Extension Options: Some leasehold agreements include clauses that allow for lease renewal or extension negotiations. This provides an opportunity for leasehold owners to secure a continued stay on the property. However, the terms, conditions, and costs involved in renewal can vary significantly. In most cases, the lease amount will increase during the renewal or extension.
  2. Repossession of the Land: The largest risk of a leasehold property is that once the lease on the property expires, the owner can repossess the land and all of the improvements on it including your unit. This provides a risk because as the lease termination approaches, so does the value of your unit. Additionally, if the land owner does repossess the land and improvements, you are left without any appreciation on your leasehold unit.
  3. Return on Investment: Leasehold owners who decide not to renew the lease may face a complex situation. The fate of improvements and structures they’ve invested in depends on the lease agreement and local regulations. In some cases, these investments might need to be removed or left behind at the property’s end.
  4. Negotiation and Fair Market Value: As the lease expiration date approaches, property owners and landowners often engage in negotiations. The fair market value of the property, the cost of improvements, and potential compensation for the leasehold owner are all key factors in these discussions.
  5. Freehold Conversion: In certain instances, leasehold properties may be converted to fee simple ownership through a process called “fee conversion.” This typically involves paying a lump sum to purchase the land beneath the property, thereby eliminating the leasehold arrangement.

The Human Element: Emotions and Considerations

The end of a leasehold agreement isn’t merely a legal and financial matter; it’s also an emotional one. For many leasehold owners, the property holds cherished memories and a strong sense of attachment. Balancing these emotions with the practical aspects of negotiation and decision-making can be challenging.

Looking Forward: Making Informed Choices

If you’re considering purchasing a leasehold property on Kauai, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and seek expert advice from a qualified real estate professional. Understanding the terms of the lease, potential renewal options, and the implications of lease expiration will empower you to make informed decisions aligned with your long-term goals. If you’d like to learn more about leasehold properties, check out my recent blog post where I go over the differences between fee simple and leasehold properties or to explore leasehold condos for sale on Kauai, visit my website


Kristine Dugan, R(S) | 808.436.4464 |

About the Author

Kristine Dugan

Kristine Dugan is a REALTOR Salesperson with Hawai'i Life. As a trusted resource in the Kauai real estate market, I am committed to helping buyers and sellers navigate the complexities of the process and make decisions that meet their needs. By taking the time to listen to my clients' concerns and providing them with the best possible options, I strive to ensure they are well-informed and have the greatest chance of achieving their Kauai Real Estate goals. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 435-4464.

Comments (0) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

More Articles from Hawaii Life