Pictured home: 338 Nanaiakea St. Hilo
Your new, old house is just about ready for you. It’s a classic! You can’t wait to get started on the renovations. Your agent informed you that some things like termite inspections and surveys are normally the last things to be scheduled. You are relieved to hear the termite inspection is fine.
The situation with the survey is less clear. Your agent explains that the survey map will show all improvements on the property, not just the boundary lines. You are surprised to learn the rock wall on the nasty neighbor’s side is smack dab on the property line. After all, that’s how walls and fences were built back in the day.
Truth is, walls and fences should always be located completely on one side or the other, but finding them otherwise is a fairly common problem. Sellers are not usually aware a problem exists until the survey is completed.
The Mini Mes? No, De Minimis!
Because it is so common, the State of Hawai`i enacted what is commonly referred to as the “De Minimis” encroachment statute. This law allows structure position discrepancies (encroachments) to exist up to .5 foot on residential properties. On agriculturally zoned properties, the distance can be .75 feet. In other words, as long as the rock wall on your grouchy neighbor’s side isn’t more than half a foot into your residential lot, then legally, it’s probably okay.
Range fences and hog wire fences are often installed where it’s most convenient. While the same rule technically applies to them, these are considered temporary in nature. It’s a good idea to formally address what will happen if the encroaching objects are destroyed or damaged. But, even when you think you are good to go, surprises can happen…and not good ones. Watch this.
Easements & Setbacks
Road widening easements are sometimes not even noted on the title report, or the entry is so small, it’s barely noticeable. Most aren’t even drawn on the TMK map. Guess what. Your building setback starts where that road widening setback begins. Thinking of building on the road side of your property? You may want to take the trip to the Planning Division to ensure there are no widening easements that will complicate your journey (Hint: beware if you are on lwalani St.)
Hot topics of this type often stem from recent situations. New subdivisions require a survey with new legal descriptions. Without a new survey/staking, it’s impossible to know if the recorded legal description matches the pins on the ground. Seems impossible, but it just happened!
So just like your home needs that all-vital termite inspection, surveys provide essential assurances in any transaction….and when it comes to fences, well, that’s an easy one. Just do as your mama always told you, “stay in your own yard!”