Big Island

How Shall I Address You?

For our family, it was 1801 Sherman Avenue. That was our address. I really never considered the issue but if I had, I would have assumed the post office gave us that address. After all, only the mailman needed it, everyone else knew where we lived. Fast forward to life in rural Hawai`i where I learned that not everyone had a street address; at least not that they realized or cared about. Only homes in town used street addresses. The rest of us gave directions using the number off the nearest telephone pole.

Hawai`i Addresses

In Hawai`i County, the Planning Director is responsible for assigning addresses and although mail delivery may have once been the primary reason for displaying a street address, the implementation of the 9-1-1 system dictated the assignment of a street address to ALL Hawai`i properties.

Addresses are assigned as part of the building permit process. Other owners needing address assignments can apply by providing a plot plan along with their TMK number. Interestingly, addresses are assigned according to the location of the driveway. If that changes, the address could change. Even numbers are always on the right and not all addresses have the TMK zone as a prefix. This is up to the Planning Director. But here’s the thing.

Correct Address

Even though the postman may never deliver mail to your door, helping an emergency responder find your home could become far more important than mail delivery ever will be. Besides, it’s the law. Section 14-84 of the Hawai`i County Code requires:

  • Addresses must be posted on every property, even temporary ones. After all, building inspectors need to inspect the correct property.
  • Property owners are required to post the address by the driveway.
  • The numbers must be readable at all times.
  • When a home has a mailbox, the address should be posted on both sides of the box.
  • Other guidelines apply to shared driveways and apartment/ condo buildings.
  • Posted numbers should be at least 3” high.

Emergency responders shouldn’t have to search for the house number. Fines are nominal but over time they could add up. Owners are sent a registered letter prior to fines being imposed. The initial fine is $25 and $25 per month thereafter. Defacing or removing an address carries a stiff fine of $500. Here’s the thing, even though the fines may not be huge, the number of non-compliant properties certainly is.

Home Buying/Selling

It stands to reason that, for REALTORS®, the posting of street numbers is fairly important. It’s more than just an issue of finding the property. Sometimes the address the owner used for years may be incorrect. Other times, the address on the tax information may be wrong. An incorrect address may cause conflicts in contracts, mortgages and transfer documents. These conflicts could cause other issues and delays well into the sales process. Displaying your street numbers may be just enough to put us on notice of a potential problem.

So, if you aren’t sure how you should be addressed, call the nice folks at the County Planning Department. Proper posting will make the Emergency Responders, your REALTOR®, the UPS guy, Santa, the Tooth Fairy and all those who really need to find you, very grateful indeed.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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Georgie Hunter

March 28, 2022

And it’s a good idea to get an address before listing your home for sale. It’s such an easy thing to do, there’s no excuse.

Randolph Willard

March 29, 2022

At seventy-three, I still remember my first street address (and later when zip codes added). I was a junk mail enthusiast, sending off for every free brochure, map or something or the other. Our mailbox hung on the porch with a cursive nine. Except for army service, I have only held three address for the three homes I have lived in. Great little tale and interesting to boot. I remember driving around Hawaii looking for the street address of our vacation rental (turn by the store, 3rd house on the right.

Randolph Willard
A Goodreads and Amazon Author

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