The Big Island is currently in the midst of a very slow-moving but potentially devastating social and economic tragedy. Lava reached Pahoa and is oozing over recently occupied property and disrupting the lives of many.
Many lower Puna residents wonder: What are my legal rights? Considering general property rights, renter’s rights, and property values, there is no doubt a concern about damages and whether there will still be a home to live in when this is over. If you are in the middle of a loan modification or foreclosure, that also adds to the concerns. Absentee landowners and seasonal residents likely have more questions that firm answers.
For now, the focus is purely on keeping everyone safe. Keeping property safe is impossible at the time. But you have legal rights and responsibilities in relation to your property including the debts owed on it, the insurance that covers it, and any lease agreements regarding it.
You have the right to relocated without price gouging and unfair treatment. If you live in affordable housing on the Hilo side of the flow you have the right not to face a rent increase or face eviction just because your landlord sees an opportunity to earn more from a lava refugee.
The maze of legal questions and issues often leaves those affected by an emergency situation disempowered, deflated, and confused. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There is no reason to be in denial: Hawaii is changing and your legal or property rights may be affected significantly now and for decades into the future. While it is impossible to predict the future, do not linger in denial and refuse to act in the face of uncertainty.
Disasters are much more bearable if one has a disaster preparedness plan. In this type of large-scale property disaster –a major lava flow over a densely populated area—landowners, land sellers, land managers, tenants, and prospective purchasers all have legal rights and duties.
Doesn’t it make sense to also have a plan to protect your legal rights? An experienced Hawaii real estate lawyer who knows the community, the lava, and the law should be contacted right away if you feel like your assets and/or your legal rights are being affected.
If you would like to schedule an initial free telephone consultation, please call Paul J. Sulla, Jr. Attorney at Law, at (808) 933-3600. This firm is currently offering discounted rates for any clients currently being adversely impacted by the lava flow.