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Hawaii Adverse Possession Laws

In a place where land is at a premium, it may shock you to find out that if a person continually trespasses for a certain amount of time, he or she may gain a right of ownership or pass-through for a piece of property. “Adverse possession” is a little-known and rarely-used area of law, but it can have a big impact on land ownership.

So how does the Aloha State handle adverse possession claims? This is a quick introduction to adverse possession laws in Hawaii.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

Although it’s news to most laypeople, the concept of "adverse possession" is actually a fairly old legal doctrine. Designed to encourage landowners to make beneficial use of their land (and keep an eye on it when they are not using it), trespassers are allowed to gain legal title to property if they openly inhabit and improve the property for a continuous amount of time. Hawaii’s adverse possession law requires an individual to occupy a property for at least 20 years before the possibility of ownership.

Adverse Possession in Hawaii

Hawaii’s adverse possession statutes are listed below.

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes 657-31.5, et seq.: Adverse Possession;

Hawaii Revised Statutes 669-1, et seq.: Quieting Title

Time Period Required for Occupation

20 yrs.-

Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability

After disability lifted: 5 yrs.

Improvements

-

Payment of Taxes

-

Title from Tax Assessor

-

While claiming adverse possession sounds simple enough, the process requires four essential elements for a successful claim:

  • There must be actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
  • There must be exclusive and continuous possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time;
  • There must be a “hostile” claim: the trespasser must either make an honest mistake (like relying on an incorrect deed), merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that it is private property), or be aware of his or her trespassing; and
  • There must be open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret.

Related Resources for Adverse Possession Laws in Hawaii

State property laws, and especially legal concepts like adverse possession, can be confusing. You can consult with an experienced Hawaii real estate attorney if you would like legal assistance with a real estate matter, or if you would just like to understand your rights as a landowner. And FindLaw’s section on Adverse Possession can provide you with further reading and resources on this topic.

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