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Property Line and Fence Laws in Hawaii

When new neighbors move in it's not uncommon for there to be tension as everyone adjusts to a new routine. A once beloved flowering tree that drops its leaves over a fence may be a nuisance to a new neighbor. Shared maintenance on a border fence can also be a source of conflict. Hawaii law provides guidance on the rights and responsibilities of neighbors and property owners. This quick review of Hawaii's property line and fence law may put you on the path to solving your real estate dispute.

Quick Look: Hawaii Property Line and Fence Laws

This chart highlights some of Hawaii state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Your dispute also may be governed by county, city, or home owner association rules that are not listed here.

State Statutes
"De Minimis" Encroachment A "de minimis structure position discrepancy" is where a structure extends onto the adjoining property by no more than:
  • For commercial, industrial, and multi-unit residential property - 0.25 feet
  • For all other residential property - 0.5 feet
  • For agricultural and rural property - 0.75 feet
  • For conservation property - 1.5 feet
Local Fence Regulations

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Hawaii Fence Law Basics

Hawaii defines a "legal fence" as one that it is not less than four feet in height and made of stone; posts and rails; posts and boards; posts and wire; or other suitable materials. This rule will apply to agricultural land and property not controlled by a city or county building ordinance. Although Hawaii does not have a statute requiring neighbors to share responsibility for a boundary fence, it follows court-made law to this effect. This means that a shared fence or tree growing on the property line cannot be altered without both neighbors' consent.

When Your Fence Encroaches a Neighbor's Property

Finding out that your property line was improperly drawn and you're partially occupying or encroaching on your neighbor's land is a scary experience. It's not unusual for older neighborhoods in Hawaii to have encroachment issues because land surveys were less accurate a few decades ago.

Responding to these problems, Hawaii's legislature created the "de minimis law " to handle small encroachments based on type of land in dispute. (See the chart above). The law provides the following relief:

  • A de minimis discrepancy is not considered an encroachment or a basis for a zoning violation
  • The encroachment cannot be the basis for an adverse possession claim.
  • Responsibility for maintenance and repair of an improvement causing the encroachment is on the property owner (or their successor) that built the structure.
  • Liability for injuries or damages to persons or property in connection with the improvement is the responsibility of the property owner (or their successor) that built the structure.
  • If the original builder is not known, the ownership goes to the property upon which the improvement is substantially located.
  • A neighbor still has the right to tear down an encroachment going onto his property if an encroachment agreement is not in place.

Can You Trim a Neighbors Tree that Extended into Your Yard?

Although there is not a law directly addressing the right to trim trespassing trees, courts in Hawaii have consistently held that a landowner may always, at their own expense, "cut away only to his property line above or below the surface of the ground any part of the adjoining owner's trees or other plant life." Be careful not to kill a tree or plant with your trimming activity. If you do, you may be liable for damages.

Can You Pick Fruit from Your Neighbors Tree?

Having a neighbor's tree hang into your yard can be annoying. But when the intruder brings mangos and other fruits, it may be a welcome visitor. In some states, the owner of a tree retains ownership of the fruit even when it extends onto a neighbor's property. However, Hawaii courts have held that any part of a plant or a tree that is within your property line is yours, fruit included.

Get a Free Initial Legal Review of Your Hawaii Property Dispute

A dispute with a neighboring land owner can make you dread coming home. Fortunately, you don't have to resolve property issues on your own. An experienced real estate attorney can provide you with legal options to resolve the dispute and, if needed, file a complaint in court. If you have an ongoing property dispute, reach out to an attorney near you today for a free preliminary assessment of the facts of your case.

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