HONOLULU(KHON2)–Vacant homes are like magnets often attracting the wrong kind of attention. According to one eviction attorney, if squatters move into a vacant house and there’s an absentee owner, those problems are often magnified.
Kinau Street, September 2019. A fire erupts ripping through a vacant home that neighbors said had been a haven for squatters.
Monday, another fire engulfs a vacant home on Date Street. Neighbors said they’ve been complaining about squatters there for at least a year.
City Council member Ann Kobayashi said dealing with squatters in vacant homes is tricky.
“We try to do something about it but because it’s private property it is very hard to regulate,” said Kobayashi.
On both Kinau Street and Date Street, neighbors said they made numerous complaints but nothing happened.
According to an eviction attorney, squatters do not have any rights–anyone staying in a vacant home without a rental agreement or permission from the homeowner is trespassing.
But, he added that only the homeowner can make a formal complaint with police to remove them.
When there’s an absentee owner, it makes it even harder.
A Honolulu Police Department spokesperson said, “if the property owner is unavailable, an authorized agent is able to represent them.”
“We are still looking to see how we can protect, not so much the property owner, but the neighbors around them because in the urban area the houses are very close to each other,” explained Kobayashi.
Kobayashi said she’s looking at changes to the law that would allow the city and police to take action without the homeowner.
“If (the homeowner) neglects caring for their property and they are a danger to the neighbors, for health and safety reasons the police can step in.”
HPD said they advise absentee homeowners to post no trespassing signs on their property.