Albizia trees are considered a big nuisance by most. Even before Iselle (almost) made hurricane history on Hawai’i Island, the issue of nuisance trees was no secret. Some subdivisions have covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCRs) that require homeowners to keep potentially dangerous and unsightly trees at bay. The associations, through these restrictions, are empowered to take action against complacent or non-compliant property owners.
Photo taken by Mikolaj Walczuk (www.mikography.com)
In addition, a few years back, the county incorporated language in the County Code (Chapter 20) that attempts to address the issue on a more global scale. Interestingly, Chapter 20 has to do with refuse. It applies to vacant or occupied lands (Section 20-21).
But Not Everybody Considers Albizias a Nuisance
It’s interesting because some landowners don’t necessarily regard albizias as a nuisance. Some chose their property based on the beauty of trees. I once knew a spec home builder who sought out such properties because of the beautiful setting. I even had a seller who was fertilizing his albizia! Point is, not everyone is aware of the potential problem.
Section 20-22 applies to un-neighborly neighbors. The provision addresses adjacent or abutting landowners and is not limited to albizias. In my opinion, it is fairly subjective, but it does provide a vehicle for concerned neighbors to complain to the County. It allows the County to take action if the offending owner does not correct the problem after proper notice and investigation.
So, Whose Kuleana Are These Trees?
Here’s the thing. With so many absentee owners, the County could quickly become over-tasked. Even though Section 20-23 gives the county the right to collect cost, doing so may not be as easy as it sounds. Even with the ability to lien and foreclose on the property, the cost to correct is often far more than the land value. Paragraph (d) goes on to explain what expenses are recoverable.
Of course, besides the basic cost of removal (time, equipment, and materials), an owner could be responsible for injury, equipment repairs/replacement, or for paying a consultant if one is needed. Owners are served notice at their last known address. A notice is also posted on the property. Trust me, finding landowners is not always easy. Sending notice to the address on the tax bill is often a waste of the stamp. Bottom line, buyers need to know what they are buying and owners should be aware of their responsibilities.
Remember, when a hurricane threatens, insurers stop writing homeowner’s and hurricane policies. Owners needing coverage should get busy before the next system develops. Recordation of pending sales (especially with financing) will always be delayed until the insurance can be put in place.
Back in the old days, local lenders didn’t normally require hurricane coverage. This is no longer the case. I don’t know of any lender who will waive hurricane coverage when a loan involved. Owners, review your policy. Deductibles on hurricane coverage can be high and language regarding which policy will cover damage varies.
Being from Florida, I’ve lived through many hurricanes. I can attest that this one was no small thing. For now, I’m happy to have our beautiful trades and hoping that life returns to normal very soon!