Home improvements make your home a better, more pleasant place to live as well as adding to its value. Then, surely, home improvements must be a good thing, right? Generally speaking, yes. There are, however, some home improvements that could turn your neighbors into your enemies in Hawaii.
1. Fixing Drainage Problems
There’s a big low spot in your backyard where during wet periods water stands, making your yard virtually unusable for long stretches and causing a health hazard when the mosquitoes move in. And you’ve finally decided to do something about it. The problem is, though, that the water has to go somewhere, right?
If that water then drains into your neighbor’s yard, turning it into one big swamp, get ready for some problems. If your neighbor gets angry enough and wants to take legal action, you may have recourse to the”reasonableness rule.” This rule holds that if a neighbor sues, he or she will have to provide proof that you did something”unreasonable” in altering your property to cause harm to his property. [do keep in mind that this is not legal advice – check with an attorney to be sure]
2. Planting Ornamental Trees
We all want to make our personal mark on our property to truly make it our own. Quite often that will manifest itself in the form of landscaping, such as cactus gardens or fancy ornamental trees. However, you have to be careful which trees you plant. While some may be rather ‘innocent’, so to speak, such as wonderfully aromatic and beautiful plumerias, a big mango tree that grows out of control and starts raining ‘mango bombs’ on your neighbor’s lanai awning is another matter (we’ve had to cut those back in some of the homes we’ve purchased). If you’re not sure about what to plant, consult a local nursery for some advice.
3. Adding a Room
Let’s say you’ve saved up enough money to expand your home, perhaps adding an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) or a second floor to take advantage of views of the Pacific Ocean or Kaneohe Bay. You dutifully hire a licensed contractor, get any plans drawn up by an architect, get your permits in place and you’re off to the races.
Remember to consider, though, the impact to your neighbors. They now may be living next to a loud and messy job site for 1-4 months, depending on the length of your project. There will be a lot of traffic in and out on a daily basis, maybe even involving some heavy equipment. There may be no getting around it, but just remember to understand that there’s an impact nonetheless.
Also keep in mind whether there are any permanent effects to your neighbors, such as obstructing a previously expansive ocean view. If that’s the case, be sure to check your legal rights for such an addition/modification but also consult your neighbors to generate some extra aloha and goodwill.
4. Installing a Pool
This is similar to #3 above except that there will most definitely be some noise and heavy equipment for the required in-ground pool excavations. Then there’s the possibility of noisy weekend pool parties if you have little ones who may, in turn, invite over all the neighborhood kids. Add to that loud equipment if it isn’t maintained properly or your water level runs low and there’s the potential for some misgivings.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing – quite a few homeowners in Hawaii have backyard pools. Just remember that even though we live on an island, the ‘no man is an island’ saying somewhat applies – there may (or will) be some impacts to your neighbors.
While it is true there are some home improvements that could turn your neighbors into your enemies in Hawaii, you shouldn’t let that put off your dreams and plans for your home. Using the right approach, you can move forward with your home-improvement plans without creating any “neighbor issues.”