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Property Owner Sued for Home Accidentally Built On Her Lot


Annaleine Reynolds purchased an empty lot for about $22,500 at a Hawaiian tax auction in 2018. Reynolds had intended to leave the lot empty to use as a meditative healing woman’s retreat. The lot was still empty when Reynolds flew back to California. Reynolds stayed in California when the pandemic struck. Reynolds was rather surprised when she received a call from a real estate broker in 2023 claiming that he had just sold the house on her property.  

Keaau Development Partnership hired PJ’s Construction to build multiple homes on the properties that Keaau had purchased. PJ’s Construction also constructed a three-bedroom and two-bathroom house on Reynold’s property. Although Reynolds is now the owner of a house worth $500,000, it has also increased her taxes and attracts squatters.  

Keaau has taken the position that Reynolds must either swap her lot with a lot next to hers (sans house that was built) or purchase the house at a discount. When Reynolds refused both offers, Keaau filed suit against her. Reynolds has filed a counterclaim against Keaau for unauthorized construction on her property. The case also includes the developers of the construction company, the architect, the family who previously owned the property, and the county that approved the permits that Keaau applied for.  

Trespass On Property  

There likely will be no dispute that PJ’s Construction trespassed on Reynold’s property. A defendant trespasses on a property when: 

  • The defendant entered onto the land; 
  • The land belonged to another individual; 
  • The defendant did not have the owner’s consent to enter; 
  • Damages. 

The first three elements are met as the house ended up on Reynold’s property without her knowledge or consent. Indeed, there was likely multiple trespass as the builders likely had to spend months constructing the house. The biggest question is whether a brand new house could be considered “damage.” Notably Reynolds is pointing to unwanted consequences of the house such as higher taxes and squatters, though neither Keaau nor PJ Construction are the ones charging her tax or causing squatters to live there.  

Unjust Profit  

Lawsuits are typically filed to put a party back to where they were before. This typically means that a plaintiff can only claim as much as they lost. For instance, a passenger in an auto accident case can claim damages equal to their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and anything else they may have lost. However, they cannot recover an amount that exceeds what they lost.  

The issue here, or at least the position that Keaau would take, is that Reynolds cannot keep the house as she would receive a free house at the expense of Keaau and its own contracted labor. A lawsuit is supposed to put Reynolds back to where she was before – an empty lot without extra taxes and squatters – not an extra house on top of it. Reynolds wants the same empty lot that she had but doesn’t want to purchase the house or swap the lot. The house could be demolished, but that would be extremely wasteful and final such that it would be a “nuclear” option for all involved. 

Of course, Keaau made a mistake. If anyone should bear the burden of lost money, it’s the party that did not do its due diligence and violated Reynolds’ rights by constructing an unwanted house on her property.  

Do I Need a Lawyer?  

Understanding the nuances of local real estate law is often difficult. Complex transactions are best handled by a knowledgeable lawyer that specializes in real estate law. If you are dealing with matters regarding real estate and property law, you should consider hiring a property lawyer for assistance. 


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