Tag Archives: deeds

Volcanoes create new land, but who owns it?

The volcanic eruption that started on May 3rd on the big island of Hawaii is still ongoing. Tens of thousands of tons of molten rock have flowed into the Pacific Ocean, hardened, and created new land — terra firma.

It’s a process that’s been underway on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 5 million years. Foot by foot, yard by yard, and acre by acre, land takes the place of the sea. 5 new acres were added after a 2016 eruption. The 1960 Kapoho eruption added a whopping 500 acres to the island’s southeast tip.

Hawaii isn’t unique in this regard. In 2012, a brand-new 75-acre island sprang into existence, seemingly from nowhere, in the middle of the Red Sea, the result of an undersea shield volcano eruption. Wikipedia keeps a running database of new islands, though the list includes new land created by “volcanism, erosion, glacial retreat, or other mechanisms.”

This all got us thinking: Who owns the new land formed by a volcano? With no previous ownership history, and certainly no need for a title search, is it up for grabs?

Who owns new land created by a volcano?

According to a University of Hawaii at Manoa law professor who specializes in land use, it belongs to the state. These so-called “lava extensions” were the subject of a Supreme Court case in 1977 in which two residents sued the state over 7.9 acres of new land formed by a 1955 Kilauea eruption.

Though their deed (obviously) did not contain any description of the new land, because the deed preexisted the land, the two residents carried on as if the lava extension belonged to them. They planted trees and shrubs and even had part of it bulldozed. In the end, after a lengthy legal battle, the court decided that lava extensions would be for the “use and enjoyment of all the people.” Their reasoning is as follows:

“Rather than allowing only a few of the many lava victims the windfall of lava extensions, this court believes that equity and sound public policy demand that such land inure to the benefit of all the people of Hawaii, in whose behalf the government acts as trustee.”

A Real Estate Carol: Meet the Ghosts of Property Past, Present and Future

If you’re familiar with A Christmas Carol, you know that Ebenezer Scrooge finally found redemption with the help of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As a property buyer, or a real estate agent representing the interests of a purchaser, you must be guided by three property ghosts to ensure you are buying what you think you are buying: The Ghosts of Property Past (Title Search), Property Present (Inspection) and Property Future (Infrastructure, Zoning and Developments).

The Ghost of Property Past

A property is more than a structure or a piece of land. It has had numerous owners stretching back decades or even centuries. Only with a careful review of the property records and a thorough title search can a purchaser know:

  • Whether A Third Party, Such As A Family Member Of The Seller Or A Previous Seller, Has A Claim To A Part Or The Entirety Of The Property
  • Whether A Bank Or Financing Company Has Placed A Lien On The Property For A Previous Owner’s Unpaid Debts
  • Whether Any Unknown Easements Restrict The Way The Property May Be Used Or Give Third Parties Access To Parts Of The Property
  • Whether A Prior Deed In The Chain Of Title Was Illegal Or Fraudulent
  • Whether A Filing Or Clerical Error In The Public Records Has Affected The Deed Or Survey Of The Home</li

The Ghost of Property Present

While issues in the distant past can affect the value of a property, so can issues in the present. Only with a thorough property inspection performed by a qualified property inspector can a purchaser discover:

  • Whether Additions Or Installations Were Completed Without Proper Permits Or Not To Code, Thereby Affecting Taxes, Usability, Insurance And The Overall Value
  • Whether The Property Is Encumbered With Any Environmental Hazards, Like Mold, Which Can Be Incredibly Costly To Remediate
  • Whether The Installation Age Of Major Systems Like Heating And Plumbing Will Cause Require Replacement (I.E., Major Investment)

The Ghost of Property Future

Just as your property has a long history stretching into distant decades, it also has a long future that will stretch decades into the future. To ensure that you will get out of your property what you are expecting (to start a business, to raise a family, etc.) you must understand what the surrounding area will look like in five, ten and twenty year’s time.

For example, a new highway may enhance the value of nearby commercial properties while reducing the value of nearby residential properties. Only by researching government infrastructure and development plans, which are often located in government planning offices or City Hall, can a purchaser understand:

  • Whether The Likely Uses Of Any Adjacent Or Nearby Vacant Lots Will Negatively Or Positively Impact Their Investment
  • Whether Any Nearby Zone Changes Or Conditional Use Permits Have Been Issued, And If So How These Would Affect The Value Of Their Property
  • Whether Any Government Infrastructure Projects, Such As A New Highway Or A New Train Stop, Will Hurt Or Harm Their Investment
  • Whether The Surrounding Area Is Evolving Into A More Commercial Or Residential Area
  • Whether New Development Is Occurring In The Area, And What Type

Protect Your Investment with Punctual Abstract

Any property transaction carries risk. Those risks lurk in the background like ghosts. In that sense, you could call us ghostbusters. Punctual Abstract is a trusted partner when accurate verification of a seller’s right to ownership, claims, defects and other rights on a property are required. To learn more about our services, visit our homepage today.