Developer Built a $500K Home on the Wrong Lot and Then Squatters Moved In

A property owner who purchased a vacant lot in Hawaii has found herself at the center of a major lawsuit despite the fact that she hadn’t visited the property in years. She had purchased the lot before the pandemic in hopes of developing a business there, but then her plans were stalled. In the meantime, a developer built a $500,000 house on the lot by mistake—and then squatters moved into the vacant house. Imagine buying a piece of property and then getting sued years later over a bunch of mistakes committed by other people!

Back in 2018, Annaliese Reynolds purchased a one-acre lot in Puna’s Hawaiian Paradise Park development in Honolulu. She obtained the lot for a great price by purchasing it in a county tax auction. It cost her $22,500 for the full acre.

Reynolds is some type of hippy-dippy woo-woo Californian who had planned to use the lot to host her meditative healing women’s retreats (whatever those are).

“There’s a sacredness to it [the vacant lot filled with weeds] and the one that I chose to buy had all the right qualities,” she says.

So basically, the crystals told her to buy it or something.

Anyway, her plans for hippy campfire dancing or whatever in Hawaii were put on hold for a few years, especially when the pandemic rolled around. As Reynolds was waiting for the timing to be just right for her new business venture, a developer showed up and mistakenly built a $500,000 home on her vacant lot. Whoops.

Reynolds had no idea this had even happened until a smarmy realtor called to inform her that he had sold the house that had somehow ended up on her vacant lot.

“He told me, ‘I just sold the house, and it happens to be on your property. So, we need to resolve this,’” Reynolds said. “And I was like, what? Are you kidding me?”

The vacant lots in the development were all marked by telephone poles. The Keaau Development Partnership contracted with a company called PJ’s Construction to build about a dozen homes in the subdivision. An attorney for the construction company now says the developer didn’t want to pay for surveyors to mark each lot, and that’s how the mix-up took place.

Unfortunately, the house can’t legally be sold, and the entire situation has turned into a nightmare for Reynolds. For one thing, she’s now on the hook for the property taxes for a $500,000 house that isn’t hers. Her property taxes have shot up from hundreds of dollars per year to thousands.

Before the builder put up a fence around the brand-new, vacant house, squatters showed up and started using it. The utilities weren’t hooked up, and there was no running water, so the squatters used the rooms in the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house as a pit toilet. By the time Reynolds showed up to check the property, there was feces all over the home.

“It was so disgusting,” she said.

The developers offered to swap her a different vacant lot, but she refused.

After Reynolds turned the offer down, the developer turned around and sued everyone associated with the property. They’re suing the construction company, the county for issuing the permits for the home, the architect, Reynolds, and even the prior family that owned the lot before it was sold to Reynolds.

“It would set a dangerous precedent if you could go onto someone else’s land, build anything you want, and then sue that individual for the value of it,” says Reynolds’s attorney.