E NHLC…

0
213

My ʻohana’s home burned down in the Lahaina wildfire. The property is owned by me and my deceased sibling. I want to sign up for the free Maui Wildfire Debris Removal program, but the county needs all owners to sign the Right-of-Entry Permit. What do I do? Do I have to participate in the debris removal program?

Photo: Liula Christensen

By Liʻulā Christensen, NHLC Senior Staff Attorney

The government debris removal program provides owners of homes lost in the Maui wildfires with debris removal paid for by FEMA and any insurance earmarked for debris removal. If there is no insurance, then the program is free. The program includes removal of structural ash, debris, and hazardous trees, and soil testing to ensure the site is clean and safe for rebuilding. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the clean-up, but the owner(s) must sign a Right-of-Entry Permit (“ROE”) before they can start. The County of Maui manages the ROE process.

The county requires that all owners of a property sign the ROE. Where one of the owners has passed, the county requires: (1) a death certificate or obituary, and (2) a court order appointing a personal representative, letters testamentary, or a court probate document.

I previously discussed personal representatives (“PR”) in the August issue of Ka Wai Ola. A PR is appointed by the Probate Court. The PR has the legal authority to manage the deceased person’s property and assets, called their “estate.” Because the PR steps into the shoes of the deceased person for the limited purpose of administering the estate, the PR can sign a ROE for the deceased person.

After appointment, the PR receives a document commonly referred to as “letters” from probate court saying they can manage the estate. Depending on the existence of a will, these letters could be called “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration.” These letters can be given to the county to allow the PR to sign a ROE. ʻOhana that need a PR appointed would benefit from talking to a probate attorney.

Participation in the government program is not required, but any owners that opt out must hire a private contractor at their own expense. Private debris removal must be approved by the county before any work can begin, and it must meet or exceed government standards.

No new building permits will be issued for a property until clean-up is completed. If not cleaned, the property may be declared a public nuisance and a health hazard. The property owner(s) may be fined and the county may remove fire debris at the owner’s cost. If fines and costs are not paid, the county may record a lien on the property.

ROE applicants may call for assistance at (808) 727-1550. Information is available online at: https://mauirecovers.org/debrisremoval/ and www.poh.usace.army.mil/Missions/Emergency-Response/Hawaii-Wildfires/.


E Nīnau iā NHLC provides general information about the law. E Nīnau iā NHLC is not legal advice. You can contact NHLC about your legal needs by calling NHLC’s offices at 808-521-2302. You can also learn more about NHLC at nativehawaiianlegalcorp.org.