This couple didn’t know they owned a road — until they got an $18,000 power bill for street lights

It all started when resident David Carona wanted a street light fixed in front of his home.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 9:26 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2022 at 12:37 PM HST

MAILI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Halemaluhia Place was built in the 1990s.

And when a family bought a home on the road just two years ago, they were shocked to eventually learn they were also the roadway’s new owners.

It was a discovery that was years in the making — and all started when resident David Carona wanted a street light fixed in front of his home.

“This street light was out so I called the city to have it repaired or have it corrected, and they told me that the street itself was private, and I had to contact the owner of the street to have it replaced and fixed,” he said.

It turned out the owners were Desha-Ann and Rashaan Kealoha, although they didn’t know it yet.

“When we first moved in, our other neighbor told us that we own the street,” said Desha-Ann Kealoha. “And we kinda just laughed it up because we thought, we’re the new neighbor.”

Carona did some research and the discovered that the road wasn’t conveyed to the city when the subdivision was completed. But he wasn’t able to find the original developer to find out why.

Hawaii News Now also tried to find out who the developer was ― without success.

“Somehow, the original developer or owners of the lot that were supposed to dedicate it, conveyed it to the original owner of the property the Kealohas own now,” said Carona.

The Kealohas didn’t take it seriously until they got a letter from Hawaiian Electric Company asking for $18,000 for 20 years of streetlight use.

“As soon as I got it, I panicked,” said Kealoha. “So I started making all the phone calls necessary to find out why I should be held liable for it.”

The issue came before the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.

HECO says they’re not expecting the family to pay up.

“The intention I just want to share was not not to collect the past due bill for over 20 years of electricity for the street lights,” Judy Hirashima, of HECO, told the council. “That wasn’t the intention when we reached out.”

HECO said it just wants to determine who will pay the bill going forward, but couldn’t say why it took so long to discover the unpaid bill.

“I appreciate HECO saying they didn’t expect anyone to pay the bill, but can you imagine you guys getting an $18,000 bill and being like, oh shoot, I gotta pay this for all my neighbors?” said Councilmember Andria Tupola.

Tupola sponsored a resolution for the city to take possession of Halemaluhia Place and the responsibility for the light bill. Councilmembers adopted the resolution and Desha-Ann Kealoha testified in support of the measure.

“We definitely have an inside joke about this street being ours,” Kealoha added.

“But you know, at the end of the day, I don’t want it to be ours.”

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