When the city can’t help, this Hawaii company is stepping in to evict squatters

Statewide, there are nearly 550 properties that are either in a similar situation.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:21 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii real estate company is helping residents take back their communities from squatters when police and city officials can’t.

For years, people who live along Hulahe Street in Waipahu say they couldn’t get a moment’s peace after squatters moved into a dead man’s home and turned it into a drug den.

It’s a story HNN first reported in 2019.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Neighbors fear for their safety after squatters take over dead man’s home

“There was all kinds of mess,” said next door neighbor Harvey Wilhelm.

The property was more than just an eyesore.

Not long after the homeowner died, a group of squatters claimed the vacant home. Despite neighbors’ repeated calls to police and the city pleading for help, trespassers spent years tormenting the community.

Joel Bongco, CEO of Inspired Life Investments, found the property because of HNN’s reporting.

The real estate company helps Hawaii homeowners in distress.

Bongco says statewide there are nearly 550 properties that are either in a similar situation ― or could end up being that way ― because the homeowner is deceased and no heir has stepped up to claim the home.

That’s where he comes in.

“Typically what happens in this case is you have to go through probate,” Bongco said.

It’s a legal process where a court oversees the distribution of property after a person has died.

“You go through probate to basically appoint a personal representative or administrator to take hold of the estate and do something with it,” he said. “In this case, it was to sell it legally.”

Bongco says the owner had a total of 11 heirs.

“The challenge is in most families here, they don’t have any money,” he said. “And probate roughly costs anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000.”

The company will put up the cash. In exchange, its heirs agree to sell Bongco the property. Proceeds are then split up among the family.

By no means is it a quick process.

“It took almost two years,” said Bongco.

Since then, the squatters have been evicted and property has been picked up and secured.

Neighbors say it’s a welcome sight.

“I was hoping it was going to happen. It took a while but I’m glad it did,” said a man who lived nearby.

Wilhelm added, “It’s nice to see something’s been done after all these years.”

As for what’s next, Bongco said, “On the inside it needs to be completely gutted.”

Once all renovations are complete the home will go on the market. It’s one of about 70 properties Inspired Life Investments has cleaned up in communities across the state.