Hawaii Agency Allows Delinquent Land Debt To Swell To $242K

Sep 23, 2019

Records show a Hawaii state agency allowed a man to accumulate a six-figure debt by making sporadic lease payments on a parcel of land, a report said.

Lawrence Balberde skipped payments to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and accumulated $242,000 in debt, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

At the same time, Balberde was collecting thousands of dollars monthly by re-leasing the parcel to a Hilo church, agency officials said.

Balberde's lease was canceled in May after the Hawaiian Homes Commission learned he had collected rent through an unauthorized sublease since about 2010, officials said.

Documents show he also owed about $470,000 in delinquent property taxes, interest and penalties.

The Hawaiian Home Lands department awards ranching, farming and residential homestead lots to people who are at least 50% Native Hawaiian. The agency is working with the state attorney general's office to collect Balberde's debt, officials said.

Balberde, 81, had a history of falling behind on his lease and then making large repayments, said department spokesman Cedric Duarte.

"There was a belief he would continue to make good on his lease agreement," Duarte said in a written statement.

Balberde paid $2,250 monthly rent from August 2016 until cancellation of the lease. But he was not paying down the accumulated debt including several missed payments from 2012 to 2016, Duarte said.

Balberde stopped making payments because the department abruptly tripled his rent years ago without notice, he told the newspaper.

Balberde also said a now-retired land division manager was aware he was subleasing the property to the church and the agency had previously authorized the arrangement.