Neighbours living in unfinished house

| 04/08/2016 | 23 Comments

Where or how do I go about reporting to the planning department some people that are living in a house that they are building but is not close to be completed and have no planning permission to be living there yet? I know of circumstances where people are building and have finished the roof and wanted to move in to save money but were advised that planning does not allow people to live that way. Let me explain:

My neighbours have been building for years now and it looks like the construction is out of pocket so the construction is taking forever. The noise on Saturdays is unbearable. It looks to be a big family; one of the brothers just moved in with his wife and children; they constantly have parties and get-togethers. And it bothers me because I know in order to be living in a construction site there is a special planning permission you have to get and the way that construction site is and for the amount of people that are living there I know it is illegal. They have built shacks in the back of the house and I know that’s where they live. I need to report this to have planning come in and inspect the way these people are living because there are at least four kids under 12 living there and that can’t be safe. Can you please advise and guide me on how to go about making a report?


Auntie’s answer: Yes, I will be able to take you through the complaints process for the Department of Planning, but first I want to let you know what the regulations are for the situation you describe.

From what I understand, as a planning official described, you do have a legitimate reason to be upset by your neighbour’s actions. Section 34 of the Development and Planning Regulations (2015 Revision), which pertains to occupying a building, says: “Certificates of fitness for occupancy shall be obtained from the Authority before any new buildings are occupied. The Authority may grant special permission for occupation of part of a building prior to completion.”

The official explained the meaning of that section: “No building can be occupied without either a final Certificate of Occupancy (CO) or the grant of Special Permission to Occupy (SPO). In the normal course of events, an applicant obtains all of the necessary building inspections (building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing) throughout the course of construction and upon nearing completion of the building the applicant would apply for the final CO. Our inspectors will complete the final inspections in all disciplines and upon approval, the CO will be issued and CUC will be notified that they can connect permanent power to the building.”

He also addressed the possibility of attaining special permission ahead of completion, which you referred to, and pointed out that applicants can sometimes be granted an SPO but this is almost exclusively for commercial developments.

“(The SPO) is a tool we try to discourage using, but occasionally with complicated commercial buildings, an applicant may be faced with a situation where the building is essentially completed, but perhaps a piece of equipment is delayed in reaching the island and they may seek an SPO to allow a contracted tenant to occupy the building.

“All life-safety issues have been addressed, but there may remain a few minor technical details to be completed. These requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and a minimum time period may be granted for occupying the building while the remaining items are completed. An SPO is rarely, if ever, granted for a house.”

I think these answers might confirm your suspicions about your neighbours’ actions. To be sure, here is what you need to do to lodge a complaint with the planning department:

This is a link to the website’s FAQ on “How to notify the department on illegal development”, which outline the complaints procedure.

If you suspect a violation of related laws and regulations, the bottom of the page on Code Compliance provides a link to email the planning department.

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (23)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The simple solution is to offer to let them stay in your house until theirs is finished.

  2. CaymanKindMyBrothersKeeper says:

    Being kind to your neighbors is a lot better than being cruel. Do you realize that someday that same neighbors’ house you may have to run to if something was to happen to yours? As suggested by others, go and calmly speak to your neighbor, let them know that you, value your tranquility, and peace and quietness, just as they enjoy their get togethers with family and friends. Ask them to please keep the music at a respectable level as it is disruptive to you. I’m very sure they would apologize and honor your request.
    Don’t ruin someone’s dream of homeownership over something that can easily be sorted out.
    Acts of God and carelessness on your part could unfortunately find you were they are today, seeking shelter but whatever means. Think before you act.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t care to know you but here’s a shocker:- Go and speak to your neighbor! In Cayman we women would cook some soup and grab a pair of gloves; take a flowering plant or fruit tree and go across; say Hello and here’s some soup and a plant and I’m ready to help with gloves on too!
    That’s how my late parents and family members built our homes!
    Neighbors and family came every Sat and before long we had two bedrooms and the open area for living.
    It was the same with building our cistern and the subsequent additions until it became 4 bed 3 baths.
    The beauty of building that way? NO bank loan!
    Learn about how Caymanians help NOT hinder their neighbors
    Stop plotting bad…….KARMA my friend is a pretty good lil fella and will repay you!
    Stop being hateful or envious! That’s not CaymanKind at all……..

  4. Crab Claw says:

    A good neighbor would have gone over and help with the noisy building every Saturday to help them finish their project, maybe go over and help them with arranging some of the easy financing you got to build yours so quickly as most of us Caymanian’s can’t seem to qualify for any at the local cartel banks. either way most of us don’t want to hear your gripes, close your windows turn up your AC, grow a hedge and let the rest of us live our lives without busy body troublemakers like you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    In the real world, a problem like the complainant lists wouldn’t last 5 minutes, but Cayman isn’t the real world. Special dispensation to Caymanians may exist, as mentioned in this story, for a reason . I for one built a house after Ivan ( during 2006) & we moved in without Certificate of Occupancy, nor even applying for the certificate of SPO. Our former home was destroyed in the hurricane, which we were unable to use as collateral for a loan to build a new home on another land parcel. Within 4 months of being able to live in the home, it was finished enough for the CO to be issued and the electricity meter finally installed. The period we were in prior to having the CO , allowed us to save $2,400 a month on rent, which at that stage of Caymans rebuilding was a lot of money to my wife & I. Nobody in the area hassled us or complained to planning, that we were in ( technically ) an incomplete home , albeit one that was about 85% finished. Many people in Caymans community may be in similar circumstances , the somewhat relaxation of the laws and case-by-case granting of the ability to live in an unfinished home will allow these people to eventually get ahead & finish their homes to a full level of completion.

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem with your personal account is that it took place in a time when the country was in a state of emergency. The Islands had suffered one of the most powerful hurricanes it had ever come across and the primary focus of the government at the time, and rightly so, was to rebuild the community and restore back the modern infrastructure. This period would have called for relaxation of laws in relation to land because regulation of land hinders or slows down creating infrastructure, something which no sane person would want after a natural disaster. Taking this into account, I cannot excuse after 12 years when a natural disaster of that scale occurred for the government to simply ignore the laws and regulations they put in place. Planning permission is put in place to keep inhabitants safe and make sure the buildings are fit for purpose.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why complain about law breaking? We have all seen that laws are very selectively enforced in Cayman. Who do we think that we are fooling between our police service and our court system, we cannot mount timely and effective prosecutions for serious offences. What a joke! Let it go, it will be sorted out when either someone gets electrocuted in that family or suffer major injury or death from another onsite construction related event.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do understand some of the complaints. many years ago some approach me to sign a petition to have someone remove because they were staying in a garage. this obviously was the first step in their dream to own their home. i did not sign it then nor will i sign one ever as i will not trample on another mans dream. ps that man is a caymanian..

  7. Anonymous says:

    If those who are violating the law(s) are natural born Caymanians you can forget about complaininmg – nothing at all will be done. Natural born Caymanians are waaay above this kind (and a lot of other kinds!) of our laws. Just get used to it – it ain’t a gonna change!

  8. Anonymous says:

    It seems like you have a problem with your neighbours and the best way to resolve that is by talking to them. Having them evicted might seem like a quick solution to your problem, but if they get a CO then your problem becomes permanent.

    The Planning Department spent more than 20 years working out of the Tower Building until it was demolished and they never had a Certificate of Occupancy.

    With all of the housing problems in Cayman, enforcing the letter of the law on someone struggling to complete their house should be way down on the list of things that Planning should be enforcing.Of course, someone who makes life unbearable for the neighbours is a different issue that should be addressed separately.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a serious issue all over the island. Planning should allow people to move in to their house once the roof is on and all the necessities ready, like a bathroom, a kitchen for cooking and windows and doors. In that case a person building out of pocket can finish one room to be functional to occupy while still building the rest of the house. Like it was mentioned, not everyone can qualify for a construction loan. I think there should be some kind of leniency in cases like this where the people are struggling to build out of pocket, at least they are thinking of their future. To the neighbor complaining, perhaps you should try to build a relationship with your neighbors as once they finish their house there will be no planning department that you can complain to. Try to have a friendly relationship with them to say “hey, yesterday you guys were a bit loud. Keep it down next time as it was very uncomfortable for us on this side”…………..communication is all it takes rather than complaining

  10. Anonymous says:

    More examples of our laws being ignored. Is it incompetence, or corruption?

  11. Soldier Crab says:

    There is a clause in the law or regulations stating specifically that a Caymanian may occupy an unfinished residence.

    The person at the planning dept. obviously didn’t want to admit that; most of the staff there make up rules as they go along anyway.

    Instead of complaining you should be pleased that the family has managed to put enough money into the property that they can live in it: not everyone can get a bank loan and build at one shot.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t you mind your own business? Stop worrying about things that don’t concern you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I will present three reasons:

      1) Their neighbor are committing a private nuisance which diminishes the amenity or enjoyment gained from having their property/land. A private nuisance can equate to a number of events such as regular loud get-togethers which produces an unreasonable amount of noise. Therefore, this person has at least a reason to be disgruntled.

      2) Illegal occupation – As noted, the construction of the building is not completed. The law states clearly that a certificate of occupancy must be received in order to occupy any building or any part of a building prior to its completion. What the neighbours are doing is clearly illegal and should not be ignored as this creates precedent for allowing other families/individuals/companies to occupy buildings without any legal authorization to do so.

      3) Health and safety – As the construction of the building is not completed, it is highly unlikely that the site has passed or even undergone any health and safety tests. The occupation of the building is not only illegal, it is highly unsafe. This is a danger to the occupants (especially since some of these occupants are children) and possible for this person due to the their occupation. An example is that they may try to use unsafe wiring to use electricity which sparks a fire causing damage to the site and this person’s property. In any event, it is in the person’s moral and social interest that the neighbour’s building is at least safe for occupation.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I sympathise with this person having to put up with this. There are so many problems in our communities (not the gated ones obviously) of abandoned vehicles and trash dumped by persons unknown plus the existence of shacks, supposedly temporary, with water pipes and electrical extension cords running to them. My neighbor some years back put a huge trailer (the largest kind there is) on his property in full view of my house. He stores junk in it but seldom enters it. If Planning just toured the island, they would find a staggering number of cases where various laws designed to keep the environment safe and free from unsightly objects are broken. If a person complains, life is made very difficult for them (in a number of ways) by the parties one is complaining about.

  14. Anonymous says:

    While I understand the concerns of the neighbor, it is sad that you have to go to this lengths without even speaking to the people to find out what the problem is. Maybe they don’t have anywhere else to go until the house is finished, maybe they can’t afford to go pay rent because all of their money is going into the house, maybe they have no relatives, it could be so many reasons. Obviously you’re not a Caymanian if you even have to ask how to go about making a complaint to planning because a local person would have just walked into the Gov’t Admin Bldg and spoken to someone instead of posting it here.

    People are so quick these days to be cruel and unkind without finding out the reasons people do what they do.

    Be a kind neighbor and ask questions first or speak to them first before being so quick to jump and make a complaint after all these people may be living beside you for a long time and having a neighbor with a grudge is not the nicest thing!g

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