PROVIDENCIALES, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 – The ISU is tasked by Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) with responsibility to assist in the building of sustainable and safer communities, thereby improving the standard of living of citizens and residents alike. This work expressly involves the containment and management of informal settlements i.e., construction undertaken in breach of the planning and land ownership laws of the Islands, aka squatting.
To be clear, the law does not allow persons to claim ownership of crown land through illegal occupation. In the case of private land, the period of uncontested occupation must be no less than 20 years and followed by the approval of an application for registration as proprietor of the land. In the course of its work so far, no such case has come to the attention of the ISU.
The Crown Land Unit has not engaged in any land reclamation exercises of roofed-over, occupied structures on crown land, and it will not do so until it is satisfied that the relevant considerations under the Crown Land Ordinance are able to be met.
In the case of privately owned lands, the legally registered landowners are entitled, as a matter of law, to their lands. They are also legally entitled to request aid in removing any persons trespassing or otherwise illegally occupying their lands. Additionally, in order to avoid the possibility of squatters claiming ownership of the land which they illegally occupy, the legally registered landowners must take appropriate action to end said illegal occupation.
In those instances where private landowners have sought the assistance of the ISU, such assistance has been extended in order to ensure that reclamation exercises proceed in an orderly way under the watchful eye of the Police Force and other stakeholder agencies of TCIG. The ISU will continue to offer such assistance to private landowners who have been deprived of their property ownership rights. It is also worth noting that in many cases, these same landowners intend to build exactly the type of low-cost housing units that are needed in the Turks and Caicos Islands in order to help combat our current housing situation.
Recently an “Eviction Notice” was served on various dwellings in the Informal Settlement of Dock Yard. The Notice was expressed to expire on 8 December 2023. All structures affected would appear to be located on privately owned land and to have been built without the requisite planning permissions.
However, a number of the owners and occupants of such structures have come forward within the last several days with papers, including receipts for the payment of money that tend to show that they might have at least an equitable interest in the lands they occupy. It is right that all such claims should be investigated fully and that all such persons be dealt with fairly.
Given these circumstances, and given the approaching Christmas holiday season, the ISU, in conjunction with the Department of Planning, hereby announce that no action will be taken on the Notices expiring on 8 December, until at least 8 January 2024. This limited and temporary suspension does not affect the Crown Land Unit’s continued monitoring and reclamation of unoccupied structures on crown land.
Meanwhile, persons who have been served with an “Eviction Notice” to expire on 8 December are encouraged to continue to present copies of their paperwork to the ISU or the Department of Planning Offices for review and assessment. They may do so in full reliance upon the pledge given here that such papers will be assessed carefully and fairly, and that they will not be made homeless where their documents suggest an ownership interest in the lands they occupy.
We want to remind all persons who are considering illegally occupying land that they do not own, illegally building an unapproved structure on land that they do not own, or illegally expanding upon an unapproved structure that is erected on land that they do not own, that this practice is illegal and will result in actions being taken to remove them and the structures.
The mission of the ISU is to build safer, more sustainable communities and that objective will be achieved with empathy and due respect for the rights of those affected.