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Costa Rica Real Estate 101; Protecting Your Property from Squatters

Costa Rica Real Estate – This is part of our series on buying real estate in Costa Rica. We hope to provide information needed to make an informed decision about purchasing land, condos, houses or commercial property in Costa Rica. If you want more information about this property or buying real estate in general you can request the free e-book, “Secrets of Buying Real Estate in Costa Rica”

costa rica squatter law 1All over the world there are about a billion squatters, also known as informal settlers, who have illegally encroached on unoccupied lands, try to make a life for themselves and families by tilling the land and pray that the legitimate owners do not discover their community to evict them from the property they have built their homes on.  The same problem is happening in Costa Rica; the only difference is that the Costa Rican law recognizes rights of possession with regards to land. These rights can be acquired when the land property owner allows other individual to use and maintain possession of the land for more than a year, under which the land owner may partially or fully lose rights to use, even ownership of his or her property in the long run.

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The notion of having another individual moving into your land, taking control and eventually owning it legally is a very ridiculous one. However, before you go ballistic and react violently we first need to understand the intention of those who designed the law, specifically the Article 277 of Costa Rican civil code that establishes possession rights to a property by means of occupation. Opposed to the other parts of Central America, the wealth in Costa Rica is very well dispensed or distributed. This is highly attributed to the fact that Costa Ricans or Ticos have always been given access to land. In so saying, the law protecting squatters’ rights is put in place to prevent a situation where only limited members of the society can own and have rights to all of the land.

Although squatters are a force to reckon with, there are ways for you to safeguard your real estate investment and prevent these people from possessing your land. You can save yourself the hassle of legal procedures and tons of headaches if at the start of the buying process you exercise prudence and take preventive measures.

To avoid problems with squatters, it is imperative that you study the title of the property you are purchasing in the Registro Publico and make sure to check the ownership status to ensure that the ownership and possession rights are not challenged in any local courts. You should also study the legal conditions and rights of employees of the previous owner who are living in the property to ensure that they are fully paid and well compensated by the owner. If you are retaining the services of the said employees be sure to write a contract that spells out clearly the date of hire, salary and benefits they will receive, other employment conditions and most of all, the fact that they are workers and not possessors.

Once you are already the new owner of the property, be sure to inspect and maintain it regularly; abandoned and neglected properties are easy targets for squatters. It is also advisable that your boundaries are chopped and your fences in good repair to keep the squatters away. Make sure that you stay up to date with property taxes and register a “Cedula Hipotecaria” on your property, which is a mortgage you own, to ensure that it will not be sold or mortgaged by anyone else.

In the event squatters have encroached on your land, evict them within three months of their arrival with the help of local police. If the squatters have stayed in your property for longer than three months you are required by law to get a court order to kick them out of your property, and if they have stayed for over a year they would then have the right to ask for compensation. Finally, after ten years of habituating in your land unmolested, the squatters can then obtain a clear legal title of the property which once was yours.

Get Your Free Copy of “Secrets of Buying Real Estate in Costa Rica”

Property Ownership

Types Is the Property Really for Sale? 

What is the Maritime Zone? 

Myths About Squatters 

Construction, Architects & Engineers 

Purchasing Under a Corporation 


And so much more……..



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