Title Guarantee: In many countries when you are in the process of investing in real estate, the Title of Ownership of the land is crucial. When it concerns Costa Rica real estate though, we have the National Registry, where all properties in Costa Rica are registered with the name of the current owner and the need for a physical Title of Ownership is not necessary. The Costa Rica National Registry will provide certified documentation of ownership of any registered property in Costa Rica at any time. These ownership documents are a matter of public record.
However, the Costa Rica National Registry does not provide any guaranty that defects or recording errors have occurred during the registration process related to the transfer history of particular properties in Costa Rica. Any errors may place in jeopardy the rights acquired and in extreme cases could even result in a loss of your investment. So it is important to know the local history of the property you are interested in.
Most of us working at Century 21’s Beach Area Properties real estate office in Tambor, have been living here since the 1990’s and know most everyone and all the land. We only work with properties that have apparent clear title. As always, due diligence is a requisite of good investing.
Costa Rican law recognizes rights of possession with regards to land in Costa Rica. If a person has established themselves on a particular piece of land in Costa Rica for a specific period of time, even if this land isn’t registered under his/her name, he/she could claim possession of that land and apply for legal ownership. The process does take some time and if challenged, does not guarantee the “possessor” will become the legal owner. It should be noted that this process is subject to very strict and limited regulation, and several conditions must exist for a person to claim any rights to land that has not been acquired through legal transfer. The general conditions are (1) the “good faith” of the person claiming possession and (2) this person has to be acting before others as if he/she were the legal owner of the property in Costa Rica. In productive land (e.g. a plantation or a small farm), different regulations apply, and besides the general conditions, this person must have worked the land and made it productive for as long as he/she has been living on it.
Additionally, for a person to claim possession, he/she must have been living on the land in Costa Rica with all the conditions met, for at least one year on productive land, or for at least three years on any other type of land in Costa Rica.
According to those conditions, it is very unlikely that a person can claim “good faith” and “acts of ownership” on any land in Costa Rica acquired legally by the purchase procedure explained in this Costa Rica real estate guide. Even less probable is that these conditions could be met for three years without your knowledge.
The easiest way to prevent potential squatter issues is by living on the property you are acquiring. If you are going to be traveling back and forth from your homeland, we recommend that you have someone you trust keep an eye on your property in Costa Rica. If squatters appear on your property, the Costa Rica law gives you the right to evict them provided that you initiate the eviction within three months of the appearance of the squatters. If this process is not initiated in time, there are other legal procedures that will help you maintain your rights of ownership of your land.
Protecting your property
Things are going forward in the process of investing in Costa Rica, and only a few steps are left before you can start enjoying the Costa Rican lifestyle in a place of your own. However, each of the following steps is as important as the ones you have already taken. At this point you are about to close the deal and you need to decide under whose name you will register the property you are acquiring. You can decide to register the property in Costa Rica under your name or under the name of a Costa Rican company (ask your attorney in Costa Rica about the types of companies and which is the best choice for you).
In general terms, both ways are pretty much alike; each is completely legal, the property in Costa Rica is yours and you have the legal ownership of the land in Costa Rica with all rights and obligations. They also have their differences. With the use of a Costa Rican Company, your name doesn’t appear in the registry of the property, only that of the company. Additionally, in the future if you decide to sell the property, you need not transfer the title to the land, you can simply sell the company with all of its registered assets, i.e. the Costa Rica land. This will avoid transfer taxes.