Costa Rican Constitution

Costa Rica is a free and independent republic and its people have enjoyed a peaceful, democratic way of life since 1889. The military as a division of the Costa Rican government was abolished in 1948 and is now prohibited by the Costa Rican Constitution.

The current leadership consists of three branches of government including the President, elected by popular vote for a period of four-years and exercising executive powers; the Congress, a single chambered legislature, whose members are also elected by popular vote for a four-year term; and the Supreme Court, acting as the judicial body of the nation.

The Constitution guarantees and protects its peoples right to life, freedom and basic civil liberties. The death sentence was abolished in 1882, which has provided an ideal environment for several prestigious international human rights organization who have established their headquarters here in Costa Rica.

The country enjoys a quiet co-existence with its neighbors aided in part by president Dr. Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, for his negotiating efforts throughout Central America.

Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed in Costa Rica in 1983.

Myths and realities about squatters

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.

Property Ownership

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.