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.