Purchasing Raw Land in Costa Rica

large land tract on costa rica beach

Purchasing Raw Land in Costa Rica

As part of our efforts to provide our clients with the best and most up-to-date information on purchasing land and development property in Cost Rica, we offer expert advice from real estate attorney, Rick Philps.   On this page you will find detailed information on the ins and outs of buying land in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a Civil (Napoleonic) Law Jurisdiction, rather than an English Common Law Jurisdiction, which is the norm in the majority of Canada and the United States. When purchasing raw land in Costa Rica, the Civil Law presents some unusual issues with respect to Right of Possession, which may have been acquired over time by an occupant, rather than by a registered property title for the land existing in their name. This Right of Possession may be acquired by a Contract of Sale from a prior owner of the land held in a Right of Possession, or merely by the current occupant as a “Squatter”, utilizing the land in a peaceful and public manner, unchallenged, by even a registered title owner of the land, who would be at risk of losing the land to the Squatter, should such occupation equal, or exceed a term of ten years.

These Squatter’s Rights, or the Right to acquire land merely by taking possession, have largely been abolished by Statute in English Common Law Jurisdictions, over the past century. When a purchase of such land is being considered, obviously extensive due diligence is required by a competent Real estate Attorney, to investigate the existence of any such third party, unregistered claims, which may exist for any particular piece of land.

The existence of such claims to land arising from a Right of Possession, usually occur in the rural areas of Costa Rica. In order to guard against such claims arising, a purchaser of such land should fence the boundaries of the property and post signs at regular intervals around the boundary of the property, indicating the land to be private property and that entry to the land is forbidden. If the land is acquired by an absentee landlord, a caretaker for the property should be hired under a written Caretaker Agreement, to watch the property in order to guard against such third parties (squatters) moving on to the property in order to acquire a Right of Possession over time. It is important that such a Caretaker Agreement be in writing, in order to guard against the caretaker becoming the squatter and in-fact acquiring this Right of Possession.

In addition to the forgoing, depending on the intended future use of such a raw land purchase, a Purchaser should make inquiries as to any Municipal Zoning Laws which exist that would regulate development of the property, availability of access to public roads either directly, or by an easement, the availability of potable water, either from a well on the property, or a community water supply, and the availability of electricity. If the existing Survey Plan for the property exceeds ten years, a purchaser would be well advised to hire a Land Surveyor to check the location of the boundaries of the property prior to any purchase.

Property Purchasing in Costa Rica of any nature, requires a purchaser to retain Real Estate and Legal Professionals to conduct the necessary due diligence from the out-set, in order to guard against any problems arising in the future.

To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney, please use the following information: Lic. Rick Philps – Attorney at Law, Petersen & Philps, San Jose, Costa Rica Tel: 506-2288-4381, Ext. 102; Email: rick@costaricacanadalaw.com Website: www.costaricacanadalaw.com

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