Should you worry about squatters in Costa Rica or not? If you own a property in Costa Rica and you have abandoned it, yes you should worry about squatting. Try leaving your car on a street in downtown Los Angeles, Amsterdam, or New York for a month and try to recover tires, radio, and whatever else can be taken apart and sold.
I don’t know the circumstances of every case of squatting and property theft that has taken place in Costa Rica and in my opinion, it’s sad that the risk should even exist. But I have been in the Costa Rica real estate business long enough to assure our buyers, that with our assistance you can certainly purchase property in Costa Rica and when you follow the rules, you will not lose your property to squatters.
Do you think only foreigners lose property to a squatter? Of course, not, squatting also happens to locals, but of course, you won’t read about that in AM Costa Rica. You won’t read In AM Costa Rica about the hundreds of thousands of property owners who never had any problems with their property because they pay their taxes on time, have their property fenced properly, keep the grass cut, and don’t abandon their property for years.
Reasons for squatters
Do you think squatters happen to every property owner in Costa Rica? Of course not, squatting only happens to those who give squatters a chance to move onto their property. That might be because:
- the property is not being used
- there is no caretaker,
- there is no fence
- or the property tax was not paid for years.
Property theft is a whole different issue and we’ll talk about that another day.
Squatting exists all over the world, something most of us don’t realize. I did a blog on how to protect your property rights a couple of years ago on the largest Costa Rica real estate blog. And I did another one on Maritime concessions, to warn buyers to take precautions when buying beachfront property in Costa Rica. So they can be aware of the possible problems they can run into when you purchase property and don’t take care of it, in Costa Rica or in any other country.
Mr. Sheldon Hazeltine
Quite a few people have followed the sad story about Mr. Sheldon Hazeltine’s struggle to recover his land near Los Sueños Resort in Herradura Beach through a never-ending legal battle, that started 17 years ago, with Mr. Armando Gonzalez Fonseca, a well-known Costarican businessman. Forbes magazine wrote an article in 2008 on several cases of squatting and property theft. Once in a while, bad news like this will make headlines in the newspapers.
Phil Baker tells another sad story on AM Costa Rica a while ago, about his battle to recover his property that was stolen by well-connected Costa Ricans. Harv Brinson wrote a pretty good article (on page 2, scroll down) for AM Costa Rica with some tips on how to keep your property safe that makes a lot of sense.
Here are a few more tips that I would add to his list:
1. Pay your property tax on time. Unpaid tax is how the well-connected squatters find out that they’re dealing with an absent owner
2. Put a fence around the property in case it is not fenced yet. Maintain the fence at all times.
3. Cut the grass at least once or twice a year. Long grass is not only a danger to the neighbors during the dry season; it is also a sign that the property was abandoned by its owner.
If you buy land for investment in Costa Rica, or anywhere else in the world, don’t forget about it. If you don’t have the time to control your investment, buy in a gated community, where you won’t have to worry about squatters. But this has a cost: Home Owner Association (HOA) fees.
Contact your real estate agent about your investment plans, what do you want to do with the land you’re purchasing, how you will keep up with the property, etc. Our real estate agents are well-seasoned agents and know the area they work; they can help you out or make recommendations.
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