According to Costa Rican law, a person can acquire rights to a property if the property owner allows that person to use or maintain possession of the property for more than a year. Once the property has been acquired it cannot be taken away, except for reasons such as eminent domain, and then only with proper compensation.
If a person has held possession of a property for at least ten years, that person can go to court, claim full ownership of the property and register the property at the Registro Publico.
If a landlord does not take action to evict squatters during the first three months of their invasion, then squatters may not be evicted at all. If the landlord does not take action within a year, the squatter has a right to demand compensation for any improvements he has made to the land.
If you have squatter problems you must act promptly, before the third month of the date the squatter moved in. You need to start an Interdicto (a civil procedure), or level criminal charges, called Usurpacion. Delay may cost you dearly in red tape and legal procedures.
How to Avoid Problems With Squatters:
Study the title of your property as it is registered in the Registro Publico. Review the ownership status of the property to make sure that ownership and the possession rights are not challenged in a local court. Remember, just because the property is registered, it does not mean that no squatters have encroached on the land or that other situations might not exist which affect the ownership.
For example: study the legal conditions and rights of any worker living or hired by the former property owner. Make sure these workers were properly compensated by the former owner. If you buy the property and rehire the current workers, write a contract citing the date of hire, wages, benefits and conditions of employment, stating unequivocally he or she is a worker and not a possessor.
Make sure the property does not look abandoned. If you buy land that is registered on the National Registry, hire someone to take care of the property and to inform you if squatters are encroaching on the property. However, be very careful! Caretakers may be able to claim rights to the land if they have been living on the property for a certain length of time.
To avoid squatter battles, keep good books, and keep t receipt when you pay the caretaker. You will avoid hassles if you register the person as an employee. (You will need to pay minimum wage, plus Social Security.) Also, it wouldn't hurt to have a friend look in on your property while the caretaker is working.
If squatters invade, this is what you have to do:
A. Shoo them away within three months of their arrival.
B. Establish the exact date of their enchroachment.
C. Document your ownership of the property.
D. Record the squatters with a video camera
E. Have the local Rural Guard come to your property to inspect it and describe the conditions in writing.
F. File the dates with a notary public
If more than the three but less than twelve months have passed since the invasion, you need to undertake administrative eviction. You must file prove the date of invasion, and produce property registries, bills of sale and other documents to prove you are the rightful owner. If more than a year has passed, you will have to go to court.