San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The ABCs of Titled Land Registration

THE registrationsystem fortitled land inCosta Rica isundoubtedly differentfrom whatforeigners areused to, and hasits advantages anddisadvantages.All titled landin the country isaccessible andsearchable in acentralized databasekept by the Public Registry, which ismostly computerized. Actual ownership isnot proven by a deed, but by verificationof the property’s folio real (registration)number. This process shows you the nameof the current owner and any pendingtransactions on the land.People who are used to having a physicaldeed to their land may mistakenlyidentify the notarized document that wassent to the Public Registry to register thetransfer to their names (or corporations)as proof of ownership. This is incorrect.Though such a transfer document, if dulyprocessed, stamped and registered by theProperty Section of the Public Registry,proves that ownership was transferred tothe individual or corporation indicated,and that the new owner was owner of theland when the registration took place, itdoes not prove that, at a later time, ownershipwas not transferred again.The registered transfer document onlyproves that the acquisition took place legally.What determines ownership is the informationin the registry’s folio real systemfor the piece of land in question at the timeof the search. The piece of paper somepeople treasure so much is simply that: apiece of paper, with a solely informativevalue, if any. This document is not requiredfor future sale of the property; what isrequired is verification of your ownershiprights in the computerized system.In light of the above, it’s easy to seehow important it is to be able to interpretwhat the folio real system says about aspecific piece of property. This information,with its most current updates asavailable to the general public, can beaccessed online at (Spanish only). The followinginformation may be accessed:Folio real number: The property registrationnumber, normally consisting of asingle number from one to seven indicatingthe province where the property islocated, followed by a sequence of five orsix numbers, and finally a sequence ofthree more numbers, generally zeros.Location information: The namesand numbers of the province, county anddistrict where the property is located.Measurement: The size of the property,in square meters.Boundaries: Four boundaries will belisted, normally north, south, east andwest. Don’t panic if the boundaries are notcurrent; this is common, and should not beof concern. However, it is advisable toverify in the field that registered surveyscorrespond with the actual property.Owner information: For corporations,the company’s name and corporate identificationnumber will be listed. For individuals,the registry will list full name, identificationnumber and marital status.Survey number: In most cases, anexisting registered survey for the property(plano catastrado) will be shown,although there are still properties forwhich a survey number is not listed orsimply does not exist. By law, no propertytransfers can be made if the land does nothave a registered map, and this map mustbe cited in the transfer deed. If a mapdoes not exist, it must be created by a specialized,registered surveyor and thenrecorded before the transaction can bemade. A delay of several weeks should beexpected while this process takes place.Encumbrances: These are calledgravámenes in Spanish, and include severalitems that under other countries’ legalterminology may be considered not onlyencumbrances but also liens, such asmortgages, easements, conditions and limitations.Encumbrances will not be shownin full detail in the computer search. Forcomplete information on these items, youmust use the reference number indicatedin the computer and continue the searchon microfilmed or scanned documents.Annotations: All filed documentspending registration for transactions onthe property as well as some court proceedingsconcerning the title-searchedproperty will be shown. A document filedon a property while an annotation appearswill not be registered until the annotateddocument or documents are either registeredor removed from the queue.For more legal advice, contact Lang& Asociados at 204-7871 or

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