Squatters Rights in Costa Rica

To show that it does not have to be all about me all the time, today I’d like to take a side road into the box canyon where my German friend, Jorg, got shot. First of all Jorg was undeniably a 30-something stud, straight up. Good looking, tall & lean, permanently tanned, cock strong, and a man of action. He was the first person that I ever met who owned and flew an ultralight – cool as heck, and he had a thriving pineapple plantation with hundreds of employees. His crop was primarily exported to Europe, but he did some business in the States also. From what I observed, he didn’t do too badly with las Latinas. Hells bells if I were a chick he could have conquistadored me, and I would have been all danke schön. But I digress.

To set up the circumstances under which he met his demise, first of all you’ll need a bit of background. In Costa Rica (CR) property rights are not inviolable; as a matter of fact they are downright sketchy. As it was explained to me, in the early days of the country’s independence most of the people lived in the capital or along the coasts. So in order to incentivize los Ticos to go forth and populate the country, the law makers wrote the laws to encourage people to homestead the jungle. This homesteading, unfortunately, did not only address vacant and uninhabited land but also abandoned land. Today in Costa Rica the definition of abandoned land is often determined by who has the best lawyer and the most muscle. My guess is that these laws have never been updated to keep up with the times because the landholdings of the rich and powerful Costa Ricans are not at risk and the business of occupying “abandoned” property is good for lawyers, and the losers in this are most often the expat absentee landlords. 

The lawyers in CR do a bang up job of separating expats from their money. There are also professional and well organized squatters that make a living by invading “abandoned” property. I am not 100% certain of how the lawyers are connected to the squatters but am sure that there is a symbiotic relationship. The squatters invade an expat’s property and stay there while lawyers sort it out. The lawyers bleed the expats dry; and more often than not at the end of the day, the squatters end up with the property because the absentee landlord runs out of money or cuts his losses and runs. The land that is targeted for invasion has been improved, almost without exception, at great expense by foreign investors. My crazy friend Tim’s dad once told me that the only way to leave Costa Rica with a million dollars was to start with at least two million. He also told me that before there was a time when he could borrow a million dollars on his signature alone but no more. He had lost his shirt in Costa Rica.

A few weeks before Jorg was shot numerous squatters had moved onto a prime section of his property. While my land was too snake infested and deep in the jungle to be a viable target for the professional squatters, it could have been targeted by a handful of hardcore want-a-be black pepper farmers. To prevent that from happening I had taken the precaution of offering Rosita’s dad free rent in a small cabin on my property, and he had accepted the offer. On the other hand Jorg had property with footage on the paved road between Puerto Viejo and La Virgen which also had a gravel/ mud road which bordered it and led deep into the jungle all the way back to my place. One day all was normal, the next day I drove past Jorg’s property to discover dozens of little huts had sprung up overnight like mushrooms and there were men, women, and children ripping out the pineapple plants and replacing it with cassava (yucca) shrubs. Things were fixin’ to get real ugly in paradise.

3 thoughts on “Squatters Rights in Costa Rica

  1. The immediacy of this shines through, ST, so much so that it feels like it happened yesterday. Well-lived and well-penned, sir! Appreciate the post!

    Liked by 2 people

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