Preserving ROP Claims

Preserving a rights of possession (ROP) claim requires a deliberate plan to demonstrate continued possession of the property.

Article Highlights

  • Preserving a rights of possession (ROP) claim requires a deliberate plan to demonstrate continued possession of the property.
  • Using the land helps demonstrate possession and makes it less likely that a neighbor will think it’s okay to use the land.
  • Hiring a caretaker who keeps everything neat and in good repair also helps maintain an ROP claim.
  • Building on the land is another way to demonstrate possession and strengthen an ROP claim.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that “everyone wants to build, but nobody wants to do maintenance.” Luckily for investors buying ROP, building is a large part of maintaining an ROP claim.

If an ROP claim is contested,possession is awarded to whoever can best demonstrate possession. There is no single criterion that guarantees continued possession. But there is a large array of criteria, like documentation, use, extrajudicial declarations from family and community, exploiting the land, and certifications from certain authorities, that make it virtually impossible to lose possession when combined.

Fence the Property

It’s easy. It’s cheap. It prevents neighbors from accidentally using the land. Fencing the land is a small one-off expense that goes a long way towards preventing problems.

The good fences make good neighbors proverb has never been so true. No farmer wants to till land only to discover that they’re not allowed to use it. And no investor wants to evict a neighbor as their first foray into the community. So build a fence and no one will be disappointed.

The best time to plan a fence is during the pre-purchase phase. Get together with the seller and the neighbors and walk the property line so problems aren’t inherited from the previous owner. Then get the fence up as soon as possible. You would rather learn of a disputed line before the acquisition than the day after.

Use the Land

Someone who’s not planning on building or not planning on building right away should plan to make some minimal improvements to the land. Something as simple as planting fruit trees is a good start.

Across North America, it’s not unusual to see an empty lot sitting in an otherwise rich and vibrant downtown core. Usually these lots are owned by some investor who has nothing to do with the city except for this passive investment. If these lots were ROP, the absent owners could at worst lose or, more likely, have to go to court to protect the land.

Using the land helps demonstrate possession and makes it less likely that a neighbor will think it’s okay to use the land.

Hire a caretaker

Hiring a caretaker who keeps everything neat and in good repair also helps maintain a ROP claim. The caretaker basically keeps the land in use and the jungle from taking over.

For large properties, this only costs about $300 per month and smaller properties can often share caretakers with their neighbors.

It is important to make sure that the caretaker has signed a proper labor contract so that the caretaker himself isn’t making claims on the land.

The caretaker will also greatly reduce the risks of trespassing or theft. Violent crime in Panama is rare, but it is not unusual to return from a short holiday and discover the house broken into. A caretaker, even shared with the neighbors, will go a long way toward keeping people off the property.

Building on the Land

Building on the land is another way to demonstrate possession and strengthen an ROP claim. Keeping a herd of cattle isn’t necessary to enjoy your land while knowing it’s secure. Building helps too.

Virtually any type of infrastructure will strengthen an ROP claim: buildings, roads, wells and pretty much anything else will help. It is also possible to title many improvements to the land which will further help demonstrate possession.

ROP Over the Long Term

Preserving an ROP claim is important because it’s a lot cheaper to plan ahead and take steps to guarantee the claim than it is to have to prove a claim in court. With a little bit of planning, there is no reason why someone can’t own ROP property for as long as titled property.

NEXT: ROP Now & the Future

About Park

Park Wilson, co-founder of Emerging Terrains, has been living and actively investing in the Latin American real estate markets since 2007. His boots-on-the-ground approach to scouting and choosing properties has led to the purchase of more than 6 miles of Latin American coastline. To reach Park, please e-mail him at info@emergingterrains.com Read More

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