Panama: Understanding possessory rights
To invest in Panama in real estate has widely attracted the interest in the last five years. The investment projects are not limited to the capital city areas only, but they spread up to distant provinces such as Herrera, Veraguas, Bocas del Toro and Los Santos. A lot of businessmen have moved in search of what locally is known as “possessory rights of the land”. This expression has become a commonplace among those who have managed to invest in real estate in Panama. Nevertheless, the specialists think that the matters on “possessory rights on the land” are not quite clear. The concept is convincing: it refers to those rights that arise from the material possession that a person exercise on a certain quantity of rural land which belongs to the Panamanian State. By these possessory rights, the investors acquire the authority to occupy, to maintain and to give the best use to the land during an established period of time. The analysts insist on explaining a series of special characteristics in order to provide a better understanding of the idea related to property in Panama. For example, the local laws establish that not all the properties or areas in this Central American nation are privately owned and many are not even due registered in the Public Registry Office; in addition, the experts coincide in the fact that it is important to know that the properties along the sea (beach front) in Panama are administered by the State, by means of the local government authorities or through the National Department of Agrarian Reform of the Department of Agricultural Development.Precisely, this organism grants the “possessory rights” to individuals applying to use the land for their own benefit and in the benefit of their family economic subsistence. In addition, the analysts offer an interesting number: the beach front area, along the sea, 22 meters from the highest tide up to firm land, will never be ad judicable, so their advice is not to worry the least for this part of the land.If someone wanted to invest in a Panamanian island, it might be possible to do so; though, according to the Economy and Finances Department, for these portions the “possessory rights" are established for a period of 40 years, which could be extendable for three more decades. Another very significant element that the analysts clarify, on the " possessory rights " in Panama is that these rights do not represent a title deed and they only allow to occupy the land; though, it is possible for the person to initiate the steps to inscribe this property in the Public Registry Department.The acknowledgement of “possessory rights”, in general, are not processed as fast as anyone would like and, actually, it can take months due to diverse causes, among them the proper inspection of the land by the National Department of Agrarian Reform and the actual transfer of the rights. Although, as it has been already stated, the “possessory rights” do not have the value of a title deed, they can be sold, yielded or transferred, provided they are authorized by the institution in charge of this process (National Department of Agrarian Reform). Finally, the specialists suggest that all those interested in acquiring " possessory rights " in Panama should check very well the whole documentation, because there have been several cases of swindles, since the properties did not have the proper approval of the National Department of Agrarian Reform and, without this permission, the "possessory rights " lose any legitimacy. A possible solution would be to look after legal help provided by attorneys specialized in these matters. Probably, the idea of spending more money contracting a professional would not be attractive, but this investment is worth the guarantee of a total transparency in the business transaction.