For many years, Costa Rica has lacked a land survey and registration system to protect owners’ rights regarding property, to guarantee inviolable land registers and to ensure that the real dimensions of land parcels agree with registered documentation.

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This has led to over-calculation of land areas, duplication of deeds and other scams of various kinds, all leading to a lack of confidence that has affected the property market and warned off foreign investors.

In previous years, several projects were tried unsuccessfully to solve this situation, but now different institutions have joined forces to implement an ambitious program to improve the legal protection of property rights.

Called the Program for Land Register Reforms, it is part-financed by an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan to tally land surveys with registered real estate information in the Alajuela, Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces.

This program, explains German Arce, vice-president of the College of Surveyors, covers three phases:

1. A National Property Register that agrees with the National Land-Survey Register or Cadastre.
2. Conflict prevention and resolution regarding property rights.
3. Better municipal use of Land Register information.

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The Program will create an Enforcement Unit and Advisory Council to provide government back-up for bids and contracts and any other procedures to make the program work.

The College of Surveyors also created the Land Register Scanning Commission that will provide the technical surveys and follow-up of these developments.

Proposed Goals.

Basically, the Program for Land Register Reforms has the following objectives:

1. To merge the National Cadastre and the Property Registry into a single authority to be called the Property Registry.

2. To complete land-plot mapping for all the country’s properties.

3. To develop an information system within the Property Registry so property, land and existing mapped data can be accessed.

4. To create a National System of Land Data so municipalities, public and private users can access a single database of property information.

5. To act as a central advisory for all the country’s municipalities regarding tax and rates charges, and to provide help drafting specific projects.

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Meeting these objectives, comments Arce and Daniel Acuña of the College of Surveyors’ Commission, will also bring other benefits such as avoiding duplication of property registration and up-to-date survey maps that can spotlight natural high-risk areas.

According to Acuña, a single Property Register will identify land ownership backed with graphical evidence of its location and area. “The maps will allow us to have better control on real estate movements, avoiding duplicate deeds and improving property valuations and tax collection,” he added.

Added value.

Apart from these benefits, College of Surveyor representatives see this initiative also taking advantage of a national system of mapping coordinates, compatible to GIS (Geographic Information System) technology and satellite navigation.

For example, it will be possible to know the position and location of any goods or vehicle within the national mapping network.

Experts state that the project will have important effects on people’s daily activities. One would be the massive use of GPS systems, currently used by only a few professionals in the country. Another application for the new mapping system would allow drivers to identify and locate their position at any one moment.

Some Program Details

1:25000 scale mapping. A NASA-contracted plane began fly-overs this year. The project includes photographing the country and providing digital and printed photos.

1:6000 scale mapping. The flights will cover major urban areas (2,700 km2) to be completed by February, 2006.

National coordinates network. A five-stage process that will define a new reference system and geodesic network.

Renewal of the Property Register Information System. A six-stage process to include an analysis of the infrastructure, personnel and needs in the National Property Registry. Update equipment, software and office furniture by November, 2007.

1:1000 and 1:5000 maps. Digitalized and photographic maps to be completed by February, 2007.

Our thanks to Gloriana Gómez and our friends at La Nación – Costa Rica most influential and largest circulation Spanish newspaper for their permission to use this article…

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