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Puerto Rico Property Registry

The Puerto Rico Property Registry is much unlike any property registry in the United States.  While on some instances you hear the phrase “the registry cannot take your rights away” it is not less true that in some instances it does.

The main reason for the noticeable differences has all to do with Puerto Rico’s Spanish tradition, a subject I am sure we will comment more about as this subject evolves in the following weeks.

This category will deal with your questions on how the registry works in Puerto Rico, and on how it may or not affect your rights over real estate poperty, particularly that in the Island of Vieques.


Please post your comments or questions.

Best regards,

Santiago F. Lampón 

Categories: The Property Registry
  1. Gordon Rumore
    December 20, 2007 at 1:19 am

    Dear Lcdo. Lampón,

    Like most other owners, …we are waiting to see what the next Vieques administration is going to do about selling titles.

    * * *

    To this end, I thought that you might wish to read the following article:

    ADVERSE POSSESSION-Villa Borinquen/Monte Carmelo UCTP Newsletter – Sept/Oct 1999
    The US Navy acquired its holdings on Vieques between 1941 and 1950. The total purchase price for the 25,000 acres was $1,562,000.00. In 1980, the Navy (via the Federal General Services Administration) was forced to sell off 2,626 acres to the Puerto Rican government to relieve itself of adverse possession claims made on behalf of homesteaders in an areas now know as Villa Borinquen and Monte Carmelo.

    This US land disposition was forced by the leadership of Taino elder don Carmelo as per “Quit Claim Deed” dated February 7th, 1980 (between GSA and the PR Land Administration). The land transfer was facilitated with a 1980 purchase price of $1,018,446.00. The Puerto Rico government utilized US federal dollars to satisfy the necessary legal maneuvering to absolve the Quit Claim Deed against the US Navy made on behalf of the Vieques resident squatters claiming adverse possession legal settlements.
    The US Navy settled for its remaining 22 plus thousand acres for a total 1941 price outlay of only $543,554.00 or roughly $25.00 per acre. The 1980 Quit Claim Deed stipulated the expressed condition that the buyer (PR government) must respect the right of “parties in possession” recognized by adverse possession statutes (a.k.a. the Monte Carmelo and Villa Borinquen homesteaders).
    In 1980, PR Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo ratified this claim with most portions of these lands already populated by Vieques families. The government also labeled these families “squatters”. Since Gov. Barcelo purchased the land with households aboard, the court stipulations disallowed evictions. It seemed that the Vieques families in possession of these lands had succeeded in establishing an adverse possession claim against the US Navy and the Puerto Rican government!
    A newly created PR Land Authority for Vieques kept the areas with fewest squatters, and sold the rest of the occupied acreage to another PR governmental agency – CRUV. They, the CRUV, had now been charged with solving the housing situation of the Villa Borinquen homesteaders and the unresolved “untitled” lands.

    The Trustee arrangement began heavy-handed campaigns to force households to pay for the property these homesteaders had developed themselves without governmental assistance. Lawsuits ensued and the Trustee Commission opted to sell off its most problematic area – “Villa Borinquen and Monte Carmelo” to Vieques Municipal City Hall. What should have been a blessing soon became a nightmare.
    Vieques City Hall soon opened its own realty office and armed itself with toothy municipal ordinances to force homestead resident claimants to pay or get out. Interestingly, a more aggressive program than those unsuccessfully imposed by CRUV and the Trustees with the Puerto Rican government (and the US Navy trumped out on the side) by Vieques’ municipal officials against its own local inhabitants. These municipal parties were soon sued. Lawsuits and criminal cases are still lined up within municipal and Superior courts. Adverse Possession claims of Monte Carmelo continue today.

    In denial of the “rights of possession clause” accepted by the Federal and Insular governments, the municipality of Vieques(City Hall)- paid some $ 242 per acre out of PR funds (forwarded by US aid) for these contested homestead sites. Now they are forcibly demanding prices above $ 12,000 per cuerda from Vieques homesteaders too poor to pay. This incredible sales proposition is now more than 50 times more than the people’s money to purchase these acres in the first place. The PR Gov’t then paid $ 14,000 per cuerda for land in Villa Borinquen just days after selling it for $242 to appease the Vieques local elected municipality.

    As pointed out by elder Carmelo, the claims by
    the people of Villa Borinquen of adverse possession requires respect for a just transition. If the people of Vieques can be considered squatters, they squatted on Navy land – not municipal land. The US Navy did not evict the homesteaders because it was obvious that the Navy had created the scarcity of land.
    It is now necessary for the PR Gov’t, the US Navy and the Vieques municipality officials to share in the responsibilities for enforcing the rights of the 1980 possession clause. As for Don Carmelo and the residents of Villa Borinquen they still await a just transition to resolve their land claim settlements.”

    Lcdo., Is there any possibility that the adverse possession argument might stand? …

    Any advice that you might offer would be gratefully appreciated.
    Gordon Rumore
    Villa Borinquen

    • Sarah Troff
      June 2, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      What is latest on the Monte Carmelo land?

      • August 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

        Dear Sarah:

        I have no official word, but Monte Carmelo is in the hands of the Central Government–while apparently working closely with the Municipal Administration. As far as I am informed, the manner in which titles are being recorded is by applying for adverse possession in court.


        Santiago F. Lampón

  2. AFM
    December 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Dear Mr. Lampon,
    My husband is the sole heir of property that belonged to his mother who passed a few years back. His mother lived there all her life and there are other family members who each have their own parcels left to them by their father who passed in 1966. Apparently, he did not have an actual deed to the property. He had acquired it many years before. Other family members say that no one can get a deed for their shares of the property. All have homes and live there. Is there a way for my husband to obtain an actual deed? I would appreciate your advice and thank you in advance.

    • February 7, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Your situation is pretty common in Puerto Rico. Big pieces of lands are subdivided by the parents to allow for their children to build their own homes, but no one bothered to apply for and obtain the required permits to divide the property and properly deed it.

      Now, it is incorrect to assume that the property cannot be deeded. You need to have a real estate lawyer revise your situation and provide a recommendation in accordance with the circumstances.


      Santiago F. Lamp162n

  3. February 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Not sure is this is the correct site but I will ask my question hoping it is as I’m looking for information. 10 years ago my grandfather left a will with his grandchildren as inheritors, during that time we allowed a cousin to babysit the house as she had nowhere else to stay and we live in New York. There was a verbal agreement of $200/month for staying there. We are now ready to sell the property but it turns out our cousin did a bunch of renovations to the house that we were unaware of and she really was never consistent with the rent. Does she now have any rights to the property? there was never a formal contract or lease signed but I’m not sure how the law works in PR? thank you for any insight you can give me.

    • February 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Dear Jose: Looking at what you wrote, you have placed your comment on the correct site. Having said that, you are asking the type of question which would require the engagement of a legal counsel, an evaluation of the relationship described in the comment, and that such a legal counsel issues a legal opinion on the situation and on how to proceed.

      In other words, you need to engage a lawyer you help you through this.

      Under Puerto Rico Law, a lease agreement does not lead to title, but many things could have happened or could have been done (or not done) which would make it improper for me or any lawyer to comment publicly on a blog.

      Please do not underestimate my recommendation. You need to engage a legal counsel of your choice.


      Santiago F. Lampón

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