Home > The Property Registry > The Puerto Rico Property Registry – How does it work?

The Puerto Rico Property Registry – How does it work?

I will not attempt to comment fully on how the Puerto Rico Property Registry works, but I will try to give you a glimpse on the subject and then expand more as the discussion develops.  The purpose of the Registry is simple: to provide citizens with a public and reliable registry of transactions pertaining real estate properties in Puerto Rico.

The organization within the Registry appears to be simple enough.  Properties are identified by township and by a number assigned by the Registry, and documents are filed in chronological order as they are filed and not as they are dated.  This is the first and most important distinction that has to be learned if you want to understand how the Registry really works.  The “date” of the transaction is different to the “date” the document representing the transaction is actually filed. This is important because, when the Registrar reviews the documents of a given property, he/she will do so in the order they have been filed with the Registry and not in the order the transactions were executed by the parties.

The Registry operates on the basis of regions or “sections.”  For example, the records for properties in Vieques, Culebra and other nearby towns are located within the Fajardo Section of the Puerto Rico Property Registry.  Within each Section of the Registry, you will find books (in Spanish “tomos”), and within each book you will find numbered pages (in Spanish “folios”) which contain the information organized by lot or property number (in Spanish “número de finca”).

The most important of these numbers is the lot or property number (in Spanish “número de finca”).

When you file a document within the Registry it has to be examined and approved by the Registrar previous to being “registered.”  This may be confusing, so let’s go over it carefully and make sure you understand it completely before continuing.

By the way, this is the second most important data you need to know at this point.

The sequence is at follows:

First – the closing or transaction is completed before a notary who, under Puerto Rico Law, only lawyers can be licensed as notaries for reasons which will become more obvious as you read further on.

Second – the documents are filed within the Registry where they remain pending until the Registrar reviews them.  A document in this stage is identified as “filed but pending review by the registrar.”

Third – the Registrar reviews and can either approve the documents/transaction or not approve the document/transaction.   If the document/transaction is approved, it is permanently registered and a notice is sent to the parties accordingly.  If it is not approved, the parties are notified of the rejection with specific details on the basis for the same.  If the documents are corrected, the parties can then file the documents again.

Remember that I am trying to keep it simple, but it is important that you understand these stages and what they mean or represent, specifically when a document is pending registration.

When a document is “filed but pending registration” the transaction is not registered and can be subsequently “rejected” by the Registrar if a deficiency is found.  This is usually not a problem, because the deficiency is clearly identified by the Registrar and the parties know exactly what they need to do in order to correct it.  Nevertheless, it can be a problem if the parties need the signature of someone who has passed away, or if they need a document which has disappeared and cannot be recreated.  This kind of circumstances will be subject of further comments at a later time.

Note that I made a distinction between a “document” and a “transaction.”

Under Puerto Rico Law, the documents filed within the Registry must comply with certain criteria as to form. If a filed document does not meet the well established criteria, the Registrar will not register the document even if the transaction is valid.  Accordingly, if the document meets the criteria as to form required under applicable law, the transaction itself will be reviewed and it must be valid as well in order to be registered.

In sum, the above means that you can have a document prepared and filed in a valid format, but rejected because the transaction is not in compliance with applicable law and, conversely, you can have a transaction which is 100% in compliance with applicable law be rejected because the format does not conform to applicable criteria.

I can go on and on with information on how the Registry works, or does not work or it is supposed to work and, well, you name it and it has most likely happened.  Nonetheless, I am going to stop here because, first, I have to set aside some time to draft the Spanish version and, second, I can anticipate that I will receive many questions that will help me enlighten you a little but more as the subject develops.

Remember that you are invited to post some questions on your own.

Best regards,

Santiago F. Lampón


Categories: The Property Registry
  1. Rev. Raymond Talavera
    January 22, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Dear Mr. Lampón,
    Thank you for this information. Is it possible to verify the status of a property in Puerto Rico online? My uncle died and a cousin is claiming that he left the property to her, and that she is in the process of claiming title. Is there any way to verify this? Thank you in advance for your time and assistance.

  2. January 22, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Dear Rev. Talavera:

    Welcome to our blog and I am glad you find it useful.

    Unfortunately, you cannot verify the status of a property in Puerto Rico online. Hopefully, we will get there sometime in the “near” future.

    Meanwhile, there are various companies that can perform what we call a “title search.” In this regards, I suggest you contact Hato Rey Title at 787-753-1200. You will need to provide them with a copy of the deed describing the property you would like to search. They will have a title search ready in 3 or 4 days, and you can have them either fax it or e-mail it to you.

    I hope this was helpful. Let me know if there is anything else we could do for you, and Happy New Year!

    Very truly yours,

    Santiago F. Lampón

  3. Juan Collado
    May 10, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    We have recently built a house on my father’s land over where his house once stood for him to live out the remainder of his life. We are the beneficiary’s of his will. the previous house was never registered. Do we have to obtain an ACTA and register the land and house or just the house? Your assistance is appreciated.
    Regards, Juan

    • August 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Dear Juan:
      Thank you for your question. The response is dependent on some information I now try to provide for your evaluation.

      If the land is recorded at the Property Registry, you need to do an “Acta de Edificación” which is a deed that communicated to the Registrar that a building was erected upon the land. This type of deed requires that the notary visits the site and inspects the property and the structure, and also that she or he create a general description of the structure for registry purposes.

      If the land is not recorded at the Registry, then additional steps have to be taken, for which I refer you to the articles I have published on this blog on the subject of adverse possession.

      Please let me know if you have further questions. Thank you for your post. You presented an interesting situation which is more common than what is normally though.

      With warm regards,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  4. Diane
    June 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

    What is the address for the Registry of Property in PR? Or a phone number? I need to file a deed but can not seem to find the contact information online.

    Thank you for your help.

    • August 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      Dear D:

      There are various offices accross Puerto Rico and you need to identify the one closest to the property described on the deed. As a matter of fact, normally the name of the Registry is identified in the deed, right after the description of the property. This description is easy to recognized, since it is (usually) the only part of the deed written in single space. If you visit http://www.elregistroinforma.org you will find the contact information.

      Let me know if you need further assistance.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  5. Libertad Ocasio
    August 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    My sister is trying to find out if it was true that she was left a lot of land in Puerto Rico, however she doesn’t have any of the information that you suggest she has, all she has is the name of her grandparents and her father, could that be enough? and if not what would she need to find out all of the other information. Thanks in advance for you time.

    • August 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      Dear Libertad: Now this is a tough one, but there is hope. What you need to do is narrow down the areas in Puerto Rico where the land could be located at. One you do, you may be able to identify the Registry Office in charge of said area and then performa a name search at the office. Fortunately, with the older generations name records are available. I hope this helps and let me know if we can be of further assistance. Very truly yours, Santiago F. Lampón

  6. Stephanie Smith
    February 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Dear Mr. Lampon,

    We are in the process of purchasing a 3 acre piece of land in Puerto Rico that includes a newly constructed house. We are a week from closing and are financing the purchase through Banco Popular. It just came to our attention that while the land is registered, the house is not. Can you give me an idea how long it will take the present owners to rectify this situation? Thanks for your advice.

    Stephanie

    • February 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      Dear Stephanie:

      Thank your for your post!

      It should not take too long at all, mostly depending on the notary who will be executing the purchase and sales deed and his/her availability to visit the property and perform some actions required under the law. If as buyers you chose the notary to perform the closing, it may very well be within your control. I suggest you contact him or her immediately and get the specific information and time table.

      Further to this, the action required is for the ntoary to visit the property, verify that in fact there is a structure ther, check the number of rooms, bathrooms and other items which describe the structure, and later certify through a deed that he/sher performed these actions.

      I hope this was helpful.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  7. Stephanie
    February 23, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Thanks Mr. Lampon for the useful advice! We were really concerned that we would get bogged down in Puerto Rico bureaucracy. We have give a notary power of attorney. Thanks again.

  8. March 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Yes there is and look for my article on this suject published here. There are many benefits thereto.

  9. March 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    My Grandfather lived with his wife (not my Grandmother) who owned a home in Humacao, PR. She died before him & he continued to live there until his death in 1993. Their two sons (my uncles)have no interest in the property at all & so the interest passes to us because our Mother was Grandfather’s daughter.

    Is there any way to check if the house is in arrears, has any liens or back taxes owed? It has been vandalized so family is pressuring “us” to take action, but I need to know everything about this property fast. Where do I look?

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Ms. Cruz

    • August 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Dear Ms. Cruz:

      The best way to check this is through a title search. If you have a copy of the deed or the specific legal description of the property, it could be ordered through a local title insurance company. A title search would show any items like the ones listed in your post.

      Please let me know if you need any further information or assistance on this.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  10. Maritza Ubides
    May 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Mr. Lampon, my mother hired a lawyer to file the necessary paperwork to put a house (Aguada) in her name that was originally under my father’s name (he passed away). She now needs to register the property and wants to know if this is paperwork she can do herself or does she need to do this through a lawyer. If she can do it herself, where can she get the paperwork to register her house? Your help is much appreciated!! Thanks for your advice!

    Maritza

    • August 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      Dear Maritza:

      Thank you for your post.

      I am not really sure the stage the process is in, but if the Court has already issued the decree, I suggest that your mother visits the Property Registry to receive instructions from them.

      I will make a comment in an attempt to assist you further.

      The process to establish the ownership of heirs is not limited to the Court. Once the decree is issues, you have to apply for an “estate tax waiver” and, also, obtain a certification that the property taxes are up to date. After these are completed, you also have to obtain a negative certification from ASUME, the agency which oversees the collection and payment of alimony in Puerto Rico. After these are done, you may file for title at the Registry.

      The above is why I recommend that you hire someone to handle the process from start to end, meaning start at the Court and end it at the Registry with everything in between completed. It is not easy, but it is the best alternative.

      I hope I have been helpful.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  11. May 29, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Hello Mr Lampon:
    My grandmother died in Vieques. She was building a house for me that took many years to build. But she died without me having access to the paperwork. How do I find out about this house. I was there when I was a child but I do not remember which house it is. Please help.

    Best Regards,
    Ybor M. Encarnacion

    • August 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      Dear Ybor:

      I certainly have some ideas on how this can be handled, but I will provide these in a private e-mail for your benefit.

      Nevertheless, I want to communicate to anyone else reading this post, that there is a process which can be followed to identify properties by names of owners and on occasions by neighborhoods. It is a difficult and sometimes frustrating process, but it can be very helpful.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  12. Maria
    July 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Mr. Lampon-
    I was reading your blog and the advice and answers you give are excellent and to the point. Maybe you can help me.

    ***

    How can I do a property search? Is there anyway that I can do a property Registry Search online? or anyone that I can contact to inquire about this since we live in New York City.

    Regards,
    Maria

    • August 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Dear Maria:

      Thank you for your post and your comments on my articles. Fuel to the soul!!!

      In Puerto Rico, you can only perform property searches at the Registry. There are no on-line records like in many other areas of the World.

      For title searches, I suggest using a reputable title insurance company. Do note that they would require specific information on the location and registry records for the property. Please note that a physical address may not be sufficient, but it could very well be a good beginning.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  13. carlos
    August 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    dear sir my grandfather past away 10 years ago he has a large piece of land. i would like to know where can i go to find the escrituras of the land. no one seems to know where he kept the copies . what do i need to bring to look for this land my fathers knows where it is and the name thats all . please help thank you

  14. Angelina Maldonado
    April 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Need help finding title to our parents home in Bo-Islote KM6.5 carretera 681. Where do I start? Parents both past away.

    • May 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Dear Gatita992:

      Thank you for writing.

      Please see my reply to Bethanye19 on this page. It would be the same process.

      Yours,

      Santiago

  15. Bethany
    April 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Hi, my grandmother owned a house in Puerto Rico but passed away. Her estranged son reappered soon before she passed away and because my father is deceased has begun to rent the house and keep the profit all for himself. I was told to check the deed because I may be part owner since my father is no longer alive. If this is true, I need to access the deed and I am in New York so who can I contact to begin to find it?

    • May 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Dear Bethanye19:

      Thank you for reading my blog and for writing with your question.

      Ineed, under Puerto Rico Law ALL heirs have the right to the use and enjoyment of any given asset, just as they have the obligation to handle any given debt which forms part of the estate. Of course there may be situations under which someone may not be included as a beneficiary to a given estate, but that is a matter of individual analysis.

      Finding a deed in Puerto Rico requires creativity in the absence of certain information. if you know the name of the notary who authorized the deed, your half way there. Alternatively, you may visit the Property Registry which oversees the title registration for the area in which the property sits, or you may engage a title search company or a lawyer to perform a search at the proper registry office. Please let me know if you would like assistance with this.

      Very truly yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  16. latina003
    May 17, 2012 at 4:46 am

    I have an aunt through my mothers mothers sister which is also my godmother which passed away severals years ago who never had children. She has a house in puerto rico which may have never been registered. Would I be considered next of kien and if so what do I need to show how I’m related and how do I claim this property?

    • May 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Dear Latina003:

      Under Puerto Rico “Forced Heirs Law” you may be entitled to a proprietary interest in the property. Nevertheless, there are many factors which could make this possible or not. I encourage you to seek legal counsel on this subject to understand if you are entitled to a proprietary interest or not.

      Very truly yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  17. David B. Watts
    March 11, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Mr. Lampon,
    Is there a way to determine ownership of real estate in Puerto Rico if I only have the name of a person? I do not have a specific township, etc. in mind, just his name. Perhaps, there is a tax listing?

    • April 3, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Dear David:

      Thanks for your question and for reading my blog. There are two ways. first, you may visit the property registry which handles transactions for the town you may have in mind, and perform within their records a name search. Similarly, you may hire a title insurance company to perfom this search if you are physically unable to visit the registry because of distance considerations.

      A second option is to perform a property tax search using the social security number of the person. This would provide you with information that could subsequently be used to find the property at the registry.

      I hope this information helps you.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  18. Howard
    April 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you for your help Mr. Lampon. To perform a tax search, would we go to the CRIM?

    • April 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      You are ver welcome!

      Indeed, CRIM is the agency to go to perform a tax search.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  19. June 30, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Mr, Lampon,

    My grandparents left land for my parents in Anasco, Puerto. Both my parents are now decesed,. What would I have to do to locate the property. My grandfather’s name was Martin Soto Mercado. I thank you for any assistance in this matter,

    • July 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Dear Samuel:

      Thank you for posting your question.

      Please watch my two videos on locating a title at the Puerto Rico Property Registry. You will find them by performing a search on the blog, or by looking at the categories.

      Thank you again!

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  20. Casandra Franceschi
    August 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    My grandparents owned a house in Aguirre and we are trying to find the title to the house (we live in California). Where do I start to obtain this?

  21. Ricky
    January 5, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Dear Mr.Lampon,

    Not sure if I got a chance with this put here it goes. My dad which was ill and not sure if he was in the right state of mine at the time past away 9 years ago and the land as I was told was sign off by my father to his sister / my aunt. And now I believe her son is the property owner. Since I don’t live in P.R they said this was given to them by inheritance which was past on from great grand parents to grand parents to sister and so on. I’m one out 5 siblings that were left with 0. My 3 sisters that were born and raise in P.R were left with 0. Is there any way that I can find out if this was legitimate?

    Any advice would be appreciate

    • February 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Thank you for your question. I recommend that you engage a lawyer to look at this and let you know about your rights and possible remedies.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  22. Marilyn Reveron
    February 9, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Hi! My Dad has property in Puerto rico which was purchase 38 years ago. He has not gone back and is not interested in the property. We do have the deed or escritura ! How would we find out if the prpery was register or if he owes any taxes. Where can we start? Also he wants me his daughter to be in charge of all the processes. What would we have to do?

    • February 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      The deed is the key. With the deed in hand, you contact a title insurance company in Puerto Rico and have them perform a title search and a property tax search. Once these are done, you take these documents to a real estate lawyer for evaluation and assessment of the situation.

      I am glad you have the deed. Go ahead and do as I suggest.

      Good luck!!!

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  23. frank
    February 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    How much does it cost to register a house? My mother left my brother and I and house and we indend to sell it. We find out that we have to have to resister the home and it seems to be a confusing and time consuming ordeal.

    thank you

    • February 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Thank you for writing. I cannot tell you how much it would cost, because I do not know the reasons for the deed not being registered. There are different remedies for different situations. You need to have your documents and the situation revised by a real estate lawyer. At that point he or she may tell you the costs of getting it registered.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

    • February 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      You need to have a lawyer review the deed and evaluate the situation. Only at that time can an assessment on what needs to be done and how much it would cost can be done.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  24. A. Maldonado
    June 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    You have a great blog. Where would the Property Registry be for a property located in Isabela?

    A. Maldonado

    • June 28, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Maldonado!

      For Isabela, the registry would be the Aguadilla Section.

      Yours, Santiago F. Lampón

  25. Ulysses Escobar
    June 15, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Hello Santiago,

    I am a mortgage loan officer for a company in Florida. I am trying to locate a clients property via “finca” number to check if the title on the property is free and clear form a mortgage. How would I go about doing that? Thank you?

    • June 28, 2015 at 10:01 pm

      Dear Mr., Escobar – thank you for your question. Since you have the finca number, you need to contact a title insurance company in Puerto Rico and order a title search. Now, you will also need the location of the property since the registry is divided by sections which correspond to geoprahical areas around Puerto Rico.

      If you wish, you are invited to send me a private e-mail if you need more assitance. There are some additional things I would like to mention, but only if you need more information on how to properly record a mortgage in Puerto Rico.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  26. j. laboy
    December 27, 2015 at 1:53 am

    Great blog. how do I find the heirs or owners of an abandoned land in Yabucoa? I have no names only the location of the land. Can a corporation or a trust be used to buy land? thanks, j. laboy

    • December 28, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      Search on the site for the video explaining how to find aproperty tax ID number. The tool on the Internet is the GEOLOCALIZADOR. Once you have that information, review other videos I have on the subject of “title”.

      I hope this helped you, but let me know if you still need more assistance.

      Yours,

      Santiago F. Lampón

  27. Miriam
    August 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    How can I obtain the deed to my grandparents house in Puerto Rico

    • August 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Can you locate the property using Google MAPS? If you can, then you should watch my video on identifying the property tax ID number for a property in Puerto Rico. Once you have done this, with the property tax ID number in hand, contact me and I can help you. If you cannot do this, them I need to know if you have her social security number.

  28. Lizzy
    August 23, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    How do i begin to search. My mother allowed her cousin to build a house on her mom and dads property years ago. She never signed any documents. my mom and grandparents passed away years ago. Do we have any rights still? meaning her children

    • August 24, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Your situation is quite common and, unfortunately, also complicated by the absence of documents indicating what was exactly done, by who and when it was done. Accordingly, you definitely need to seek counsel to understand what you can do under these circumstances.

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