What is “Right of Possession” (R.O.P) land in Panama?
"Right of Possession" is an official term used for land that has not been titled. Right of Possession is recognized by the government and the owners have the same rights as any other titled landholder.
This law is a product of the “agrarian reform” in effect in most Central and South American countries. It was placed into law to prevent large land owners from having all of the land. In short, what it says is that if a person OCCUPIES and works the land for several years, then they acquire some rights. For example, if someone owns ROP land that they have not occupied or used for many years, and during that time a person occupies and works the land, by law, the person has acquired “possessory rights” and now has a claim on that land. They can build on it, sell or transfer it. It cannot just be taken away from them at the whim of the government; however, there is an eminent domain law in Panama, just as there is in the United States and most other countries. For example, if a government decides a property would be good for a road, then they can take it, but must compensate the owner for it.
In 1969 the Panamanian government passed a law saying that island property could no longer be titled if it hadn’t been already done. Of course, most of the land in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago is island property. People have lived for generations on this land but never got the title paperwork done, mainly because they were too poor and uneducated.
When R.O.P. property has not been officially certified by the government it can take a few weeks or months to research the current ownership. There is also the issue of unethical people who will try to make a quick buck by presenting a false claim, but if a buyer or seller has a good trail of paperwork, a lawyer will prevail in a court of law.
There are risks to purchasing this type of land, but there are also many ways of mitigating the risks by following proper procedures and by allowing enough time to conduct a thorough investigation. Most people who have purchased Right of Possession property this way have had no trouble.
Please note ROP land can now be titled through LAW 80.
Click on the following links for more information: