Squater Rights (Usucapiao) - Be Aware!

Brazilian Law describes the manners by which one can acquire title. One of the methods is the "usucapiao", known as adverse possession or squatter rights. The current legislation allows a person to get title to land from the actual owner simply by using the land publicly and in a peaceful way, meaning, without the intervention of the actual owner. If this occurs for a specific and continued period of time, this person, know as the possessor, may be able to claim this property as his/her own trough a lawsuit called "Acao de Usucapiao" and acquire title. The theory is that, by not disputing someone else's usage of your property, you, as the owner have abandoned your rights to the property which could be then forfeited/transferred to the possessor.

It is important for all foreigners who are purchasing real estate in Brazil to first, make sure that the property hasn't already been taken by a possessor. Even if the broker verbalizes in that way and the seller shows a valid and legal public deed drafted by a public notary at a "Cartorio" nearby, a careful and professional analysis of this document is necessary because in some cases there will be a public deed of conveyance, but the deed will only transfer possession rights, giving the impression to the unaware foreigner that the property is titled, when is not and worst, it belongs to someone else.

Secondly, is never recommendable to purchase these possession rights, although they are quite cheaper when compared to regular real estate prices, a buyer has no guarantees that later on a Court Summons won't be delivered at his doorsteps demanding buyer to leave the premises immediately, thus losing the land and everything that was built on top of it.

Finally, after purchasing real estate, those who have second homes in Brazil, must be able to keep property from being abandoned. Also, make sure that all utility bills and property tax bills are in your name and are paid by you, if these steps are followed; "usucapiao" can never happen to you.

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