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Property Rights in Uruguay – Part II – Squatters’ rights

Posted by urufish on May 7, 2007

 The second and likely, more important aspect of property rights in Uruguay is that of ‘squatters’ rights.   These points are especially important to you if you’re an ex-pat or a returning Uruguayan who never knew or has forgotten how these laws work.  Many of you will purchase property on a visit or even off the net and not occupy the property for some time.  Or you may purchase a run down property and wait for a while to renovate it or build on the property.  Or maybe, you buy land or a property for the purpose of ‘holding’ it as an investment to sell at a later date at a higher value.  Or you may purchase a property while here, contract with an architect or GC to renovate it and go home.  In all these cases, and others not specified above, you’re vulnerable to these 2 situations detailed below.  Read them carefully, because they can be catastrophic… you could even lose usage of parts of your property… perhaps the entire property.     

 If you own an unoccupied property (usually building/house), (as in you’re not currently living in it or it’s vacant), and a family with children get in and you dont call the police within 48 hours, and its the winter or late fall, they’re going to be there until the spring or the summer.  That may not actually be the way the law is written, but practically speaking, that is what will happen.   The law moves very slowly against a family with children that has no other place to go when it gets cold.  

If your case is different from the above, eg. it’s the summer, change some of the facts in the above example and use your common sense to figure out the results.  The concept doesn’t change.  The bottom line is that social services, (I am told it exists but I haven’t actually seen it at work), aren’t motivated or able to relocate homeless families in the winter.  Perhaps they dont want to.   I’ve been told by people in the country (outside of the cities), this has happened to them too.

If you dont call the police or make an effort to evict people on your property (or in your house) for a longer period of time, (not sure how long that is–maybe a year or two–hope to get a definite answer on this soon), you can NEVER get them out.   For example, if you purchase a farm or a ranch, and a group of people camp out in a corner of the property, and gradually, over time, build match-stick structures, and ‘look’ like they’ve lived there a while, you cant evict them from the property-ever.  They can stay there as long as they want. 

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4 Responses to “Property Rights in Uruguay – Part II – Squatters’ rights”

  1. […] occupation in Uruguay has increased dramatically in the last decade. The slowness of the judicial system and the severe economic crisis the country went through after 2002 made land invasion more common […]

  2. happygolucky said

    I’m interested in understanding better how you manage squatters in your Piriapolis and Montevideo homes when you are absent?

  3. urufish said

    One word. Friends. This is Uruguay. Friends are like family.
    When you buy your property (or have it already), introduce yourself to your neighbours. In our expeience, the vast majority of Uruguayans are very curious neighbours. They want to know everything about you. They will watch your property for you. Give them a ‘free’ way to reach you. If someone appears on your property, you’ll know about it immediately.

    In Piriapolis, that wasn’t possible (but one would have to be crazy to squat atop a mountain)… ours was the only house on the top. But here in Montevideo, it’s like having 5 pairs of eyes 24/7. If you happen to be double fortunate, you’ll have parking people working your street. If yours are respectable, they will actually chase would be squatters away.
    At the house, we have a a guy and a lady in the day and a guy at night. The day guy washes our car every other day. The lady has offered cleaning services. We may hire them starting in the spring to sweep the sidewalk (dogs poo at night), and remove debris from the front yard every morning (lots of trees around us). Of cousre, they also watch over your car if you park on the street.

  4. urufish said

    The government recently passed laws to allow squatters to be moved off the property. The possibility of having a family staying forever is now gone. But getting them moved during the winter can still be an unpleasant experience. Always better to prevent squatting in the first place.

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