Dedicated to providing you with credible information about living overseas
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroad

Questions & Answers

Q & A Menu Q & A BY TOPIC
To navigate, use menu bar to the left
Rainelda Mata-Kelly of Law Offices Rainelda Mata-Kelly – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama has strong protection in law on property rights and a centralized Public Registry which works well.   However, our judiciary is not the best and there is some corruption in the system. 
 
Therefore, you as buyer, should protect yourself by making the correct choices when purchasing property (and this applies whether in Panama or elsewhere). 
 
Because our system is different to the one you are used to, it is very important that you hire a competent, independent and trustworthy lawyer to carry out the title search, contract negotiation and verification that title is properly recorded. 
 
Furthermore, you need to understand what your property tax responsibilities are and when you need to pay your taxes. 
 
Apart from this, every few years or so, you can have your attorney check the Public Registry to make sure there are no unusual documents attempted to be recorded without your knowledge. 
 
If you happen to buy land where you are not living or cultivating, make sure you have someone to keep it clean, keep it fenced and post a sign with the registration details of the property and marked “private property” so squatters do not believe it is abandoned land. 
 
Finally, stay away from “rights of possession” (R.O.P.) properties.  These are NOT titled, there is no central registry for these, and third parties may appear later with a better claim than you, and these unexpected claims could jeopardize your investment. 
Jeff Barton of Punta Pacifica Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
View of the Panama Bay, Punta Pacifica, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingPanama 100% believes in property rights.
 
Relative to real estate, most of Panama (and especially in Panama City, as opposed to some areas in the provinces) has the equivalent of the fee-simple property rights that people are used to in the US, Canada and in other developed countries. The process in Panama is structured very clearly so that before someone makes a property purchase they can see exactly the identity of the owner, that there are no liens or debts encumbering the property, the mortgages, etc.
 
Before actually closing on a property, it’s a requirement for the seller to complete a number of documents to prove complete, clear title. Only after that point can the transaction can be completed. 
 
Relative to property rights other than related to real estate, Panama has a very clear history of promoting property rights for all assets—property, vehicles, and personal property.
 
(View of the Bay of Panama,  Punta Pacifica, Panama, pictured.)
Charles Conn of The Visitor – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Palacio de la Garzas, the presidental govermental office and residence, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn terms of property rights and real estate in Panama, navigating the system can be a bit complicated, like when you are trying to get the title to your property and having all your documentation in order. It is a process that takes time even for Panamanian nationals. You just have to go through the process to become the legitimate owner of a property.
 
Having said that, there are cases where people take over other people’s properties. If, for example, you own a piece of property in the rural part of the country and you haven’t been there in the last 10 years, when you go there 10 years later, you shouldn’t be too surprised to find people who have built their little shacks on your property and are living there. That is illegal, of course, and they often get kicked out. But sometimes, enough people have taken over someone else’s property that the property gets forfeited and these people who took over win the rights to live there.  They call it “invading” someone else’s land. 
 
Generally speaking, if you are the owner of something, then you are the owner of it and you have legal recourse, even on intellectual property. If someone uses your property in a form that is not authorized, you can get a lawyer and you can pursue that in court.
 
There is a legal system in Panama, although it is a little bit complicated to navigate that too, so you have to make sure that you have lawyers at any level.
 
The government of Panama is not going to come in and just take over something unless it there is an issue of imminent domain, which does happen, just like in the United States. In my neighborhood, that took place because of the new freeway that is coming through. But the government did not just take away peoples’ property without fair compensation at market value.  Overall, property rights are definitely respected here in Panama unless it is imminent domain, so you don’t have to worry about anybody taking over your property.
 
(Palacio de la Garzas, the presidential office and residence  of, Panama, pictured.)
Jose Broce of Broce-Pinilla & Asociados – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In Panama, we believe in the rule of law. For us, being a leader is being straight. We don’t tolerate corruption here in our country.
 
In support of that claim, let me give you an example. Recently a judge on the Supreme Court was fired because he took some money from some people. All the senators agreed to remove the judge from his position and charged him with money laundering and corruption.
 
Yes, Panama was corrupt in the 80’s, but no longer. Right now, it doesn’t matter how powerful you are or how much money you have; if you’re corrupt, you’re going to jail.
 
That’s how simple it is and I’m proud of it.
Lucia Haines of Panama Realtor Inc. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama believes in property rights, although it does have its issues with corruption. There are certain areas of Panama that have more corruption than others when it comes to land, but as a general rule, I think Panama has made great strides to cut out the corruption. It still exists though, I cannot deny that. As a general rule, the further away from Panama City you are, the more problems there are.
 
Within the legal system, it very much depends on whom you know, who you are up against, what the case is; and it takes a very long time for a case to be heard and resolved. There are different ways to write contracts that deals with this issue.  For example, when you purchase something, you can put a clause that specified that in the event of a dispute, you either go to through the court system of Panama, or you can go through arbitration. A lot of people prefer to go through arbitration because it is a lot faster. The court system here is very, very slow. The arbitration process consists of a mediator for both sides to interpret the contract, and then there is a mediator at the arbitration center that splits the vote, when there is an equal vote. It is a little bit more expensive than the judicial process, but it is much faster.
Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Here in Panama, to be treated fairly in a contract will depend on who you have the contract with. You could have a contract with an attorney and maybe that is a bad attorney. You could have a contract with a developer and that could be a bad developer. The only way of actually feeling comfortable with knowing that you have a valid contract, even though it is Spanish (because for it to be a valid contract, it must be written in Spanish) is to know who you are dealing with. You have to do your research on them, because if you do not, it does not matter. You can go to court for eight years, but you will end up losing because your time is worth more than that. We learned that the hard way. We had things stolen at the back of a rental car that was worth a few thousand dollars, but things happen over here and people just laugh and say, “That is Panama.”
 
Even if you have insurance, when something goes wrong, like if you have been burglarized, first of all, you have to file a police report, which is called a “denuncio” and you file it with the building that you are in. As an example, the gates where we live did not work for four months, and our car was vandalized. The burglars thought that it is an expensive car, so they broke the glove box; the console was opened and they used a master key, so that screwed up the electronics of the car. We did not know that you have to file a denuncio first and then you have to send it in to the insurance company, and because the problem was due to the faulty gates in the parking, the insurance refused to pay. We did not take them to court because the courts here take eight years to resolve a case.
 
So you have to be a little bit more careful in the things that you do here in Panama, so that you do not end up having to go to court. Everybody knows that going to court is a losing deal. No one will be willing to go in and out of court for eight years, so people just forget the issues and move on.
 
Therefore, it is better not to depend on a judicial solution. It is best to know who you are dealing with and rely on people’s reputation.
Sieg Pedde of Helix Courier Limited – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Based on my personal experience, the respect for property rights here in Panama is as good as it is in the US or Canada. You can learn a lot about it either by going to the registry office or you can just check out numerous websites that specialize on legal matters such as property rights.
 
As for the question, “Is Panama more corrupt?”– well, I believe that our North American governments are as corrupt as any government in the world. It’s just a different type of corruption. In North America, if you have “beef” with anyone in the government, ministry, bureau or any of the numerous regulatory bodies, they can effectively put you out of business just by keeping you going through the courts for protracted periods of time. Essentially, you run out of money and you go broke.
 
In Panama, on one of my trips, I noticed that there were signs everywhere that basically say, “Let’s stem corruption”. Judging by that, you can conclude that there’s an initiative from the people in Panama to really fight one of the government’s biggest problems, just like anywhere else in the world.
 
The only form of corruption that I have ever encountered in Panama so far is when you get stopped somewhere and a local constable will slip his hand into your car’s window and will hint that you can pay the fine to him directly or you can choose not to. I personally prefer that compared to the way that we have to do things in North America. I don’t know if it’s an answer you want to hear but I don’t mind. You’ll run to a friendly scoundrel occasionally and he’ll get 5 to 10 bucks—end of story. But that’s not a huge problem, by the way.
 
I like to stress that that’s a sort of thing that you may encounter from time to time. In the US, it’s something quite different. When you’re harassed by some sort of official body in the US, it costs a lot of money to make it go away, regardless of whether there is any validity to whatever they are trying to fine you for. 
Vannessa Solano of Activentas, S.A. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
If you have a valid contract in Panama, it will be honored.
 
There are some areas in Panama that were abandoned for quite a while, where squatters started living in abandoned properties without paying anything, as well as stealing electricity and water.  So now that these properties are being renovated, these squatters are being relocated, and given other places to live.  (This process can take a long time.)  In Panama, even though a person doesn’t own a property, if they have been living there for a long time and they have to move, they are given some recompense for their loss in order to live somewhere else.
 
When you go to buy a property in Panama, make certain that the person who you are buying it from has the rights to sell it.  Ask for all the legal documents that identify the rightful owner.
 
When you work with a reputable real estate company, they should make certain, before they offer a property for sale, that the seller is the actual owner of the property.
 
In general, without specific regard to real estate property, if you wind up in a court in Panama as a foreigner, you can expect to be treated fairly, and just like a Panamanian.  The law here in Panama and the judges here in Panama are very fair.  Be aware, however, that the court process does take a while, perhaps around a year.  
 
Paul McBride – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama has a long history of honoring and protecting property rights.  Clear and unencumbered title is conveyed through the Public Registry and, when land is properly recorded, provides extensive legal protections to the property owner.
 
It is important to understand that the law works differently in Panama so the use of a good, professional (and English-speaking if you don’t speak Spanish) attorney is essential.  A prospective buyer should ask around and interview as many attorneys as possible in order to find one that they are comfortable using.
 
One of the most common areas that we see problems is the purchasing of land that is owned under the laws pertaining to Right of Possession.  The Right of Possession laws were intended to allow people who take possession and live on unused land the right to establish usage rights after a certain period of time.  The rights of the owners of property under the Right of Possession laws are extremely complicated and my advice to any expat is to avoid this kind of property at all costs.  Concentrate your search for properties where clear title can be passed on to the buyer.
 
Most of the problems that I have seen with regards to property conflicts are almost always the result of the buyers not fully understanding what they are buying and not being clear on the terms and conditions of the purchase.  If you don’t speak Spanish you need to ask for a certified translation of any document that you are required to sign (if the document is not in English).  Once you sign a contract or a deed, even if you don’t understand what it says, you are legally bound to the terms and conditions stated in the document.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Law in Panamá 
 
I have not studied the law as a professional, but I can tell you from my experience living and visiting many places as a layman that wherever you go, from one continent to the other, there are always people who take advantage of other people, or use their positions in a way they shouldn't, one way or another.  This is impossible to avoid.
 
Panamá has enough laws to cover every situation.  Some are more strict than others and maybe sometimes implementation is little difficult for various reasons, incluidng lack of manpower or infrastructure.
 
Panamá does not have an army, so law enforcement is primarily done by the police force for different functions, including border, tourism, juvenile, municipal, among others.
 
The Judicial System investigates all cases, and the Supreme Court  is the highest authority.
 
The Public Registry is in charge of keeping a record of all transactions regarding title registrations.
 
The people working in these areas work very hard to do their best.  There are constantly new programs implemented to make it better, and offer better service to the public, with new technology.
 
One of the latest programs in the Judicial System is called "Sistema Penal Acusatorio", and was implemented to process cases easier and faster.
 
One thing is for sure.  The community works very close with the police to make Panamá a better place.  And as always,  if you want to execute any legal transaction in Panamá, or anywhere else in the world, the best option is to consult an attorney, who will guide you in the right direction.
 
The only thing you have to avoid in Panamá is to purchase land with only "possession rights" (derechos posesorios), which means that the land does not have legal title, or the title is in process.
Vannessa Solano of Activentas, S.A. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The difference between the US and Panama, is that in Panama, if you try to sue somebody, it will take years before you get your lawsuit processed.  We are, however, working on a system to improve that.  Because it takes longer in Panama to have your case heard and decided, you have to be more careful not to get into disputes in the first place.  Make sure everything is written down, clear, with complete information, etc.  Back up all your documentation to make sure you’re protected.
 
If you had come here about 10 years ago, you would see much more corruption than you see now.  It is very important for us here in Panama now to be fair to everybody.  Like in every country, you will find one or two people out of a thousand who will try to bribe someone or be bribed, etc.; there is always one “rotten apple”.  Most Panamanians are hard working people who try to get things done in the proper way; honestly.  At the end of the day, here in Panama, the law is the law.
 
The legal system in Panama is pretty good.  It does not favor Panamanians over expats or vice-versa.  You can expect to be treated fairly.
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Properties in Panama are safe to buy providing the property is titled. Many people have bought untitled land having been told "it is in process". This can take years and there is always the possibility that the title application can be disputed . A good lawyer will ensure that the purchase is legal and registered appropriately.
 
The system is similar to the Spanish system which involves your lawyer making a search at the land registry and checking the title and thereafter attending a Notary for the purchase after checking all local authority taxes and all service bills are paid up to date. The "escritura", or "title deed" is then registered at the land registry. Therefore the property is legally yours and there should be no problems residing there or selling at a later date.

Go Here Next

Go Here Next

 
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadUse the menu on this page to go to categories of Stories.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadUse the menu on this page to go to other categories of questions.
The Best Places In The World To Retire Location Advisor makes personalized recommendations for where to live and retire overseasGet matched to your ideal location to live abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadAnswers about living, working or visiting abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadStories by expats & others about their life aborad.
Best Places In The World To Retire - MarketplaceFind for profit, non-profit and religious organizations.
 

Go Here Next

 
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadUse the menu on this page to go to categories of Stories.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadUse the menu on this page to go to other categories of questions.
The Best Places In The World To Retire Location Advisor makes personalized recommendations for where to live and retire overseasGet matched to your ideal location to live abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadAnswers about living, working or visiting abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadStories by expats & others about their life aborad.
Best Places In The World To Retire - MarketplaceFind for profit, non-profit and religious organizations.
 

Our Pledge To You

Best Places will present information from the Community in a transparent way, unedited, except to conform with our Conditions of Use.

You can trust that Best Places does not manipulate content to sell you anything. All opinions in the Community Q & A and Expat Stories are those of its authors, not Best Places.

Get Known To The Community

Those who contribute to the Best Places Community are our heroes! And being a Best Places hero is fast, fun, and easy. Just go to Questions & Answers, find your first question to answer, click on it, and then click the Contribute Your Answer To This Question Button. If you’d rather enter a Story, go to Expat Stories and click the Contribute Your Story Button".

Contact/Support

Please contact us. We would love to hear from you! Customer Service
Technical Support
Business Development
Suggestions
Press
Phone: (US) 520-940-0481