SI NY01110.500 Land Laws Of Puerto Rico

A. Background

Under the Land Laws of Puerto Rico, various programs were established to provide individuals or families with low income, plots of land for housing or farming. The relevant laws pertaining to property ownership are discussed in this transmittal.

B. Title V, chapter 53 (rural communities)

1. Law Number 26, Section 553

  1. This law provides plots of land to individuals, but the government retains ownership of the land. This is called the right of “usufruct.” The individual to whom the right of usufruct was ceded cannot, “under penalty of abatement, sell, transfer, exchange, rent, cede, assign, lease, or in any manner alienate or encumber, in whole or in part, the usufruct right granted.”

  2. This would indicate the property is not a resource to the individual.

  3. The documentation for this arrangement is the “usufruct contract.”

2. Law Number 35, Sections 681-697

  1. This law authorizes the Secretary of Housing to grant title deeds to “usufructuaries” or occupants of parcels of land for the sum of one (1) dollar. The occupant acquires the title deed of the parcel and enjoys all of the property rights guaranteed by law, including the right to sell it at current market value. However, an individual who sells, transfers, or gives up the parcel in any manner is disqualified from acquiring another parcel under the Land Law.

  2. This would indicate the property is a resource to the individual since he/she has ownership interest, the legal right to access the property, and the legal right to use the property for personal support and maintenance.

  3. The documentation identifying ownership is the “title deed.”

3. Law Number 28, section 552

  1. This law provided for plots of land to be used for purposes other than housing for low income families. If the purpose was to establish food stores, churches, consumer and production cooperatives, etc., that serve the community, the plots of land set aside for these purposes were leased, but the land could also be sold.

  2. If leased, it would not be considered a resource. The documentation is the “lease contract.”

  3. If sold, the property would be considered a resource. The documentation is the “title deed.”

C. Title VI, chapter 55 (family-type farm program)

1. Law Number 28, Section 584

  1. This empowered the Secretary of Agriculture to award parcels (farms) to qualifying individuals under a life contract of usufruct. The individual could build a house and work the land for agricultural purposes only. However, the individual had to pay semiannual rentals “to be determined on the basis of recovering the cost of the lands and other properties granted in usufruct for the term of forty years...”

    Since a usufructuary may not sell, transfer, exchange, cede, assign, or in any manner alienate or encumber, in whole or in part, the usufruct right granted to him, the arrangement is not a resource. After the forty years, however, the person possessing the farm as a usufruct becomes the owner of the farm.

  2. While under the laws of usufruct, the property is not a resource. The individual has to submit the “usufruct contract.”

  3. After the forty years has elapsed and ownership acquired, then the “title deed” is required.

2. Law Number 28, Section 583

  1. The law established that any person with a life contract of usufruct ceded under the original Land Law for a term greater than ten years could apply for and be granted its property title. An individual acquiring a farm under this law enjoys all of the property rights guaranteed ....including the right to assign, lease, sell, exchange, mortgage, encumber, or dispose of it in any legal manner. The semi-annual rentals are credited against the selling price.

  2. Under these conditions the property is a resource to the individual.

  3. The documentation identifying ownership is the “title deed.”

D. Title VI, chapter 57 (homesteads)

1. The Homesteads Program

  1. The various sections of this program permit lease with the right of ownership of lots, lots with houses, or small farms. Therefore, some individuals may exercise the option to purchase the property immediately, and some may first lease the property and later purchase it. Section 16 permits individuals, with the approval of the Homestead Commissioner, to assign their l