Thursday, September 25, 2014


There is extensive internet coverage about squatters in Costa Rica and squatters rights.

Squatters rights exist worldwide and in Costa Rica squatters rights were incorporated into law to protect families who had lived on and improved lands in some cases for generations, but the lands were technically owned by large landowners who were not farming the land.

When the land registry was brought into being, many of these small farmers were not aware that they should register their interest in the land which they farmed, and in some cases unscrupulous large landowners could register the small landowners land as theirs. Squatters rights protected these small farmers.

Now squatters are people who move onto a piece of property which they do not own, live there for at least a year and who improve the property by working the land and/or constructing a dwelling. Squatters then may have a legal right to live there since they may have acquired a “right of possession”.

Written into the Civil Code of Costa Rica are many sections that deal with the rights of possession. Such clauses tend to favor the small, poor land-holder by upholding de facto "squatters rights".

Technically, squatters can only attempt to gain legal rights to a non-maritime property by peacefully occupying non-cultivated, unimproved agrarian land over an extended period of time. The difficulty of maintaining one's rights over those of the squatters is due to the ambiguous nature of the law and loose legal definitions of "non-cultivated" or "unimproved" land. It can be equally difficult to establish the duration of the squatter occupation, which is a crucial piece of evidence in the eviction process. According to the law, in case of doubt, "good faith" is presumed on the side of the squatters.

There are legal steps that can be taken to rid one's land of squatters. Procedurally, the eviction process is divided into three phases. 

Eviction during the First Three Months of Occupation

The first phase is the eviction of squatters during the first three months of occupation. Early discovery is vital, as during this period the landowner does not need to go to court. The landowner need only alert the local police, who are then obliged to evict the squatters. The problem is  that it can be extremely difficult to get the police to carry out their duty. If the landowner is not in the country eviction is difficult to verify. Even though eviction within the first three months is in principle a straightforward procedure early discovery can be difficult if the landowner lives outside of Costa Rica.

Eviction During the Period of Three Months to One Year of Occupation

The second phase is after the initial three months of occupation but before one year. If squatters are

"allowed" to squat on property for this duration of time the landowner must go to the courts and start the process of "administrative eviction". 

Occupation for more than one year

According to the law, squatters have then achieved a "legal assumption," and the owners must go through an ordinary lawsuit to evict them. However for the court to grant the property rights to squatters, they must prove that they have been on the land "uninterrupted," "non-challenged" and "peacefully" for ten years.

There are no foolproof, preventive measures for eliminating the problem of squatters on land owned in absentia but there are a few preventative measures that can be taken:
  1. The property should not appear abandoned and signs should be posted with the owner's name. 
  2. Hire a caretaker for the property. In some cases if has been known for the the caretaker to squat on the land that he is paid to protect. The easiest way to avoid this is to register the caretaker as an employee. This entails paying minimum wage and social security. The landowner should also demand signed receipts from the caretaker as proof of payment. Under law an employee hired to guard a property cannot become a squatter
Problems with squatters tend to occur on large remote properties. Well maintained, secured and care-taken properties do not encounter these problems.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Title and Property Ownership in Costa Rica

The Costa Rica constitution allows non Costa Ricans have all the same land and property ownership rights as a Costa Rica citizen (the only exception to this are 4 and 5 below). Non Costa Ricans can own and hold land in their own name without the need for local partners or complex corporate structures.

This separates Costa Rica from many of its neighbouring countries where local partners and complex legal and corporate structures are required to own land and real estate.

Broadly land is divided into the five types below:

1. Titled Lands

The vast majority of land in Costa Rica is titled. There is a National Public registry website where you or your lawyer can check the title of property and ensure it is clean and without mortgages or liens.

2. Fifty-Meter Zone

From the high tide mark to 50 meters inland is public property in Costa Rica. This land cannot be developed and no permanent structure can be placed on the land. However, this land can be landscaped and some temporary structures are permitted.

This fifty meter zone was implemented to preserve the beaches and ocean-front as public property for the benefit of all.

3. Titled ocean front property to the 50 meter line.

In the mid 1970's owners of ocean front land in Costa Rica were asked to register their land with the local and national public registry offices. Those owners that registered their land got full title for their land to the fifty meter line (mentioned at 1 above). Only 15% of ocean front land on the coast line was registered at this time and this is prime ocean front property.

4. Municipal lease land - 150-meter zone.
The majority of ocean front land from the 50 meter zone to a distance 150 meters further inwards is owned by the local municipality.

This land can only be leased from the municipality in the form of a concession. Non Costa Rican's may only lease this land in partnership with a local Costa Rica partner, who must own more than 50% of the company entering into the lease agreement. It is not allowed for non Costa Ricans to lease this land personally.

This concession property usually has restrictions on development and zoning of the land.

This 50m zone exists to preserve public access to the public beaches.

5. Frontiers

Only Costa Rican citizens can purchase land within two kilometres of the national frontiers or borders.

This is a very quick introduction to title and property ownership in Costa Rica and when buying real estate or land in Costa Rica it is important to have the title checked by your legal representative

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Papaya in Naturewalk

There are lots of different crops growing in Naturewalk.

Many of these crops are intercropped with one crop assisting the others growth e.g. teak and vanilla, papaya and ginger, teak and tiquisque.

Here you can see some pictures of papaya being intercropped with teak in Permalife Farms, Naturewalk 3:

Different crops produce different returns and different rates of return. In Naturewalk owners have a unique opportunity to have a home in paradise, with the added advantage of an income from fully managed crops growing on their land. 

To find out more about Naturewalk and to see if it might be a fit for you, just drop us an e mail at or give us a call onUSA +1-866-990-1123 (toll free) or Europe +353-1-272-4184

Friday, September 19, 2014

Property Tax in Costa Rica

Property taxes in Costa Rica are low in comparison to most other jurisdictions.

Property tax in Costa Rica is 0.25% of the registered value of the property.
There is an additional luxury property tax in Costa Rica.

Luxury home tax
. This tax is only levied on a homes value and according to the following sliding scale. 

Home value Tax
Less than ₡117.000.000 ($234,000) Exempt
₡117.000.000 - ₡291.000.000 ($234,000 - $582,000) 0.25%
₡291.000.000,00 - ₡584.000.000 ($582,000 - $1,168,000) 0.30%
₡584.000.000,00 - ₡875.000.000 ($1,168,000 - $1,750,000) 0.35%
₡875.000.000,00 - ₡ ($1,750,000 - $2,334,000) 0.40%
₡,00 - ₡1.458.000.000 ($2,334,000 - $2,916,000) 0.45%
₡1.458.000.000,00 - ₡1.752.000.000 ($2,916,000 - $3,504,000) 0.50%
Over ₡1.752.000.000 ($3,504,000) 0.55%

Not all homes in Costa Rica are subject to the luxury property tax and this should be checked with your lawyer as part of the due diligence process

Mosquitoes and bugs in Costa Rica

Clients often ask about mosquitoes and bugs in Costa Rica and if they are prevalent.

Costa Rica is a natural environment and there are both mosquitoes and other bugs. Mosquitoes are more prevalent on the hotter and more humid Caribbean Coast than on the Pacific Coast or in the Central Valley.

By comparison mosquitoes are much more prevalent in Florida than in Costa Rica than the mosquitoes that you might encounter in Florida.

You may also encounter some larger and unusual bugs in Costa Rica, but this is a reflection of Costa Rica's natural, green and well preserved environment.

Bars on Windows

One of things which clients frequently notice when they first arrive in Costa Rica are the bars on the windows of homes and shops.

The assumption is often that crime rates must be very high.

This is not the case. Serious crime is rare and crime rates are much lower than in the USA by comparison. But crime does happen. Burglary, theft and other opportunistic crimes are the main crimes in Costa Rica.

So why the bars?

Well there are a number of reasons:

Architectural: bars on windows are an architectural feature of many older homes in Costa Rica and are a traditional home feature. Spanish colonial architectural home designs have included bars for centuries. The bars are made to order and many designs are very ornate and beautiful.

Economical crime deterrent: monitored alarms are relatively expensive and response times are slow in Costa Rica. and the window bars are a widely available economical alternative.

So don't be put off by bars on windows in Costa Rica.