BEACHFRONT PROPERTY in Costa Rica
By Lic. José Carter
©2005 Jose Carter,
Carter Law, Costa Rica
Are you one of those beach lovers who want to own a piece of
paradise along the beach front? If you answered yes, here is an
explanation of the legal aspects for owing beach front property in
TERRESTRIAL MARITIME ZONE OF COSTA RICA
The 200 meters of the Terrestrial Maritime Zone are subdivided into
a Public Zone and a Restricted Zone. The Public Zone consists of the
first 50 meters measured from the high tide, with the following 150
meters forming the Restricted Zone. The Restricted Zone is under the
administration of the Municipalities, as well as under the
surveillance of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo ([CT).
However, there is titled land in front of the beaches, which is an
exception to the rule. These titled properties exist from the
colonial times when the Spanish Kingdom issued title to property in
the name of an individual who claimed the land. They also exist in
cases in which the owners followed the procedures of registering the
land prior to the designation of the Maritime Terrestrial Zone.
Because there is some titled land currently ,within the Restricted
Zone of the Maritime Terrestrial Zone, there are exceptions to the
rule. By law the land in the Restricted Zone is under the
administration of the Municipalities with the surveillance of the
lnstituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT). Also by law, the ICT
must approve the concessions submitted by solicitors to the
municipalities, and also ICT is the agency that classifies as a
Tourist Interest a specific beach or site in the terrestrial
In order to apply for a concession, you must have the occupancy
rights to the beachfront property, or buy the rights from another
person who has them. Then you must present the application along
with the public deed to the Municipality having jurisdiction over
the site, and if the Municipality gives you the concession, it has
to be approved by ICT. Before buying any occupancy rights ask the
seller where he bought the public deed , and also ask the
Municipality to certify the ownership of the occupancy rights and
the person or company renting the land from the Municipality. These
documents ate not always available.
REGISTER REGISTRO NACIONAL DE CONCESIONES
After approval of the concession by ICT, the property can be
registered in the National Concessions Registry, which is located in
Zapote. at the National Registry. It is best to have the concession
recorded because the information about title (ownership), location
and property description are located there.
Requirements to obtain a concession!
Prior to this time, owners with Occupancy Rights in the Restricted
Zone have been transferring them by a public deed of cession, drawn
up by a Notary Public without mentioning the payment of a price.
This deed of cession should include the measurement, location,
boundaries, and sometimes details of transfers of previous occupancy
rights and also refer to the existing Municipality file for that
land parcel. With the deed of cession and a “croquis” or plot
plan, the buyer can apply for the concession at the Municipality.
The local government will then open a file for the application and
submit a resolution to lease the land to the owner or buyer of the
occupancy rights, charging a “canon” (rental fee) in accordance with
the value of the lot, and also land tax (0.25%). Keep in mind that
the municipalities administer land in the Restricted Zone, but to
apply for the concession and obtain ICT approval, there must be IGN
landmarks and a Zoning Plan. According with the Law and the legal
opinion of the Government Attorney General the Municipalities are
not allowed to charge the lease or canon if there is no Zoning Plan
and Concession, but some Municipalities still do it.
THE FOLLOWING ARE NOT PERMITTED TO OBTAIN CONCESSION ON A PARCEL IN
THE RESTRICTED ZONE.
Foreign residents until they have a minimum of five years
Corporations with bearer shares.
Corporations or entities domiciled outside of the country.
Foreign companies and Costa Rican companies with fifty (50%)
percent or more of the stock owned by foreigners.
The concessions are
given for a minimum of five and a maximum of twenty years. It is
necessary to file an application for the renewal of the concession
before the end of the concession period. That is done before the
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