The Maritime Zone in Costa Rica

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There is a zoning law in Costa Rica that is important to understand for those who are about to or already have purchased coastal properties in Costa Rica.

This Maritime Zone is probably the most misunderstood zoning regulation. Basically it makes all the coast public property with the following conditions. The law was passed in 1977. It divides the coast like this:

the first 200 meters from the high tide

That 200 meter zone is further divided into two parts:

  • The first 50 meters are inalienable public property
  • The next 150 meters are granted for leasing by the Municipalities (the local governing body) to private individuals or corporations

The first fifty meters are then meant to always be public which explains why you cannot build a fence around 'your' beach. There are only two or three properties in the whole country that are excluded from this rule (contact us for information about these {link a contact us generico}.

The second 15 meters can be leased by the cities or Municipalities in exchange for an annual fee. These are the so called 'Concesiones' or 'concessions'. This is not titled land. Not only do you pay an annual fee but you also must comply with the 'Regulatory Plan' (Plan Regulador) that specifies what can and cannot be built in that zone. It can establish commercial, residential, tourist projeccts, environmental protection amongst other things. It is, basically, the Zoning Plan.

If you want to build something that is not allowed for in the Plan Regulador then you will have to apply for a modification of the plan.

These concessions are typically leased for periods of 15, 20 or more years. They are automatically renewable. If you hold a lease and the municipality wants to cancel, they have to justify their decision and this may end up in court if the lease owner wants to contest the decision.

Basically, once you are granted a concession it is quite difficult for it to be taken away as long as you are complying with the stipulations in the contract.
It is important to know that concession owners must meet the following requirements:

  • Be residents with a a minimum of five years residing in Costa Rica
  • Costa Rican individuals
  • Or Costa Riacn corporations with at least 50% Costa Rican ownership

Filing for a concession is done at the city or municipality with jurisdiction to approve it.

Another requirement is to have a tourist declaration from the The Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) - the government's institute on tourism affairs. A valuation of the property performed by the local IRS will establish the annual fee that one would be charged for the concession. If you get the approval then the City Council votes and approves a "resolution project" which is sent by the mayor of the township. Then the mayor will sign the "Concession Agreement".

After the signature the ICT has to approve the plan if the property has a "Tourism Declaration". The local department of agriculture (IDA) must also approve it in certain cases. Finally it is sent to registartion before a Notary Public in the General Registry of Concessions.

This is a long and convoluted procedure but the end results are very rewarding. Make sure to contact us {link a contact us generico} at Properties in Costa Rica in order to get proper legal and real estate expert guidance.

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