Buying beach property
Public Law No. 6043 of 2 March1977 establishes a restricted coastal zone called the "Zone Maritimo/Terrestre." It comprises a 200 meters long strip of land along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Costa Rica, measured from the high tide line toward the inland. This "Maritime/terrestrial" restricted zone is given a differentiated treatment since it is owned by the national government and administered by local governments (municipalities). It is divided into two sections:
a) The Public Zone (Zone Publica): 50 meters wide strip of land between the high tide line and the outer line of the "Restricted Zone" (Zone Restringida).
b) The Restricted Zone (Zone Restringida): 150 meters wide strip of land from the inner limit of the Public Zone toward the inland.
No private individual or corporation is allowed to build on or use for private purposes any portion whatsoever of the Public Zone. However, they may obtain a lease concession on the Restricted Zone for private or business use.
Leases on the Restricted Zone are authorized by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) and granted by the relevant municipality. Beneficiaries of lease concessions are granted the use, occupation, and possession of the land, including the right to build.
No lease concessions are granted to non-Costa Ricans who have resided in the country less than 5 years, nor to foreign companies, nor to national companies of which 50% or more of its stock is owned by non-Costa Ricans.
Lease concessions may be transferred with the previous approval of the municipality and the ICT. They are generally granted for periods of time that range from 5 to 20 years. The lease granting municipality is entitled to charge a small leasing fee. The lessee can apply for an extension of the lease concession at the Municipality. Extensions are normally granted with the previous approval of the ICT.
There are very few exceptions to Law No. 6043 of 2 March 1977. Beach front land that is not regulated by this Law can be found, but it is extremely unusual to have property titles in areas within the restricted 200 meters.
An American investor wishing to acquire a lease concession must do it through a Costa Rican corporation. Land not included in the Public or the Restricted Zones can be purchased individually and with no special restriction or limitation
Before acquiring a lease concession, the buyer would ask his or her attorney to examine the Municipality Records, verify the seller's ownership status, as well as general tax and leasing dues. A similar procedure applies to the purchase of non-restricted land described above.