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Should we self-manage our condominium in Costa Rica or hire an administrator?

Can your HOA save management cost to lower the fees?

QCOSTARICA – Neighbors don’t necessarily agree with each other all the time, which should not really be a problem. You just stop talking to each other. In a condominium it is lot easier to get along, if you all live by the rules.

At the annual HOA (Home Owner Association) meeting of most condominiums in Costa Rica, many condo owners don’t show up. They’re either out of the country or want to make sure not to be elected on the HOA board.

Costa Rica Condominium administration

Should you get rid of your condo administrator to lower the HOA fees?

I’ve represented many clients at the annual HOA meetings over the years, those few who do care about the well-being of their community. At many of those meetings, the always returning question is “How can we save money, should we self-manage our condominium or hire an administrator?”



HOA fees

Usually, the biggest and most heated point of discussion is the condo fee. The cost of living has gone up, many home owners have to pay their mortgage and many of the amenities that looked so great when they bought, are not being used but need to be maintained at a high cost.

The cost of administration

The monthly HOA fees vary dramatically depending on the size of the condominium, or better said, the amount of home owners in the HOA. It is much easier to pay a condo administrator’s salary (or a company) if you have 200 home owners in a condominium than when you have only 20.

HOA fee reduction

How can the HOA fees be reduced drastically? By getting rid of the administrator and having one of the owners, usually a member of the board, take over the administrative functions of the HOA. A lot of money can be saved by having self-management in the condominium in Costa Rica. But is that recommendable?

Payment of voluntary administrator

If the HOA is really small, it might not be a whole lot of work and one of the home owners might voluntarily manage the condominium without any compensation, which is where serious savings to lower the HOA fees could come from.

The bylaws

Some condominiums have bylaws or CC&R’s (Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) regarding a certain remuneration of a home owner functioning like administrator, others have not. If 100% of the votes at a home owner meeting agree to include remuneration for a voluntary administrator, the change can be made in the bylaws.

What is recommendable?

In every association or group of people with the same interest, there are always a few who never agree with everybody else, or even nasty ones.

Like I said in the beginning of this article, neighbors don’t necessarily agree with each other all the time, which should not really be a problem. You just stop talking to each other.

A hired hand, who is an outsider, is much more functional as a buffer in discussions between home owners than someone who lives in the same community.

A cheaper solution

Unless you can share an administrator with a nearby condominium, hiring your own administrator is expensive. Some condominium administration companies do offer the option to assign an administrator part-time, depending on the amount of units in the condominium in Costa Rica. Do your homework, call around, talk to your colleagues at work or look online at “administracion de condominios costa rica”.

For any legal consultations, contact an attorney in Costa Rica, preferably one who specializes in Condominium law.


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About Ivo Henfling

Ivo Henfling Ivo Henfling, a Dutch expat who has lived in Costa Rica since 1980, founded the American-European Real Estate Group back in 1999 which was the first functioning MLS with affiliate agents from coast to coast. Ivo Henfling can be reached at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at ivo@american-european.net

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  • ticotom

    I’m not a legal expert, but I think that a condominium association in Costa Rica needs to be legally registered so it can receive it’s own legal identity number (cedula juridica) and become a legal entity. In order for any legal entity to function, there needs to be an appointed administrator who can act on behalf of the legal entitiy to collect and make payments and recieve legal notices. When condominiums are sold, the legal administrator is required to provide to the purchaser and or his lender a letter (constancia) that states the condominium fees are or are not paid to date before closing the purchase. If there is no legal adminstrator, this could effect the purchase process.

    • costarick

      Tom, you are substantially correct in your legal analysis of the Condominium structure. However, it is not the Association that has to be registered, but the Condominium entity itself, with a named Administrator, personal, or corporate, for a specified term, registered in the National Registry.

  • Steve

    Living in a legally registered condominium and having experienced 2 “in house” administrators I can say that it may very well be worth raising the monthly fee to contract an “outside” professional. All my fears of partiality and lassitude have been realized by the administrator(s) having special friends among the membership and also his own agenda to push.

  • Steve

    Living in a legally registered condominium and having experienced 2 “in house” administrators I can say that it may very well be worth raising the monthly fee to contract an “outside” professional. All my fears of partiality and lassitude have been realized by the administrator(s) having special friends among the membership and also his own agenda to push.