Thursday 25 February 2021

4 out 10 buildings being built without municipal permits

The biggest problem is in Guanacaste where 70% of the construction projects lacked permits

QCOSTARICA – Four out of ten (39%) of the constructions being built in Costa Rica, during the first half of this year, lacked permits.

The lack of municipal permits is more noticeable in construction projects in Guanacaste. The College of Engineers and Architects found that in that province, 69 out of 100 projects lacked permits. Image: Howler Magazine

This was revealed in a report prepared by the Federated College of Engineers and Architects (CFIA), based on the inspection of 1,262 projects in 51 cantons across the country.

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This study detected a total of 68,243 square meters (m²) – 734,561 square feet – of illegal buildings. Most of these works correspond to residential homes, but there are also commercial premises, warehouses and others.

This is the highest percentage of works without permits since the College of Engineers carried out the measurement in 2015 when building without permits was 15%.

As these works lack regulations, the soundness of their physical structures is unknown, as is the safety of their electrical installations.

Some of these constructions, warned the executive director of the CFIA, Olman Vargas, could later be erected in unsuitable sites and even prohibited by cantonal regulatory plans.

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“The results really cause great concern, it is not good news. As a College, we urgently call on the municipalities of the country to strengthen their work controls.

39% of the construction in 2020 is being carried out without permits

49% of the projects without permits inspected were in the principal structure phase and 41% in finishings

“That is the basic responsibility of the municipalities to avoid that, later, serious problems can be found such as works built in unsuitable sites, in landslides or flood zones,” said Vargas.

According to estimates by the CFIA, 51 city councils would have stopped receiving, altogether, at least ¢218 million colones for the collection in construction permits.

This tax corresponds to 1% on the value of buildings and developments.

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For their part, the owners are exposed to fines for building without permission, in addition to the possibility of the demolition of the structure, if there are constructive inconsistencies.

Authorities of the College of Engineers identified possible causes that encourage owners to build without processing the permits with the respective municipality, that include the time that the procedures take, as well as the savings that the builder achieves by evading the payment of permits and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) policy.

Javier Chacón, CFIA’s director of operations, also stressed that municipal entities do not have the necessary resources to visit the construction projects.

“We have identified that not all municipalities have a real capacity at the level of human and material resources to be able to carry out inspections, to be able to be in the field, guaranteeing compliance,” he said.

According to Chacón, minor works such as adding a room with electrical work also require municipal permits, because they need systems that can put the existing work at risk.

Major problem in Guanacaste

The report warned that almost 70 out of every 100 works built in Guanacaste, during the first half of the year, lacked municipal construction permits.

That province was the one that registered the highest non-compliance with the procedure (69%), followed by Limón (53%) and Alajuela (44%).

In contrast, the areas with the least non-compliance were Cartago (22%), San José (26%) and Heredia (28%).

According to the CFIA comptroller, Fernando Escalante, sanctioning proceedings will be opened against engineers, if it is found that they failed to comply with the Code of Professional Ethics by facilitating these illegal practices.

“At each inspection where a project was found without a construction permit, a report was prepared and sent to the corresponding municipality.


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We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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