Thursday 1 June 2023

Condo Living in Costa Rica – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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(QBLOGS) Let me start by saying for the last twelve of the eighteen years that I have lived in Costa Rica, I have lived in gated and guarded condominium communities of various configurations, in the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area.

I would not choose to live in any other way, especially considering the aspect of personal security afforded by such a lifestyle. While the personal security afforded cannot be considered as being 100% effective, it is the living arrangement in Costa Rica that offers the highest degree of such.

As condominium living is a relatively new way of living in Costa Rica, unlike countries such as the U.S. and Canada, where such has existed for years, most of the developments are fairly modern and based primarily on North American architectural styles involving open floor plans and the like. Condominium developments come is various configurations, comprising single family dwellings, townhouse-style dwellings, and apartment-style dwellings.

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I currently live in a townhouse-style dwelling in an approximately three year old condominium development. One of the things that has evolved in condominium development and is employed by the better condo builders, is double concrete block walls separating adjoining units. This has led to less sound transmission between condo units. I can state, that without a doubt, the double concrete wall has made a considerable difference to the quality of life from that which I experienced in older condo developments employing only single concrete block wall construction. Of course, the best configuration to prevent sound transmission between units is the single free-standing condo dwelling, now becoming more popular in newer developments.

Other considerations that impact directly on the quality of life offered in such developments, is the type of common area facilities offered within the condo development. This usually varies with the size of the development. The condo development that I currently live in is comprised of two hundred townhouse-style condo units with two three storey apartment-style condo buildings currently under construction, comprising at least twenty units per building.

It is really a small town unto itself and offers a club house and barbecue area, fully equipped gymnasium, three swimming pools (including one-half Olympic-sized pool), two tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a soccer field, all located within the common area of the condo development. A Manager/Administrator is on-duty and on-site from Monday to Friday.

These facilities and services are all requiring significance maintenance and costs, which, of course, is reflected in the monthly maintenance quota paid to the HOA by each condo unit owner. The question is, whether you will make use of all such facilities and services to justify this expense.

Another important consideration is the existence of a club house facility within the condo development, comprising salons for parties and gatherings. Latin Societies, Costa Rica being no exception, embodies a greater degree of noise in their day-to-day activities, than those British-based societies in countries such as the U.S. and Canada.

A facility such as a club house provides an opportunity for the existence of rowdy and noisy late-night parties, sometimes involving the likes of Karaoke; do I need to say more. Unless you have a penchant to attend such events, this can be a very important consideration in choosing the condominium development that is correct for you.

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One of the single most important considerations in choosing a condominium development in which to live, is that it is in-fact a true condominium development, registered as such in the Costa Rica National Registry. I say this, because there are a number of residential developments found throughout Costa Rica, that masquerade as condominium developments, which are not.

The important difference is the enforceability of the payment of the monthly maintenance quota to the HOA, for the maintenance of the common areas and other services provided. Only in true condominium developments are the payment of the monthly quotas enforceable under the provisions of the Condominium Law and Regulations, which provide for a summary collection procedure against condo unit owners who are in default.

In residential developments which appear to be condominium developments (eg. gated and guarded), but are not, Article 45 of the Costa Rica Constitution prohibits enforced collection of a monthly maintenance quota from individually registered property owners within the development.

This relegates payment of these maintenance quotas to a managerial entity as being on a voluntary basis only. Obviously, this can be abused by property owners who do not pay their share of these costs, increasing the maintenance costs payable by those individual owners who do pay.

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The foregoing represents a synopsis of some of the most important considerations that one should have, when choosing the condo living lifestyle in Costa Rica.

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Richard Philps
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking. To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney; Email:, Website:

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