Thursday 29 September 2022

Does same-sex marriage affect Costa Rica property ownership?

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28 September 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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Flamingo_Aerial_smQCOSTARICA | Can a same-sex marriage and same-sex couples own Costa Rica property together? How will it affect their property rights during their relationship, after a separation or after one of them passes away?

I am a real estate broker in Costa Rica, have been for over 20 years, and have sold hundreds of properties to gay couples during those years. My opinion in this article is not a legal opinion so please consult with a lawyer of your own choice before you take any final decisions.

Although same-sex marriages are not accepted by Costa Rican family law yet, it is quite common to see gay and lesbian couples who married in other countries moving to Costa Rica and buy or rent property.

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Costa Rica is quite big on gay tourism, especially in the areas of Manuel Antonio and Flamingo beach as well as on the Caribbean side of the country. In and around San José there are a lot of gay meeting places like bars and discos and there are many boutique style accommodations throughout the country. The local communities in Costa Rica are still a bit homophobic, mostly due to religion, but they will not bother gay couples as they do in some other countries. Many gay couples have retired to Costa Rica or own a vacation home here.

A gay friendly government

The governing party PAC has been able to push a few issues in the past two years. On the Presidential inauguration on May 8, 2014 new President Solis hoisted the rainbow flag together with the nation’s flag.
Costa Rican government approved last year that LGBT couples can insure each other at the CCSS, the Costa Rican Social Security System and have visiting rights to the hospital. A judge granted the first gay common law marriage to a gay couple 2015 and others are standing in line. Nonetheless, same-sex marriages are still not legally accepted in Costa Rica.

So what are the options to purchase Costa Rica property for a same-sex couple?

Joint Ownership

Property law in Costa Rica allows for joint or multiple property ownership where more than one single individual can own a Costa Rica property, as opposed to fee simple ownership.

The National Registry has incorporated three zeros at the end the property number (Province-234567-000) which allows for a joint or multiple ownership to be registered as 001, 002, 003 etc.

All property owners have the exact same rights and obligations, which can result in a problem at the time of a separation. Request more detailed information from your attorney on this matter.

In a corporation

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You can have your property ownership in a corporation. Your attorney can constitute a corporation for you and divide the shares and powers of attorney the way you elect to do so. You can split the shares 50/50 or 30/70 or any other way you’d like. You can endorse the shares to each other, in case anything happens and you don’t want family to get involved in private issues that the law does not cover.

Testament or will

I recommend you to get a will or testament done by your lawyer in Costa Rica, to cover any assets that you have in the country. A foreign testament needs to go through probate to be declared legal in Costa Rica, so getting one done here for your Costa Rica property (and other assets) will save a lot of red tape.

As you can see, the fact that a same-sex marriage is not legal in Costa Rica does not affect property ownership for gay couples at all, if you hire the right real estate and legal adviser.

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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

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