San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Renting: Tips, Rules, Regulations

Excerpted from The Tico Times “ExploringCosta Rica” guidebook:


Renting a “place” – large or small, city or country, old or new, cheap or pricey – in Costa Rica never before has been so easy.Whether you’re looking for short-term or long-term accommodations, you’ll have a healthy variety of options.

Most of those options fall into the following categories: –Aparthotels, a cross between a hotel and an apartment, are furnished, equipped and usually with phone and kitchenette. They generally are cheaper than hotels but more expensive than apartments.

Bed & Breakfasts, or B&Bs, are plentiful. They offer a homey atmosphere, and usually the owner or host lives on the premises.

Home stays. Living with a Costa Rican family is one way to immerse yourself in the culture and live economically. Many people here to learn Spanish find this arrangement ideal.

Apartments/Houses. There is no dearth of choices here. You can find basic, unfurnished ones for several hundred dollars monthly. Or, on the high end, you can find fully-furnished luxury accommodations for several thousand dollars per month. But, middle-of-the-road prices generally are $500 to $1,000 for a nice apartment/house.

Finding a suitable home involves some homework. Check out classifieds in The Tico Times (English) print and online editions ( and La Nación (Spanish). Tour the area in which you wish to live and look for rental signs (Se Alquila in Spanish). Also, check the bulletin boards offered at many commercial centers and supermarkets.

You may want to enlist the aid of a real estate agent. A good source of info about licensed agents is the Costa Rican Chamber of Real Estate Agents (283-0191,

Additionally, there are numerous listings online. One of the more popular Web sites is Just click on Costa Rica and follow instructions. Another is

When looking, be sure to ask about security arrangements. Many places are in gated communities, many have neighborhood guards, some offer ADT security, some offer no security at all.

Once you’ve found your place, you’ll sign a contract; be sure to have it translated into English. Most landlords require a security deposit of one month’s rent.When you leave the landlord, who must wait for confirmation that all tenant bills have been paid, has 30 days to return the deposit, assuming there is no damage.

If there is a telephone, the line would be in the name of the landlord who usually would require a phone deposit as a guarantee against unpaid bills.

The Law

The General Law of Urban and Suburban Renting defines landowner and tenant rights.

Landlords must provide tenants with facilities that allow for peaceful and quiet enjoyment. They must make emergency repairs within 10 days of receiving notice.

Failure to do either of these can result in the tenant terminating the rental contract, as can failure to provide premises in a habitable condition, altering the premises without tenant authorization and failing to pay agreedupon utilities, among other things.

This is according to “The Legal Guide to Costa Rica,” by Roger A. Petersen. This guide deciphers Costa Rica’s legal code covering a variety of topics, including real estate.

In residential leases the law allows for rent set in colones to be increased up to 15% a year. If inflation exceeds 15%, the government sets a different limit. The law does not allow an annual increase for residential leases set in dollars during the lease term.

Rental contracts are good for three years, by law. No matter what the contract says, a renter who complies in all ways with the rental agreement has the right to stay for three years. To end the lease, the landlord must give the tenant three months’ notice, or the lease will automatically renew for another three-year term.

For more tips and information on real estate in Costa Rica, see the Real Estate section of The Tico Times “Exploring Costa Rica” guidebook, available for $15.95 online at,, www.barnes and at major hotels and bookstores in Costa Rica.


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