Steps to build a house in Costa Rica
Usually the biggest dream for any family is to either build a house of their own or buy a finished one; this situation entails quite an investment of time and money and often comes with uncertainty and wariness.
In this context, it is important to understand the basic steps of building a house in order to decide on the property where the construction work is going to be performed. This analysis will assist you in determining whether building a house is more advantageous or whether buying a finished one is the best course of action. The home’s design will directly depend on the property you have chosen; thus, it is important to know how to choose it.
First, you should take the following basic steps: i) verify the registration of the property in the National Registry; ii) confirm that the property has a cadastral plan and that the information contained in said plan is consistent with reality; iii) determine if the applicable regulatory plan allows residential use in such a property; iv) verify with the corresponding municipality about the specific applicable regulations in connection with density, height, setbacks, and other specifications; v) verify if the property is located within the premises of danger zones or protected areas; vi) verify availability of public utilities (electricity, drinking water, sewage system, telephone, among others); and vii) check to see if there are legal restrictions affecting the property (setbacks, alignments, easements, among others). Upon completion of this stage and following the purchase of the property, you can proceed with the architectural and civil design phase.
For purposes of the design of the house, it is advisable to retain and enter into a consulting services agreement with an engineer and an architect or consulting company that is a member of the Federated Engineers and Architects Association (“CFIA”). Membership in this association allows these professionals to be responsible for the design, drawings and/or construction of the house. Upon completion of the house drawings, such document should be approved by the CFIA in order to certify the responsibility of the professional involved. The approval procedure may be conducted electronically through (www.cfia.or.cr/apc.htm) or by the conventional physical format procedure.
Once the drawings have been approved by the CFIA, these drawings should also be approved by the Ministry of Health in order to verify that they comply with all sanitary and health regulations. In case the construction is larger than 300 square meters, or in the event of a construction involving more than two floors, the Ministry of Health will require the submission of the environmental feasibility certificate granted by the SETENA. Furthermore, evidence on the availability of potable water and aqueduct by Acueductos y Alcantarillados or by the institution responsible for water service supply should be submitted; if potable water is to be supplied through a well under valid concession, proof of the quality of water should be filed in order to validate its potability.
When the Ministry of Health has approved these plans, the construction drawings should be submitted to the corresponding municipality in order to obtain the building permit and begin construction. The drawings reviewed by the corresponding institutions, along with the occupational risks insurance policy should also be filed to the municipality.
Before beginning with the construction, it is advisable to enter into a construction agreement to define the type of construction, the construction timeline, the building materials and the finishes to be used, as well as their corresponding guarantee, payment terms and default penalties, among others.
Lastly, please bear in mind that the current legislation establishes that the professionals involved in the project shall have civil liability responsibility for a 5-year term.
Any proceedings to obtain building permits for residences have been simplified through the creation of the website www.tramitesconstruccion.go.cr and the enactment of the Regulations to the Law for the Protection of Citizens against Excessive Requirements and Administrative Proceedings, in terms of tacit approval.
Following the above-referred steps will ensure that the investment made by your family is properly secured.
Andrea González is a lawyer and a notary public with a masters in International Law. She works at BLP law firm and can be reached at (506) 2205-3900 / 8996-2499 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, For more personal information please visit www.blplegal.com.
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