The Complete Guide to Finding an Apartment for Rent in Costa Rica as Expats

The Complete Guide to Finding an Apartment for Rent in Costa Rica as Expats

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Whether you plan on renting a house or an apartment while living in Costa Rica, it’s always easier to find a place if you know where and how to look. 

After all, that’s half the battle when it comes to securing an affordable place in an area where you’re most comfortable.

This guide, then, will show you where to look for places to rent in Costa Rica, what to expect as far as monthly rent, utilities, and other expenses, and how you can get the lowest price possible.

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What to Keep in Mind

If you’re planning to settle in Costa Rica, it’s important to know that it’s not like the United States or the United Kingdom–or other European countries. 

The majority of expats tend to look in the Central Valley areas like Tibas, Atenas, Heredia, Escazu, or Grecia as they plan their moves.

With this in mind, conduct some thorough research and become familiar with the rules and regulations of renting prior to seeking your home. 

Now, when it comes to renting rules and regulations, they’re written in a way that relates to both the tenant and landlord’s rights and the obligations of both. 

Plus, other matters exist that are equally important to be aware of prior to agreeing and signing any lease.

Here’s a list of important matters you should keep in mind while searching for a place to rent in Costa Rica.

  1. Try to secure your rental close to amenities and schools.
  2. The public bus system is reliable and less than a dollar. Once you become familiar with routes, you’ll be able to travel anywhere.
  3. If unsure of which areas to avoid, ask the locals.
  4. As you search around, keep the entire neighborhood in mind, and know where to find bus stops and supermarkets.
  5. Confirm if any fees or utilities are incorporated into the rent.
  6. Carefully read the lease before handing over a deposit. If you don’t comprehend the lease due to it being in Spanish, then have it translated.
  7. Look over all items that the lease mentions prior to signing. Ensure all included amenities are in working condition and free of damage. Test any appliances to ensure they function properly. Note on the lease the appliances that work and don’t work, and ensure that the ones that don’t work get replaced.
  8. Usually, a vacant rental home or apartment will have a fresh paint job. Ensure that it does because the home will need to be in at least the same, if not better, condition than it was when you moved in. If you fail to do so, you might see your deposit amount reduced to pay for a new paint job.
  9. If a condo is in your sights, obtain any bylaws from the landlord. This will save you from any issues that neighbors may cause.
  10. Inquire about pets and if they’re permitted or not.
  11. In case of maintenance issues, immediately call your landlord.
  12. Although you’re renting the property, treat it as if it was yours.
  13. If you plan to drive a vehicle, it needs to be secured when not in use for security reasons.
  14. Keep all expensive items at home when you’re out and about.
  15. Never hand over any amount of money to anyone other than the landlord or his or her representative. Also, be ready to pay all that is due and sign immediately to get the keys.
  16. Stay for at least the first year of the lease and don’t leave sooner, or you may risk deposit forfeiture.
  17. Ensure the home or apartment is only used for its main purpose of living in and not sub-letted, unless agreed upon prior to moving in.
  18. Starting a business in a rental unit is illegal–avoid doing it.

Regardless of how long you plan to move to Costa Rica for, you’ll always be a welcomed guest, so you need to remain open-minded and accepting of the traditions and customs. 

Never forget that there will always be a difference between you, the language, and the way things are done here, because its probably not how you’re used to doing things.

Long-Term Rentals

Whether you’re interested in renting a house, apartment, penthouse, or condo in Costa Rica, it’s always good to know your options and as much detail about them as possible.

Knowing these things, you’ll be able to decide if the place is right for you. 

As you rent, you’ll also get accustomed to what the housing costs are, your neighbors, the local community, and the neighborhood in general.

You’ll also be able to determine whether the area is a good place to live. However, you’ll only find out after you’ve rented for a while.

For monthly rentals, they vary based on the type, amenities, and location. Later in the article, we’ll break the cost down by average for each type so that you have an idea of what to expect.

What to Consider

In Costa Rica, when an apartment is unfurnished, it really is unfurnished. This means it won’t even have an oven or refrigerator.

The positive side to this is that the rent will be lower as opposed to a furnished apartment. Having lower rent will give you the extra money to buy furniture and appliances.

There are many places that sell used furniture and you may even be able to find some for free.

If you love to go to garage sales, there’s always a lot of them in neighborhoods around the beginning of the year when Costa Ricans receive their annual bonuses. With a new year comes new furniture and other items, which equals savings for you. 

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A couple of the less expensive stores to find home furnishings include El Rey and Pequeño Mundo.

With that in mind, remember these things:

  • Many of the buildings are old and have not been updated.
  • Usually, leases run for one year according to rental laws. However, you may find monthly leases is you search hard enough.
  • Visit the rental in person before signing a lease. Never trust photos.
  • Be familiar with public transportation.
  • Expect a language barrier, so be prepared to bring a translator.
  • You may need to compromise is concerned about prices and locations.

With all that said, let’s get into the types of rentals available in Costa Rica and how much they cost, on average.

Studio Apartments

First off, renting a studio apartment will always be the cheaper option no matter where you live in Costa Rica.

In fact, when compared to a one-bedroom, a studio can cost a few hundred dollars less if there are no added luxuries.

Of course, it all depends on your needs and whether any increase in price will be worth it for you. But on average, the monthly rent for a studio apartment is around US$800.

Condos

Since Costa Rica is an ideal place to live, it’s not surprising that condos are plentiful and easy to find.

You can rent a condo for both short-term and long-term, and most of the condos for rent provide a view of the ocean or are located on the beach front. 

Although the majority of them are located in tourist or coastal areas, you can also find condos in the Central Valley, in the mountains, or within an ear-shot from San Jose.

costa rica condominium
You can find condos in Costa Rica in the city center or along the coast.

A condo in Costa Rica runs an average of US$1,600 per month for a studio style condo. For one- to two-bedroom condos, expect to pay between US$1,600 and US$2,200. 

The amount may increase significantly based on location, amenities, and the type of view it provides. The square footage can also play a role in the price. 

Penthouses

Like most penthouses, Costa Rican penthouses are luxurious and are found at the top of apartment buildings.

You can recognize a penthouse by its characteristics, usually balconies that offer views of the mountains and city, spacious interiors, and a layout that is unique all in itself. 

Also, a penthouse normally takes up more than a single floor, depending on the amount of square feet and bedrooms.

Penthouses in Costa Rica provide many conveniences such as comfort, beautiful design, spaciousness, privacy, and a feeling of luxury.

Besides these, other conveniences are peace and quiet, ventilation, and ample amount of light. 

These benefits are due to their location on the very top floor, which enables them to receive a good source of natural lighting and fresh air.

On average, monthly rent for a penthouse in Costa Rica will start at US$2,500. Just like any other apartment, the utilities and furniture may or may not be included.

Houses

Houses for rent in Costa Rica are in urban and suburban neighborhoods. You can easily find one if you search online, walk around a neighborhood, or use a real estate agent. 

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Rental houses will come unfurnished and won’t even have an oven or refrigerator.

Rent per month can be between US$300 and US$1,500 and is based on the area that you wish to live in. For example, Guanacaste will be on the higher end, while the central valley will be lower.

Rental Costs

The cost of living in Costa Rica is low compared to more developed countries. Prices will be determined by location and the type of apartment you desire. 

Generally, the monthly rent for studio apartments can be as low as 100,000 colones (US$160) per month and may or may not include utilities. Make sure to ask the landlord after the price is revealed.

The cost is also determined by the location. The rental price normally increases the closer you get to the town center and will decrease the further away you get. So, if you’re looking for a spacious home, then living on the outskirts may be better. 

You may even get lucky by finding a place to live near a university, as they’re usually listed for lower prices due to the students’ needs for housing.

We can’t stress location enough and the role it plays in a country you’re not accustomed to.

If you work in Costa Rica, you should get an apartment close to where your work. If you retire here, it’s a good idea to live near a good hospital, just in case something unexpected happens. 

For instance, let’s say your apartment is in Heredia. Compared to other provinces, Heredia is smaller in size. The good thing is that Heredia is nice and calm, which makes it relatively easy to navigate throughout.

Some of the good towns within Heredia include Santo Domingo, Barva, Santa Lucia, San Joaquin de Flores, San Francisco, and San Pablo de Heredia. 

san jose city center
Being the capital city of Costa Rica, San Jose offers plenty of choices for rentals.

With these places considered safe, you’ll feel secure as you travel home at night or take the bus.

Two other safe towns on the outskirts of Heredia are San Rafael and San Isidro. They can, however, feel more remote depending on their particular area.

In the capital city, San Jose, you’ll obviously have more options. 

Housing can be found easily near the universities, too. The safer neighborhoods within San Jose include Sabana Sur, Barrio Escalante, Rhomoser, Barrio Dent, Vargas Araya, Barrio Aranjuez, Los Yoses, Sabanilla, and San Pedro.

Finding Apartments

Because you’re an expat, understanding the way things are done can be challenging when it comes to finding apartments for rent. 

However, finding an affordable apartment is not as hard as you might think. In fact, if you’re familiar with sites such as Craigslist, VRBO, Couchsurfing, or AirBnB back in the states, then you’ll be happy to know that these sites also list apartments for rent in Costa Rica. 

Another option is to ask your employer if arrangements can be made for accommodations. 

Other than that, the three main methods used to find an apartment are:

  • searching online
  • searching offline
  • going through a real estate agent 

When finding an apartment, have a budget in mind and decide whether you’ll have a roommate.

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It’s not unheard of to have roommates as many Costa Ricans do it in areas where the rent is high. Although the rent may seem higher because of this, it’s not impossible to find an affordable apartment. 

If you plan to make the Central Valley your home, you can easily find a place for 150,000 colones (US$245) that may or may not include utilities, or 200,000 colones (US$325) or more per month.

Let’s look at each of the three methods for finding a place to rent in Costa Rica more closely.

Searching Online

Searching for apartments online is an easy process. You can start by checking out the La Nacion, Tico Times, or a platform for real estate called www.costalistings.com

There are also several sites that are dedicated to listing rentals, like Roomster, Encuentra24, and Craigslist

Searching on social media will also turn up results through Facebook groups. 

These groups post daily rentals and each is easy to navigate through. A few of these groups include: Alquiler de Casas y Apartamentos en Costa Rica, Alquileres y venta de casas y apartamentos en Heredia, and Alquiler de apartamentos en Heredia.

Using the internet can ease the burden of having to make a personal trip to an apartment because an online search provides photos and property contact information. 

Some websites offer free apartment brokerage, which could come in handy if you’re not yet in the country.

You could also find websites where apartment owners are willing to offer their apartment with no fee.

Pros

  • Neighborhood maps may be available to see what the area provides.
  • Websites like ApartmentRatings.com provides feedback on landlords. You’ll also find advice from renters who’ve rented in the areas you’re interested in.
  • Listings on apartments.com, rent.com, and apartmentsearch.com may show floor plans and interior photos.
  • Ads found on sites such as thatrentalsite.com oftentimes include links to area complexes. This can drastically decrease the amount of time required to search for an apartment.

Cons

  • You never know who actually posted the rental. With online rentals in particular, you don’t truly know if a post is trustworthy. There may seem to be too many dangers lurking around the corner. This is why you should be on guard and beware of anything that may seem suspicious.
  • Postings may be too good to be true. As you conduct online searches, stay on your toes. This is especially true if you see an apartment that you think should be listed for more than what it is.

Searching Offline

Every time you see a “For Rent” sign, it’ll only have a phone number to call. When you call, ask about the rental amount and everything that’s included.

facade building.
To find a rental in Costa Rica, you can take your search offline and walk through neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs.

When searching offline, look for ads around the neighborhoods you’re interested in. But get ready to do a lot of walking and/or driving.

As you walk around the neighborhoods, look for “For Rent” signs in windows or other areas such as the bars of a gate.

When you come upon a grocery store, take a peak to see if they have any advertisements for rentals.

Conducting online searches through sites like VRBO, Costa Rica craigslist, Encuentra24, and Mercado Libre Costa Rica can give you a good idea on which neighborhood you should start in, including the average rental cost per month. 

Moreover, you can check newspaper ads–although rare, there may be some rentals listed.

Spread the word by letting friends know what you’re interested. A lot of times, word can get around as a tenant is moving out, and the landlord may offer the place to you.

When you conduct apartment searches offline, ensure that you have a good pair of walking shoes. When searching on your own, you’ll save quite a bit of money, too.

This is because you won’t have to pay a broker to find an apartment for you. If you use a broker, you may have to pay them a commission equal to one month’s rent

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Pros

  • Searching for an apartment offline gives you a better understanding of the place you’re planning to live in.
  • Using your network of friends will help as they can point you in the right direction when it comes to neighborhoods. Also, contact friends of friends who may be able to help you.

Cons

  • Searching offline may seem like a job. It’ll take a lot of work to find what you want, and unless you’re in the right place at the right time, you’ll be spending more time than you should looking for a place. You need to recognize areas that are suitable, make appointments, and know how to get there.
  • There is no guarantee you’ll find a place. When it comes to finding an apartment in Costa Rica, it’s always first come, first serve, so if you’re unable to place a security deposit right then and there, another renter may snatch it up. Costa Ricans won’t wait for you if they have no way of knowing that you’re truly interested.

Real Estate Agents

If you use a realtor, make sure they know the area thoroughly and always have your best interest in mind.

If you feel that they’re just dragging you along, walk away and continue your search using the other two methods we’ve mentioned above. 

In any circumstance, your agent should have up-to-date info they can pass to you including security and traffic conditions. 

All in all, the services of a real estate agent need to be catered to you specifically. You also need to know that if they’re willing to work with you, they’ll charge you a fee, which can be as high as ten percent of what the rental amount is. 

However, the fee could be higher due to Costa Rica’s unregulated housing market. So, if you find a place for US$500 a month, then your fee will be around US$50.

Pros

  • Are able to assist with your relocation. Moving internationally can take a lot of time and sometimes help is great to have. This is especially true when you can have an agent look for an apartment for you, so that you can concentrate on other important issues. Sure, you can take short trips to check places out, but not all landlords may be able to show an apartment during your short visit.
  • Agents are usually hassle-free. They know that if they spend enough time working with you, they’ll get paid for the services they provide. So, the more time they spend with you, the more they’ll make. If you have problems escaping work or other responsibilities come up, a reliable Costa Rican real estate agent will ensure that your precious time is used wisely.
  • They know where to look. Chances are, your realtor will have been to the area you’re interested in. They know who to talk to and what questions to ask in your absence. A realty agent will also save you time by avoiding places that are out of your budget. Because Costa Ricans expect to negotiate rent, your agent can get the lowest amount possible.

Cons

  • A high fee will be involved. Having a real estate agent help you isn’t going to be cheap. Just like anything else, soliciting for help will cost a certain amount. However, you can shop around for the cheapest agent and then go from there. You may also find properties that only work through a real estate company. With these, the fee may not be negotiable, so it’s best to find out first.
  • They tell you what they want you to hear. Because they’re paid a fee, they could lead you to apartments that are within your budget but at the higher end of it. You need to make sure that the agent always has your best interests in mind. Also, they may only be interested in the money, especially during the pandemic. These are the agents you need to stay away from if you really want to have a positive experience.

Negotiating Rent

After you find an apartment that you want, it’s the time to start negotiating rent. 

Actually, rental prices in advertisements in Costa Rica tend to be higher than what it’s supposed to be, so you should study market prices to find out the true value of places. 

However, if negotiating seems futile, that just means the place is already listed at market price or you need more practice on the art of negotiating.

Renting Vs. Buying 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of renting an apartment in Costa Rica as opposed to buying a place.

This is not an in-depth list of pros and cons between the two options, but it will give you a general idea on what to expect.

Pros 

Here are the pros of renting in Costa Rica. 

Costs are Cheaper 

Whether it’s short or long term, when you rent you save money because you’re not required to send money to Costa Rica all at once as if you were buying a place.

Flexible Options 

Renting provides the ability to walk away whenever you want. This is good since you’re not the owner. However, this is great if you don’t mind losing your deposit.

Overall Ease 

Because there’s no investment, renting is easy. You find the perfect apartment, home, or condo, sign the lease, and make payments each month.

You don’t have to find a lawyer, worry about the national registry, or locate a contractor like you would if were buying or building a house.

A great benefit to renting over buying is that you don’t have to invest a large amount of money. Also, if you want to move out, you can do it right away without having to worry about selling your property.

Cons

Renting does have its disadvantages. Here are a few. 

Outdated Furniture

Furniture in rentals may be in bad shape and in need of replacement. However, having an unfurnished home or apartment will fix that problem.

But, of course, if there are no kitchen cabinets, then that is a whole other issue.

Problematic Landlords 

Interacting with the landlord is unavoidable, and they can also be unbearable at times. Even if they are pleasant to deal with, however, language barriers could cause misunderstandings.

You Don’t Own It 

Because you’re not the owner, you’re restricted in what you can do with the property.

If there’s anything you want to do that requires permission, then you’ll need to ask first if it’s not already agreed upon in your lease.

Lost Invest Opportunity 

When you pay rent, it goes towards the landlord’s mortgage, not yours. So, if you plan on staying in Costa Rica for many years, maybe you should consider buying a place.

This way, you have something to show for your money down the road.

Finding Short-Term Rentals

Although the minimum rental time in Costa Rica is one year, finding short-term rentals is possible if you know where to look. By renting short-term, you’ll be able to see what’s available on the market.

If you’re looking for a long-term rental, skip this section and get in touch with a realtor. 

Otherwise, here are a few ways to look for a short-term rental.

You can scan through the local Tico Times website or AirBnB to find any short-term listings. An online search normally brings up good results for short-term homes, condos, and apartments.

Put effort into your search for the perfect place because you’ll be living there. Take the time to get out and about alone to get you familiar with the areas. By getting out alone, you’ll experience what Costa Rica offers.

Become familiar with your neighborhood (barrio), nearby amenities, and access. Once you find a nice place, check out the available rentals that provide you with the options you want.

Remember, there’s no problem with looking around and not committing. By just looking, you’re just seeing what’s available.

If you’re not in Costa Rica yet, get in touch with a realtor in Costa Rica and develop a working relationship. Let them know of your short-term plans and the amount of time you’re going to stay in the country. 

Not all real estate agents can help, but there may be some who can.

Also, when you search for a short-term rental, you may need to do a lot of leg work yourself. It’s going to be much easier if you can speak fluent Spanish, since you’ll be able to negotiate with a landlord and understand the advertisements. 

If you do have difficulty with Spanish, then you’ll benefit from the help of friends.

Costa Rica has a specific landlord/tenant law that both parties can benefit from, and it covers two certain circumstances.

  1. For all rental apartments, condominiums, and rental homes
  2. Commercial, professional, or industrial property rentals

Costa Rica’s law governing rental properties was signed in 1995 and has not received many amendments.

There are, however, several various rules that cover circumstances that are very alike, so it’ll help if you know what the specific details pertain to.

Important Issues

Generally speaking, the rules below govern home and apartment rentals and lease agreements in Costa Rica.

  • Rental agreements are either written or verbal. Although a verbal agreement can exist, written is almost always obtained in order to keep track of all responsibilities for both tenant and landlord.
  • A three-year minimum must be established regardless of the contract length, unless rental contract specifies a longer amount of time that has been agreed upon.
  • All utilities and any extra services offered publicly are the responsibility of the tenant. Responsibility of the landlord includes all taxes pertaining to the property. For a condo, responsibility must be established in regards to HOA membership fees and determine if it’s included in the rent.
  • Every landlord must be listed through the Tax Ministry – Hacienda in order to collect applicable taxes. Fines can occur if there is noncompliance.
  • Under the current law, every rental contract that is one and a half times higher than a base salary must pay a sales tax of 13 percent.
  • Selling of property doesn’t force the tenant out of the property, and the tenant can stay until the contract expires regardless of the new ownership.
  • Any and all maintenance and upkeep must be taken care of by landlords. Any alterations or changes that are agreed upon will be taken care of by the tenant.
  • Landlord permission must be obtained prior to any changes or alterations to the home or property. Any changes or alterations are nonrefundable and remain with the home or apartment.
  • Upon contract expiration, a notice must be given to the tenant 90 days in advance for vacating. If no notice is given, then another three years is generated automatically.
  • The tenant can’t sublet or transfer the lease to anyone else unless they transfer it to a tenant business in current operation. This type of transfer is governed by the Costa Rican Code of Commerce under article 478 and is known as the Purchase of Mercantile and Industrial Establishments. In this circumstance, the landlord must respect the change.
  • All landlords may request a security deposit to cover any tenant damage or utilities that remains after a tenant has vacated. Normally, the deposit is one month’s rent.
  • Law permits a monthly inspection of the home’s interior and exterior.
  • The agreed upon use of the home or property is forbidden from being changed. So, if you’re living in it as a dwelling one month, it cannot become a business location the next, such as a club or restaurant. There is an exception to this in that a home business is permitted, as long as it won’t disturb anyone in the neighborhood.
  • Rent can be paid seven days after the due date. So, if rent is due on the first, then the tenant has until the eighth to pay the rent. If a tenant begins to make payments after the seventh day and the landlord doesn’t bring the matter up to the tenant, then the tenant can legally pay late from then on.
  • In the past, a yearly 15 percent adjustment was permitted based on the rent amount if a property was used for residential purposes. Now, however, an amendment exists that has lowered the adjustment percentage. This has produced a formula that many find difficult to understand while attempting to account for inflation that the Ministry of Housing determines each month. For rent that is paid in dollars, this increase does not occur.
  • For commercial property, the annual increase is unlimited and is not determined by the currency used to pay the rent.

In summary, let your plans be known to any realtor you plan to work with, as well as the type of apartment you desire, your budget, timeline for arriving in Costa Rica, and any accommodations you require.

Going through the homeowner directly is also okay, but you may have trouble with the language barrier.

Also, have your deposit and first month’s rent ready after signing your lease.

Make sure to use only cash–not checks–because they’ll not be accepted due to the amount of time it takes for clearing (at least 25 days). This pretty much goes for credit cards, too.

real estate for rent
Understanding important legal issues will help prevent possible problems with your landlord.

Prior to signing any lease, make sure that you know what the contract says. Avoid signing if you have no full knowledge of what you’re about to sign.

Ask the landlord about the timeline needed before vacating.

Ensure you have your lease reviewed by a trusted bilingual source if you don’t understand Spanish.

Always make a copy of your lease so you can refer to it when needed.

As a landlord, it cannot be stressed enough to do a credit check or even a few references prior to renting a property or home.

This is a good way to alleviate any future problems and will you give peace of mind knowing that rent will be paid faithfully.

For tenants, you need to understand that there will always be good and bad landlords, so you have to remember that you have rights that the landlord must respect. This is especially true when you have everything written in the lease.

Missed Rent

When it comes to missing rent, a landlord can request a judge to visit the property and conduct a personal belongings inventory. 

These items will be collected as assurance that payments will be made, which usually easily prompts a tenant to vacate.

Evictions

Essentially, if a landlord is trying to evict a tenant, the tenant can prevent the eviction if he or she pays the landlord all past due rent and expenses.

Moreover, in some cases the landlord can begin the eviction process if the rental house is on the same property as the landlord’s place of residence. The landlord would have to request this through the Ministry of Security and follow through with the police.

Remember, though, obtaining an order for eviction is a slow process in Costa Rican courts. There have been stories of renters who have gone without paying rent for the duration of their lease.

Then, when they get word that they are being evicted and an order has been signed off by a judge, they’re already out of the property.

Costa Rica’s Condominium Property Act

With condos, understanding and agreeing to all bylaws must be obtained in accordance to Costa Rica’s Condominium Property Act.

During any HOA get-togethers, the tenant can attend and participate freely. However, a tenant is not allowed to vote–only the homeowner (landlord) is.

Other Agreement Types

Like we stated, leases run at a minimum of three years. Nevertheless, there are two other agreement types that also exist.

These are:

  • A usufruct right: this allows the property owner to make a transfer of a property’s usufruct right to another individual’s name. This is considered to be a property lien and makes the new beneficiary able to rent the property out. If a beneficiary only lasts for a couple of years, then the rental can only be made for the same amount of time that’s left.
  • A trust: for a property that’s considered to be an asset, the legal owner automatically becomes the property’s trustee. For the trust, if rental authorization is given for a year, then that’s the maximum allowed time.

There are various regulations that exist in regard to both commercial and private properties within the Tenancy Act.

A few examples include the following:

  • agricultural and farm property rented for the good of all
  • orporate homes and homeless shelters
  • tourism related homes and property
  • rentable vehicle spaces for parking
  • motels, hotels, hostels, and B&Bs

Deposits

As part of the rental agreement, you’ll need to submit a month’s rent as deposit.

There have been instances where the landlord has refused to return a deposit regardless of the apartment’s condition.

So, for these instances, it’s important that you have it in the rental agreement that your deposit will be returned, minus any deductions for damage you may have caused. 

Another option is to have the landlord use the deposit as rent for your final month.

Utilities

As you search around for your rental, always inquire about what utilities are included, if any. You’re responsible to pay for utilities.

To get an idea of what the average use is for utilities, you can ask your prospective neighbors. Of course, the amounts will vary.

With that said, here are a few you could expect to pay.

Electric

The power meter is under the owner’s name. In order for the tenant to pay the monthly utility, the owner will provide their account number.

On average, you could see an electric bill as high as 50,000 colones (US$45) or as low as 4,500 colones (US$10).

Water

The water account is also under the owner’s name and the account number is also provided to tenant.

Cable/Wifi

Cable and wifi will never be included or installed by the landlord. However, law permits a nonresident to request these services based on their individual needs. However, you can expect a deposit that will be higher than what a resident will be paying.

Typically, the average monthly cable/internet price fluctuates between 20,000 colones (US$35) and 30,000 colones (US$55). A lot of promotions can be had where you get a few months half-off for new service.

Telecommunications

Most homes in Costa Rica no longer have a telephone outlet for landlines, so having a cell phone will be the way to go.

You also need to keep in mind of a few things as well:

  • For utilities that get cut because of failing to pay, the landlord has to request reconnection after payment in full is made and must be done in person.
  • Residency is required for utility connections for power and water. The exception to this is cable and internet.
  • Utility is provided by a sole provider for electric (ICE) and water (AyA).
  • Name changes for a utility can be a lengthy process and is often times avoided.
  • Utility bills in Costa Rica are billed monthly and are paid for the previous month’s use.

Short-Term Rentals

Vacation and short-term rental will always have their utilities included in the rent.

This is due to the impossibility of being able to monitor the actual cost of use by a tenant. Because of this, the landlord will add a percent into the rent amount in order for the utilities to be covered.

When it comes to short-term rentals, in Costa Rica it refers to a length of stay ranging between a day and a few months.

So generally, any length of stay less than 12 months is short-term. Any more than 12 months and it is considered long-term.

Long-Term Rentals

Long-term rental utilities will always be separate from the rent. The only exception is with garbage. This is because the municipality charges the garbage in conjunction with all property taxes.

Renting for the long-term is defined as more than a year; however Costa Rican law requires a three-year minimum.

With the majority of rental agreements being written for at least a year and extendable, the tenant may continue to live in the rental for the maximum of three years as the law permits.

Now, on to You

Finding a place to rent in Costa Rica is not a difficult process if you have the right tools and resources.

Overall, if you’re not in the country yet, then you’ll benefit greatly from getting in touch with a Costa Rican realtor that specializes in rental properties. That way, they can give you a good idea of what is available in the areas that you’re interested in.

If you are in Costa Rica, put some of the tips in this guide to use. With a little leg work, you’ll be surprised what you can find.

Jake is originally from California. He is now living in Costa Rica and plans to spend the rest of his life here. He loves hiking through trails, traveling abroad, and immersing himself in diverse cultures.

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