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Maritime Zone Law and Beachfront Property Ownership in Costa Rica

costa rica beachfront property and maritime law

In 1977, Costa Rica passed the Maritime Zone Law, which established property ownership rights for beachfront property in Costa Rica. Under the Costa Rica Constitution, the initial fifty meters going inland from the high-tide line on beachfront properties, as established by the Costa Rica National Geographic Institute, has always been reserved for public use and enjoyment. This is an inalienable right of enjoyment, which is unlikely to change in the future.

After the passage of the Maritime Zone Law, properties which had previously received a registered property title in the National Registry with a Survey Plan to the fifty meter line, have retained their fee simple ownership rights following the passage of the Law. However, properties held only in a right of possession by their owners, became subject to the Concession provisions of the Maritime Zone Law. The Concession provisions provide for leasing of the land from the Government that equates with the first one hundred and fifty meters inland from the fifty meter public zone line previously described. Concessions are only granted in those beachfront areas where the local Municipality has adopted a Municipal Zoning Plan providing for the existence of such Concessions.  The Municipality is charged with the administering of such Concessions granted by the Government. The normal Concession lease granted is for a twenty year period and annual payments, similar to Municipal Property Taxes, must be paid to the Municipality, in order to keep the Concession current.

Foreigners, without having had five years of legal Residency status in Costa Rica, may not own a majority interest in a Concession. In those circumstances, a Trust may be created where a Costa Rican citizen holds a fifty-one percent interest in the Concession and the foreigner holds a forty-nine percent interest, during the establishment of the five year Residency period of the foreigner. Following the establishment of five years of Residency, the Concession interest held in Trust, may be transferred to the foreigner in its entirety.

An interesting consideration for foreigners is the Testamentary Disposition of such Concession interests.  An inheriting party must also meet the five year Residency Rule, in order to acquire the Concession interest following Probate, or establish a Trust holding relationship, as previously described.

About Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps:  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 with the Law Firm of Petersen & Philps, located in Escazu, a western suburb of San Jose.

To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney, please use the following information: Lic. Rick Philps – Attorney at Law, Petersen & Philps, San Jose, Costa Rica Tel: 506-2288-4381, Ext. 102; Email: Website: