In September 2020, Costa Rica implemented new regulations governing land subdivision, and these changes are of significant importance to individuals considering land acquisition and construction within the country. The updated guidelines are outlined in INVU's 'Reglamento de Fraccionamiento y Urbanizaciones 2020.'
The most noteworthy modifications in our region pertain to the regulations concerning agricultural parcels. Below, we provide a concise overview of the general zoning rules applicable to titled land. However, it's crucial to understand that the specific restrictions and limitations for a particular piece of land can be determined by obtaining a Certificate of Land Use (Uso de Suelo) from the local Municipality.
The Uso de Suelo serves as a Zoning Certificate, delineating the permissible land usage and construction limitations, including minimum property size, setbacks, maximum building height, maximum building footprint, and more.
(1) Titled Property on a Public Road
Generally, titled land situated along a public road allows construction of up to 75% of the property's square meterage. For instance, if your land measures 1,000m2, you can construct up to 750m2 of buildings. (Again, it's vital to request a Uso de Suelo from the Municipality to ascertain the exact percentage.)
If you plan to establish a commercial venture, such as a restaurant or hotel, the land you purchase must be located on a public road; commercial enterprises cannot legally operate on private roads. The minimum lot size for properties on a public road is 120m2, with a minimum road frontage requirement of 6 meters.
When subdividing a lot along a public road, note that the length of the property cannot exceed 7 times its width. For instance, if your property has a public road frontage of 6 meters, the maximum length of the lot from the main road would be 42 meters. Since subdivision regulations are extensive, it's advisable to hire professionals (topographers and lawyers) well-versed in the new rules.
(2) Titled Property on a Servidumbre de Paso
Land located on a Servidumbre de Paso (Private Access Easement) follows similar rules to those on a public road, with a general usage allowance of 75% (but it's advisable to confirm with a Uso de Suelo). The minimum lot size is 120m2, with a minimum road frontage of 6 meters. The key difference is that you cannot establish a commercial enterprise on a Servidumbre de Paso.
(3) Titled Property on a Servidumbre Agricola
Our region contains numerous Agricultural Easements (Servidumbres Agrícolas) due to its historical use as farmland and pastureland. These properties are subject to distinct regulations updated by the new INVU guidelines:
Minimum lot size: 5,000m2
Maximum housing construction: Limited to 10% of the lot size, allowing for a primary house with a maximum construction size of 300m2, with a maximum of 2 floors. This could be a one-story house of 300m2 or a two-story house with a maximum footprint of 150m2. Smaller guest housing and structures related to agro-tourism (e.g., a butterfly farm, orchid garden, or small organic farm open to visitors) can be added, up to a maximum construction size of 10%.
Additional agricultural facilities, such as storage sheds, stables, garages, or milking stations, can be built up to a maximum total construction coverage of 25% on the lot.
Once again, unless related to agriculture, these properties cannot be used for commercial ventures. When considering property purchases in Costa Rica, it's crucial to enlist knowledgeable professionals who can guide you in selecting the right property for your plans and projects.