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Renting a House

Tenant's Rights

As long as you stick to the terms of your rental agreement they are legally binding for a minimum of three years regardless of the agreed upon term. This applies to both oral and written agreements.

The owner has to inform the tenant in writing three months before the end of the term if he wants the tenant to leave. If the owner fails to do this, the term is automatically renewed.

If the rent is paid in dollars the rent cannot be increased during this period. If the rent is in colones there may be a 15% increase every year. This is to offset inflation. If the inflation is higher than that, the increase may match the inflation.

If the rent is agreed on in dollars, the tenant has the right to pay in colons at the going exchange rate posted by the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica.

Unless otherwise agreed upon the rent is to be paid at the rented property.

The tenant is allowed to be a week late paying rent.

If legal proceedings for eviction are started, if the owner accepts overdue rental payments this may cancel his right to evict the tenant.

If the property gets sold, all the tenant's rights and obligation remain in place.

Tenant's Obligations

The tenant must pay the rent and all utility and phone bills.

The tenant must keep up the property. This pertains to regular use, for instance furniture, interior walls, appliances.

The tenant has to refrain from engaging in illegal activities.

The tenant has to give three months notice before the term is over or the term will renew.

If the original agreement called for a certain use of the property, this has to remain the main purpose of the property or you have to obtain a written permission. As an exception you may use a small part of a housing rental for business purposes but you have to notify the owner within a week.

The tenant must refrain from subleasing the property unless this is allowed in the agreement.

Owner's Rights

The owner may start eviction procedures if payments are more than a week late.

The owner may at the end of the term deduct the cost of paying overdue bills from the deposit, if one has been made.

The owner may sue for any costs that are not covered by the deposit.

The owner of the property is also owner of any improvements made by the tenant. No payment is required.

The owner may inspect the property once a month or when necessary. He has to be accompanied by the tenant or if not possible by another adult.

Deposit amount is up to owner.

Owner's Obligations

The owner has to maintain the house in good shape. This, for instance, pertains to all damage that occurs that is not caused through fault of the tenant.

The owner has to pay the taxes on the property (0.25% of the registered value).

When buying a property occupied by a tenant the new owner is bound to the same conditions of the rental agreement as the old owner was.


The phone line will usually be in the name of the owner. Outgoing international calls will usually be blocked by the owner. You may want to insist on allowing incoming international calls.

If the owner lives in the same building and has no more than two tenants, the owner only has to give one month notice.

The complete Tenancy Law in Spanish


Legal Residence in Costa Rica Page