Do you want to try renting a house as a tourist in Costa Rica?
It’s often hard to figure out what’s legal and what not when renting a house as a tourist. There are so many wrong ideas about it.
Nathan wasn’t sure about a lot of things, so he decided to email me:
How’s it going? My name is Nathan, and I was hoping you could help me with a couple of different questions.
I have been doing a lot of research and reading about the average prices of rentals of apartments and condos in Costa Rica. I have read most are from 300-1200 Costa Rican colons, is this correct?
Although I have been reading, a US citizen can legally rent property in Costa Rica. I am a united states citizen and do not want to give up my citizenship here. My idea is to find an ideal apartment that I like down there, and sign a one-year lease. Then I’d pay the cost of the whole lease upfront, and just travel on a tourist passport for 90 days at a time to my apartment in CR. Is it legal for me to do this?
Will I legally be able to register with an electric company and stuff as well so I have electric when I do come down?
There are a few different questions to cover here if you’re looking at renting a house as a tourist in Costa Rica. So let’s get started.
You don’t have to give up your United States citizenship (or any other) to become a legal resident in Costa Rica. Becoming a resident in Costa Rica is like a foreigner getting a green card in the U.S., without giving up his/her citizenship elsewhere. More about this here.
Renting a house as a tourist
You don’t need to be a legal resident of Costa Rican citizen to renting a house as a residence or a business space. You are allowed to sign a lease agreement with a landlord, by using your passport.
A one-year lease
Residential and commercial leases are for 3 years, by Costa Rican law. But, most lease agreements are for 1-year minimum and that’s when they would return your security deposit unless you stay longer. If you stay less than 1 year, you’d lose that deposit. Learn more about that here.
A year lease upfront will probably get you a 10 – 15% discount on your rent. The problem is often how to get the money to the landlord.
A foreign check will take weeks to clear. You can wire money from your account in another country only when you’re there, not here. Unless you pre-arrange a wire transfer with your banker, as soon as you have a bank account in Costa Rica. Learn here what you need for that.
So bring cash for at least the first payments and security deposit.
Rents anywhere above $500/month are usually in US dollars, not in colones. 300 Colones is about $0.51
The exchange is around 585 colones to the US $. Check for rentals here.
The rental prices that you saw were probably US$300 – US$1,200/month.
You do need a legal residency to be able to get utilities in your own name.
Usually, the power and water stay in the owner’s name because it’s a hassle to get it changed.
As for phones, the easiest way is to bring your US cell phone (or any other country), you can get pre-paid cards everywhere. Cable TV and internet would have to be ordered in your name, but the realtor will help you with that and it’s only a matter of a few days to get it installed.
Live in Costa Rica
You don’t have to be a citizen or a resident to live in Costa Rica. Therefore, you are also allowed to rent a house as a tourist in Costa Rica. Non-residents need to leave the country every 90 days. That means you have to leave 4 times a year.
A hassle? Getting your residency card is a hassle too. There are quite a few options to become a legal resident. Check here for recommended attorneys if you plan to become a legal resident.
Contact us now for your property rental or purchase.