Land use certificates in Costa Rica are governed by the country’s urban regulations, which allow different projects to be carried out on a property depending on its location and specific characteristics. It is important to know the regulatory plan or the corresponding norm prior to the purchase of the land, because if the project you have is not compatible with the land uses, then it will not be possible to develop it.

The degree of use of a land is based on the technical qualification of its characteristics, some of which include: slope, erosion, depth, texture, fertility, toxicity, health, flood risk, among others.

Generalities and types of land uses

The objective of this certificates is to protect the land, maximizing the potential of each property without affecting urban growth and the needs of each city.

The main distinction falls on three major adjectives: developable land, non-developable land and urban land.

In the developable land are the properties that have the potential and objective of growing as a city because they have a strategic location and can be built on. Undeveloped land, on the other hand, is incompatible with urban development since it seeks environmental sustainability by prohibiting building in that place. While urban land is the land that has streets, sidewalks, sewers, access to basic services, etc. and that consolidates a city or town.

The types of certificates vary according to the municipality in which the property is located; however, some general aspects that must be taken into account are:

  • Zoning: it can be a residential area, a commercial area, parks, communal areas, industrial and mixed areas, among others.
  • Dimensions of construction works.
  • Percentage of building.
  • Density: Refers to the ability of the soil to support the structure to be built. They are divided into zones of high, medium and low density. Each municipality has different parameters to measure this requirement, so it is important to consult previously.
  • Property location.
  • Water availability letter: it is requested in the case of lot owners who want to process construction permits.

How to request a land use certificate?

  • The request is made before the Municipality of the canton where the property is located.
  • The municipal authorities must have a regulatory plan on which they must base the certificate, however, if they do not have one, they must adhere to the regulations issued by the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo (INVU).
  • If the land use certificate granted by the municipality does not adhere to the corresponding urban regulations, you can request an annulment and challenge it through an ordinary appeal.
  • Land uses are requested for each structure individually; for example, if in the same lot you want to make several buildings such as houses, apartments or commercial premises; it is necessary to request a certificate for each one of them separately.

The guidelines for the use, conservation and recovery of soil by areas seeks a rational use of this resource. The law explicitly indicates that any natural or legal person, public or private, is obliged to indemnify and repair the damage caused to the environment and to third parties in case of disrespecting the existing urban regulations.

It is important to request the certificate of land use before buying a property, otherwise it may be that the purpose for which you invest, cannot be achieved, generating significant losses.

Take into account that the request must be filled in spanish at the Municipality, therefore if your are not sure about the process or if you have doubts about the language, do not hesitate to consult our Nativu Advisors. 

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