In 1985, the United Nations issued a declaration, which established certain guidelines that must be fulfilled to ensure the rights of consumers by participating governments.
It was not until 1995, that the Government of Costa Rica initiated a new law dictating the Promotion of Competition and Protection of the Consumer, which established the rights of consumers and the obligations of merchants.
Then in 1996, Costa Rica’s Constitution was reformed, to reinforce the rights of consumers, as well as guarantees governed by public institutions that allow for more respectful and sustainable consumer protection laws.
Specifically for the construction and purchase of housing, Costa Rica’s Consumer Protection Commission, (ley #7472 de la Comisión Nacional del Consumidor,) establishes that if a purchaser reveals defects in the construction of the housing purchased, the consumer has the right to have defective installations replaced with quality materials, correctly installed, or the consumer will have the right to terminate the purchase contract.
Additionally, according to the Consumer Protection Law, homebuyers have a legal and irrevocable guarantee against hidden defects that they did not notice until occupying the property for some time. It is the obligation of the seller to deliver a home in good condition, without serious problems or defects that make it impossible for the purchaser to live in the home. It is the duty of a seller to guarantee against defects, and if obvious defects are found, that would constitute a breach of contract, which the buyer can claim as damages.
Furthermore, when a buyer purchases a home from a developer of a new housing project, for example, a new condominium, the buyer is considered a consumer, and therefore the guarantee established by the National Consumer Commission is also valid and states that the developer has the duty to guarantee the quality, suitability and compliance with the technical standards of the products it sells. In this case, the buyer may choose to go before the National Consumer Commission, within thirty days after the discovery of a defect, to enforce the guarantee granted under the Costa Rica Civil Code.
However, it is the responsibility of the purchaser to identify and report any defects and follow the deadlines and procedures to make a legal claim corresponding to the guarantees provided by the Costa Rican Civil Code as well as those recommended by the policies of the CFIA, Federated College of Engineers and Architects and the National Consumer Commission. Additionally, any public official’s failure to comply with the rights of the consumer is enforceable by the Public Administration Law.
It is important to understand that only professionals licensed by the Federated College of Engineers and Architects, (CFIA) can be held responsible for the construction guarantees published by that institution. It is clearly stated that construction supervisors, regardless of their experience, are not subject to compliance of guarantees to the consumer.
The CFIA guarantee establishes that a professional engineer or architect are responsible for any, and all construction defects, including the design, soil quality, and all materials and labor supervised by the professional, for 5 years from the time the home is delivered to the purchaser.
All the provisions of the CFIA Construction Regulations are mandatory for professionals licensed by the CFIA, and any violation of the established regulations constitutes a violation of their Code of Professional Ethics.
There are also other sources of information concerning construction guarantees in Costa Rica.
- The Costa Rican Chamber of Construction publishes minimum guarantees, (Cámara Costarricense de la Construcción, Garantías Mínimas)
- The Costa Rican Civil Code mandates a 5-year guarantee
- The Ministry of Housing publishes Construction Laws, (Ministerio de Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos, Ley de Construcciones)
Satisfaction and peace of mind should be the primary objective of the buyer and seller, and to ensure that purchasers are legally protected, it is wise to hire an experienced attorney, topographer, and construction inspector to help you make an informed decision before closing on the purchase of a property.
A licensed attorney will prepare a detailed construction contract, with specific guarantees stipulated in writing, so that the Costa Rica Civil Code will be enforceable.
Additionally, the attorney should verify that the property being purchased is properly registered in a report (Informe Registral) from the Property Information Department of the National Registry and that the property is free from liens and encumbrances.
A licensed topographer will verify that the boundaries of the property are accurately recorded on a registered site plan (Plano Catastrado), in the National Registry of Properties.
An experienced construction inspector will provide a detailed inspection report of the current condition of the property being purchased so that all defects are discovered before the closing of the property takes place.
If a consumer decides to roll the dice and trust his or her own instincts, without professional guidance, it is important to know that Costa Rica’s Civil Code can take many years to enforce. A civil legal action will require that the consumer pay for legal fees, as well as topographic and construction inspections to establish their legal rights in a civil court.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1993 and from his travels throughout the country inspecting property and construction he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about the purchase of property in Costa Rica. If you have questions and would like to contact Tom click here.
You can also read this article that was published in the Costa Rica Star. https://news.co.cr/guide-construction-guarantees-consumer-protection-laws-costa-rica/70055/