I want to be a good neighbor in Atenas – Costa Rica
The months of December, January and February are famous for the strong winds in Costa Rica. They mean the change of the rainy season to the dry season.
These 62 mph (100kph) winds can become pretty dangerous and start wildfires or brushfires in under populated areas such as certain communities and property in Atenas.
In the 2006 – 2008 Costa Rica real estate boom, hundreds of agricultural communities were created for several reasons. The red tape to get permits to develop a property takes years, so some developers figured out that sub dividing home lots in areas zoned for agriculture was a great idea, especially because those areas offered some incredible views.
The law allows for a farm to be subdivided into 1 3/4 acre agricultural lots or “parcelas agrícolas”. Most developers called them a gated community but most don’t have more than a gate in the front, which controls access due to the topography of the community and they are all over the country, especially property in Atenas and property in coastal areas, taking advantage of the mountain ranges for the views.
It is important to know though, that such communities are nothing much than a subdivision of agricultural building lots and are not legally constituted as a formal condominium. A legally formed condominium in Costa Rica has bylaws included in the constitution and those are registered in the National Registry. The agricultural subdivision has none because they’re not a condominium even though some call them that.
The January winds are strong this year
Needs for rules and regulations
When you purchase a property in a community, no matter where in the world, you assume that you can live in that community in peace and that all our neighbors will do so too. Unfortunately, as a society, we need rules and regulations to be able to live together in peace.
Many agricultural communities have created bylaws that are not registered in the National Registry, just so the neighbors have rules and regulations to live by, which is great and very necessary. Of course, if I would live there, I would like my neighbors to take well care of the maintenance of their property and live in a beautiful and safe environment.
HOA fees, how do they work?
I have been a real estate broker for many years and I know an incredible amount of communities, some are legally condominiums and some are not. In those that are not condominiums, there are no rules, no bylaws and no laws that indicate that a property needs to be maintained, just like any property you might own outside a community. HOA fees are legally constituted in the bylaws and they are used to cover all common expenses necesary to maintain the quality of the community.
The views in agricultural communities are usually outstanding
In most condominiums, there is an obligation to maintain a lot, for the safety of the neighbors and to assure the stable value of all the properties in the community and there is a fine for not maintaining your property, which is possible because there are legal bylaws.
Usually, home owners pay a much higher fee than lot owners as we do too in our community. The reason is very simple: the lot owners do not use any of the amenities and infrastructure daily, while the home owners do.
Back to the wildfires
Last year, half of this Atenas community where I own a building lot, was totally overgrown because nobody cleans his lot (I didn’t either, shame on me) and one of the houses burned down. We were lucky it didn’t cost any lives.
The biggest problem is that a large percentage of property owners in such live out of the country and have their lot as an investment or to build years later, so lots are overgrown most of the time.
The fire happened last year because human nature is like that I guess. We just wait until it is too late. The community didn’t get organized last year and this year I was asked by my neighbors a couple of days ago to clean my property in Atenas because the winds are a danger for wildfires.
The firefighters at work in Atenas
The result is that I will of course cooperate, as every neighbor should. I don’t want my neighbors to get killed in a wildfire or lose their house and everything in it. I want my property in Atenas to keep its value and one day either build on it or sell it.
Nonetheless, if I clean my lot and several other neighbors don’t, it’ll be all a waste of money and effort. Besides, I live in Escazu, I don’t have the time to look for a gardener and make sure he does his job. I don’t want to stick the problem to my neighbors either.
The solution is simple; there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We have 2 options:
1. All home owners pay 100% of the HOA fees and the owners of the empty building lots in the community pay 75% and their lots will be maintained with the HOA fees, just like the common areas are. This way, the home owners will be assured of living in a nice and safe community all year around and nobody has to worry about their bad neighbors who don’t clean their lot.
2. Home owners pay 100% of the HOA fees and lot owners pay 50%, just like we do in our community. Lot owners will be obliged to clean their lot every quarter. Unfortunately it is very difficult to oblige a lot owner to pay legally, as there are no legal bylaws, so solution one is so much better.
This is the usual view after a wildfire in Atenas
I am perfectly willing to cooperate in paying my share in keeping the community safe, but how do I find a gardener who will clean my building the way that will make my neighbors happy?
I hope they understand that there is NO reason for any neighbor to pay the HOA fees, except for wanting to be a reasonably good neighbor of property in Atenas, Costa Rica.
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