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Does a small remodel on your Costa Rica house need building permits

Does a small remodel on your Costa Rica house need building permitsJohnny P. emailed the following question “We are planning a small remodel. We want to update our kitchen, bathroom, floor tiles and windows in our 20-year-old condo. We are not planning any structural changes. Do we need a permit from the municipality for such a small remodel?”

Don’t we all update our house once in a while? But what a hassle is to go through the paperwork to do it legally and stay out of trouble with your municipality and your neighbors.

The red tape on renovations in a condominium is different from the red tape for a single family home.

To build a house in Costa Rica, do the earth movements on the land, to demolish walls or parts of your house or do a major remodel, you need to get permits from the municipality where the house is located.  Most municipalities will have the requirements on their website, just like the Santa Ana municipality, on the requirements for a renovation. That way, you won’t have to go in person until you are ready to present the documents.


To be able to do a small remodel your condo, you will need to send a formal request for a renovation to the condo administration for approval. Usually, the bylaws of the condominium specify something like this:

In order to make modifications in the respective condominium unit, the owner will have to notify this intention to the Manager, who will have to authorize it, before the execution of any work.

If the renovation is authorized, the work will have to be approved by the designated engineer or architect. He/she will make sure that the structures are not affected, or the uniformity of the façades, facilities, services, accesses, circulation areas, safety and surveillance systems, and other parts of the Condominium. Also, that it has the corresponding government permits.

For the corresponding government permits, see Municipal requirements below.

Does a small remodel on your Costa Rica house need building permits
You don’t need a building permit for a small renovation such as replacement of kitchen cabinetry, closet, sanitary, plumbing, laundry pila and others

Single family home

For a small remodel of a single-family home, called “obras menores” in Costa Rica, the requirements are a bit different. Most municipalities consider all construction under 30 m2, like carports, roof and room changes, and perimeter walls, security fences and security bars that do not exceed 20 linear meters.

Municipal requirements

In such case, the requirements are as follows:

a.    Two drawings of your proposal with the corresponding measurements (in meters, not in feet) and the explanation what you are requesting the permit for, like the description of the small remodel, the height of the construction, the materials you will use, how far it is from your neighbor etc. signed by the responsible engineer or architect in charge of the small remodel.

b.    A copy of the survey of the property

c.    A copy of the owner(s) of the property

d.    Fill out the form the Municipality will give you (in some cases you can download it from their website). The form has to be signed by the owner of the property as well as the professional in charge of the remodel.

e.    Certification of the study of the National Register of the property (certificación literal)

f.    Formal consultation from the Engineering department (of Contraloría Ambiental Municipal) for natural water sources, rivers and springs.

Does a small remodel on your Costa Rica house need building permits
You don’t need building permits for replacement and repairs of subfloor, ramps, and sidewalks

Without a building permit for small remodel

It is NOT necessary to request a building permit for small remodel in the following cases:

  1. Septic tank repair
  2. Kitchen cabinetry, closet, sanitary, plumbing, laundry pila and other replacement
  3. Repairs like paint, change of windows, doors, tiles, and plaster
  4. Roof sheeting, gutters, and downspouts without affecting the roof structure repair or replacement
  5. Repair and replacement of drywall, fiber cement, plywood, wood and others
  6. Floor and ceiling replacement
  7. Subfloor, ramps, and sidewalk replacement and repairs
  8. Wood or concrete fence posts and barbed wire replacement
  9. Landscaping of any kind
Does a small remodel on your Costa Rica house need building permits
The American European Real Estate Group for Costa Rica real estate from coast to coast.

The above is another reason why you should use the #1 MLS in Costa Rica for your property search and one of our affiliate agents to purchase a home in Costa Rica. We, at all times, put our customer first and try to keep you up to date with any important information on Costa Rica real estate. If you are in the market to purchase a property in Costa Rica, contact us now.

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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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