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How important is a caretaker’s quarters on a property in Costa Rica

caretaker’s quartersI’m sure you have seen properties advertised on the MLS that has a caretaker’s quarters on the property. Wondering why properties have caretaker’s quarters?

Is it really necessary to have a caretaker who lives on your property?

Let me explain.

The property size

When you purchase a large property with lots of gardens, you probably need either a full time gardener. Or you’ll need someone at least a couple of days a week. If your property also has a swimming pool and maybe even other structures, it all needs maintenance.

By hiring the right caretaker, one who is also a handyman, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money. Workers such as a caretaker usually don’t have very nice quarters in Costa Rica. By allowing your gardener / handyman to live in a nice caretaker’s quarters on your property, you will be able to give him a better lifestyle. This can be a double-edged sword, so be careful.

The caretaker’s quarters

Usually, caretaker’s quarters are totally separate from the owner’s house, to assure privacy for the owner. Often, you will find the caretaker’s home right at the front gate, so the caretaker acts like a gate keeper. In some cases, the caretaker’s is located underneath the home, to take advantage of the topography of the property.

I have seen a caretaker’s quarters be a studio apartment and some are a 2 or 3-bedroom quarters. I’ve seen very fancy ones and I have seen caretaker’s live in a shack.

caretaker’s quarters
Some property owners have real nice caretaker’s quarters for their employees

Important to know that if you have the caretaker live on the property, the supply of the quarters is salary in species by law. When you fire your caretaker, you will have to pay the employee extra for this, on top of the severance pay.

Most expats do not realize this. Before you hire a caretaker, talk to your accountant or lawyer so you know what you’re up to. Here is a good article about salary in species in Spanish which you can read by using Google translate.

Caretaker’s family

Most caretakers are just a couple with no children. Before a whole family move in cousins, nephews, grandma and aunties, find out who will be living on your property.

Cleaning lady

In many cases, the wife of the caretaker is able to do the work of a cleaning lady. This is a separate job; do not think that the wife of the caretaker comes as a bonus. Before you hire a couple as such, talk to an accountant about your obligations as an employer and their rights as an employee.

caretaker’s quarters
Some caretaker’s quarters are totally hidden from the main house and though simple, are not an eyesore.

Additional jobs

It will be necessary, when you hire the caretaker, to discuss and give a written job description. If you don’t specify the job, the caretaker might be sitting on his porch all day long, doing a lot of care taking.

Describe everything that needs to be done and if you can, put an agenda for the caretaker together.

You might want a caretaker also to do additional jobs:

  • Cut the grass
  • Maintain the garden
  • Trim the trees
  • Mend the fences
  • Paint everything on the property
  • Do plumbing and electrical work
  • Feed the dogs
  • Pay the monthly utility bills
  • Clean the pool
  • Fix the roof
  • Anything else that you think that needs to be done on the property.

Salary

The minimum wages is normally adjusted twice a year. You can check the new minimum wage (salario minímo) at the Labor Ministry’s website.

The job of caretaker or “cuidador” is not mentioned. Be aware of the fact that the wage will vary depending on the details of the job. As an indication, you can use the salary of TSCG: Trabajador Semicalificado Genéricos. Discuss with your accountant how much salary you should pay your caretaker.

caretaker’s quarters
Some caretaker’s quarters are underneath the home, taking advantage of the property’s topography.

Caja

Many expats do not realize they have to insure their worker. Social security in Costa Rica is called “caja” or CCSS for Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social. Some employers insure their employee the illegal way, which is as a voluntary. That is meant for those who don’t have a job or have an informal job.

When you assure the employee with the caja, you don’t only pay for medical attention. Included are several other institutions, their pension, as well as financial help at death. In total, you are supposed to pay 26.33% calculated over the employee’s salary and the employee pays 9,34%. It is easy to calculate by using this calculator.

You are also obliged by law to have your employee insured against accidents by INS.

Your caretaker, just like any other employee also has to receive a Christmas bonus.

Vacation and days off

Your caretaker, no matter if he lives on the property or not, has the same rights every employee has. That means that you have to give your employee vacation days and holidays. Find out what they are in another blog.

A guest house

If you have decided you do not need to use the caretaker’s quarters on the property for a caretaker, you can rent it out or use it as a guesthouse. You might feel it necessary to upgrade it a notch for your guests, depending on the hot water issue and kitchen finishes. Local caretaker’s do not have hot water in the kitchen and use a suicide shower in the bathroom, if that.

caretaker’s quarters
Other caretaker’s quarters are finished like a typical Tico house in the usual blue & white colors.

Security

Last but not least. If you are going to be an absent owner, it is a great idea to have a property with a caretaker’s quarters. Not only do you need someone for the maintenance of your property, but security might be a necessary evil.

Contact the AE MLS Costa Rica

Contact us now to purchase a property with caretaker’s quarters in Costa Rica

Feel free to leave your comments on this blog.


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Ivo Henfling

Ivo Henfling started the American European Real Estate Network Costa Rica in 1996 and has grown it into the largest Costa Rica MLS with thousands of up to date property listings for sale and for rent. Ivo has written hundreds of articles about real estate and living in Costa Rica for The Tico Times and other online informational sites.

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