Why is a water easement in Costa Rica property purchase so important?
Does the property you purchase have a water easement? When you purchase a property in Costa Rica, for sure you want to check if the property has water or access to water and if the water is legally connected. You know why?
In many countries, the water connection on a property is a very simple matter, in Costa Rica, it can be or not.
When you purchase a single-family property with road frontage, it is just a matter of checking if the water meter is installed on the sidewalk. Or you can ask your home inspector to check for the location.
BUT, before you decide on buying raw land in Costa Rica, get a letter from the water company in the area that confirms you can request a water meter for the property. Without this letter, you will never get a building permit from the municipality.
When the property is in a legally constituted condominium, the water meter is probably installed at the entrance of the community. In most condominiums, the properties don’t have direct access to road frontage.
If the water is community managed and the cost is included in the HOA fees, you don’t have to worry about it.
When should you worry?
In a gated community
When the property is in a gated community that is not constituted as a legal condominium, things tend to be a bit different. Many gated communities in Costa Rica have a community well. The well normally pumps water to a holding tank and from there the water is distributed to the whole community. The well is usually located on a separate property if the zoning allows for subdividing a property that is just large enough to hold the well and the tank.
In such a case, a water easement should be constituted showing the exact location of the well and the tank, the access for maintenance, and the water pipe running from the well to the tank and from the tank through the community with connections to each property.
If the topography of the community is reasonably flat, it is common to run the water pipe under the road. In many communities, the road is a common area. In such a case, the water pipe should be registered as a separate water easement. Unless the road is a public road. If the topography is reasonably steep, it is cheaper for the developer to run the water pipe through each property and not use the road. In that case, a water easement will have to be constituted on each property title. Otherwise, the water easement will be in the same place as the road is.
A seller’s commitment
This takes me to a case we recently had; where one of our agents represented the buyer and another agent represented the seller. The seller owns a property with several home sites and has built 4 homes on the property. All properties are occupied by him and members of his family. There is one rental unit owned by the same owner. The water supply for all homes and home sites is through a common AyA water meter on the street. From there, one water pipe leads to a water holding tank with a water pressure pump. From the tank, the water is then distributed to each house. That means that the house we are selling doesn’t have its own water supply and depends on the neighbors for water.
The seller commits to request a water connection to the AyA water company directly. He will build a pump house with a water holding tank and a pressure pump. Then, the seller did what most property owners would do, the wrong thing. He connected the water pipe from the water holding tank to the water meter on the street in a straight line, the shortest way possible.
An unnecessary shortcut
By taking the shortcut, the water pipe runs over a separate home site owned by the same seller. One day he will sell it and now there is a water pipe running over someone else’s property. This neighbor could dig it up, cut it off or connect his swimming pool to it and have free water.
The seller could have run the water pipe under the road (a gravel road in this case). Then, he would have saved himself a lot of trouble. The water pipe had to be moved to the road to correct the problem. Or otherwise, constitute a water easement against the neighboring property.
Who to ask?
Your closing attorney will probably not catch an issue like this because closing attorneys do not visit the property they are closing on. Many real estate agents do not have the knowledge to pick up on a problem like this. If you are not sure if the property you are buying has a water easement problem, contact your attorney about it.
Now you have another reason to pick an American European real estate affiliate to be your buyer’s representative when buying Costa Rica real estate, contact us NOW.
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