James and Elizabeth Ratliff are just one pair of 27 property owners who showed up to a press conference in downtown San José Tuesday to make their fight public. They purchased two homes in 2004 at the Playa Palo Seco condominiums Villa las Flores. The couple decided to fight to keep their property. They said they believe they made a wise decision to purchase something that had been established for 15 years. So they tapped into their money and paid more than $190,000 for both properties, not including upgrades. They paid and went through the entire process to purchase property in the country. They are official owners and have the titles recognized by the government. But all of a sudden everything changed.
The government wants the land on the theory that Playa Palo Seco is now considered an island. It is the first time the island idea was brought to light. According to the property owners, they had no idea. Never in any of the approved property ownership paperwork was that an issue. According to Costa Rica property law an individual can’t own property on an island, according to the government. The properties are also outside the 200-meter maritime zone.
The owners have paid taxes, and other such bills, which means they were recognized as owners and there wasn’t anything wrong with the development on the land of Playa Palo Seco, said Luis Ramírez Ramírez, lead lawyer of the suit. He was also a former lawmaker for the country.
The notice first came to the development residents in 2010. The eviction notice doesn’t allow them to sell off their land. Instead they must leave the property and just let the state take over the land.
“We’re heartsick,” said Ratliff. “ We’re in shock!”
The Ratliffs are now in their third year of retirement and can’t enjoy their investment.
Instead, they are stressed about what is going to happen to their properties. This has also become a financial burden on many in the suit since they are retired and live on a fixed income.
All land owners taking part in the suit against the state have already paid for their homes in full, and have continued to pay for the maintenance, including the required taxes, bills, and Villa las Flores employees since they became a member of the community. The state had no problem charging them, said Ramírez. The development of the area has allowed for Parrita to grow and prosper, said a local. He went to support the legal case and discuss the positive impact that community has had on the area.
The majority of the property owners of Villa las Flores are foreigners from the United States, Canada, and France. The owners involved in the legal are Dale Edward and Rosalee Arends, Chantal Beauchamp and Stephanie Morin, Steven Bernie Epperson, Carl Mikael Dave Sodermalm and Monica Elisabeth Borjesson, Bo Goran and Marianne Ingegard Hallberg, Donald Metro and Debra Maksymchuk, Mauricio Lopez and Maryvonne Duc, Claude and Violaine Parant Berger, Patrick Egan, Arthur Clement and Louise Maureen Torgerson, Marlies and Juan Amaya Ocampo, Paula Kathrynn Pennington, Villa Colibri S.A., Verde Profundo S.A., TMSAISTI S.A., and Two Believers S.A..
The development of the property began in 1993, and up until now had no problems, residents note.
The case was to be filed Tuesday in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, which evaluates actions by the government. In addition to the central government, among the defendants is the Municipalidad de Parrita.