Beach concession holders may be getting a break on annual fee

Expats who have concession property in the maritime zone may be getting a break.

Municipalities have jacked up the rentals on the properties, and there have been major complaints around the country. Many of these expats obtained their concessions years ago and constructed vacation homes or primary residences between 50 and 200 meters above mean high tide line.

This is the property that usually cannot be titled. By law the maritime zone belongs to the state. But the municipalities and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo can issue concessions, and they have done so many times.

The problem developed when the municipal tax collectors raised the price of the annual cánon or rental fee. Sometimes the increases were enormous. The increases were keyed to the fees that major hotels and other enterprises were paying to take over concessions.

Last December, A.M. Costa Rica reported on a Canadian who faced soaring fees in Playa Matapalo. The municipal tax collector wanted $4,300. That’s more than a 515 percent increase from the previous year’s payment of $700.

Finally President Laura Chinchilla and other officials have issued a decree putting a limit on what the cánon can be.

The fee for homeowners is limited to a maximum of 3 percent of the value of the holding. Hotels and other recreational facilities face fees of up to 4 percent. Commercial operations in the maritime zone or mineral or gravel operations pay 5 percent, according to the decree.

In addition, low-income residents who live in a permanent home can only be assessed a quarter of a percent.

Of course, the municipal officials are under no obligation to charge the maximums, so the concession holders have their next effort at the various municipal councils.

The decree said that the fees were being capped based on the principal of proportionality and equality. The decree was published July 24 but was not widely known.

The 1977 Zona Marítimo Terrestre law, as it is called, prohibits most construction within the first 50 meters above mean high tide. Many hotels and other facilities are in the next 150 meters, and there have been some well-known bars and restaurants destroyed by officials because they encroached on the first 50 meters.

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