The Costa Rican citizen involved in a controversial property dispute with a U.S. investor in the southern Pacific beach town Dominical denies allegations that he is squatting a vacation beach rental home.
The U.S. citizen, Bruce Werner, is alleging he’s a victim of squatting at a San Martin residence he rents out to tourists, and that he and his wife were also victims of a recent violent armed robbery in a different residence he rents out in nearby Hatillo (TT, Oct. 19). But the Costa Rican, Juan Carlos Bolaños, has a different version of the story.
“In this case I’m the victim,” said Bolaños, who claims he has a right to the property, which he said his family and friends continue to occupy despite a judge’s order demanding Bolaños and Werner both leave the property.
Bolaños, who had helped Werner apply for a concession for the coastal property, which includes a luxury vacation rental home, said Werner can’t legally own the coastal property that Bolaños’ family and friends are now occupying because Werner is a foreigner.
Costa Rica’s Maritime Zone law establishes a 200-meter swath of state land that runs parallel along both coasts, known as the Zona Marítima Terrestre (Maritime Zone).
In the first 50 meters of the zone – measured starting from the tidemark – construction of any kind is prohibited (with some exceptions, such as marinas, lifeguard towers and docks).
In the next 150 meters, individuals and businesses can receive concessions for use of the land, but only after an arduous, expensive and extensive application process, which Werner applied for with the help of Bolaños. The law prohibits residents who have been living in Costa Rica less than five years from getting concessions. However, many nonresidents get around that rule by opening a Costa Rican company along with a Costa Rican, who may later turn the company over to the nonresident (TT, Feb. 24, 2006).
It doesn’t make a difference because everybody uses Costa Rican corporations to gain concessions through “straw persons,” or Costa Rican people of confidence, said Costa Rican- American real estate attorney Thomas Burke.
Burke said the practice, though common is not legal “in essence.”
“In the end, it’s a risk,” he said.
Bolaños also alleges that Werner still owes him for his services rendered in helping Werner apply for the concession, which still hasn’t been granted.
Werner, who says he’s a nonresident, confirmed that he contracted Bolaños’ services, but said he isn’t planning on paying Bolaños until the company to which the house pertains, A View To Infinity, S.A., is awarded a concession.
Since Bolaños helped Werner with the Maritime Zone application at the OsaMunicipality, Bolaños has since filed his own application to obtain a concession for the same piece of property, according to both Bolaños and Werner.
Though Werner claims to have bought the rental nine years ago, Bolaños alleges the property can’t be owned by him because it’s in the Maritime Zone.
“You can’t have a title without having Maritime Zone concession. They’re goods of the state,” Bolaños said.
A judge ordered both Werner and Bolaños to clear from the property while the dispute is being investigated. The case’s prosecutor Sergio Gutiérrez was out of the office all week and couldn’t be consulted about whether the order has been executed.
“This man never occupied the property,” Bolaños said ofWerner, even though Werner has been advertising the sale of the property online, Bolaños pointed out.
Bolaños says he hasn’t been living in the residence since a judge ordered Werner and Bolaños not to enter the residence, though he said his family members and family friends continue to occupy the residence.
Bolaños also filed a complaint with the OsaMunicipality earlier this year alleging Werner was fraudulently trying to obtain possession of the land, which Werner denies.
Bolaños also denies that the property dispute between Werner and himself has anything to do with an armed robbery that took place at another residence of Werner’s in Hatillo (TT, Oct. 19).
Several Dominical residents have contacted The Tico Times in recent weeks and said that the armed robbery may have had to do with other debts that Werner allegedly owes, though Werner denies he owes any other debts. The Tico Times wasn’t able to get a hold of Gutiérrez at the Prosecutor’s Office this week to confirm whether prosecutors are investigating that possibility.