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HomeAdvice21 Tips: The do's and don'ts of renting an apartment in San...

21 Tips: The do’s and don’ts of renting an apartment in San José

Renting an apartment in San José is easy if you know the city. San José offers great neighborhoods, but just like everywhere else, you need to know where it’s nice, where it’s less nice, or where you definitely don’t want to live. There are very few realtors who do rentals in the downtown San José area anymore, so you’d be best off to check the Classified Ads section in your favorite local news source.

San José is not the metropolitan city some might expect to find. It is not like New York, Paris or Amsterdam. Most expats who are planning to live in the Central Valley look at locations like Escazú, Atenas, Grecia, Heredia or Tibás.

So before you start looking online or in local newspapers, you need to do some homework and learn the rules. The Costa Rican leasing law describes the rights and obligations of the landlord as well as the tenant, and there are other issues you would want to know before you sign a lease agreement when renting an apartment.

Let’s call them the do’s and the don’ts of renting an apartment in San José.

The do’s:

1. Traffic in San José is heavy at all hours, so try to find an apartment as close as you can to work or school.

2. Public transport in San José is cheap and really good. Learn where the bus stops are and which route they take.

3. Ask someone familiar with San José about which neighborhoods to stay away from.

4. When looking at apartments for rent, look at the whole neighborhood, access to shopping and bus stops.

5. Check the apartment at night and see if you feel safe in the neighborhood.

6. Check if the rent includes condo fees or not and what utilities might be included.

7. When you are renting an apartment you like, do not put any money down until you have read the lease agreement. If it is in Spanish, ask your realtor for a translation or ask for a digital copy so you can do an online translation.

8. Check any inventory mentioned in the lease agreement before renting an apartment. Make sure every item is in working order and is not damaged. Don’t forget to check functionality of curtains and all appliances. If it is, make a note of it in the agreement or have it replaced before signing the agreement.

9. Normally an apartment is freshly painted when rented. Check before signing the agreement and taking possession because you will have to return it in the same condition. If you do not, the cost will be deducted from your security deposit.

10. If you are renting in a condominium, ask the landlord for a copy of the bylaws so you won’t have any problems with your neighbors.

11. If you have a pet, ask the landlord if you are allowed to have one. If you keep it quiet and the landlord finds out about the pet, it is cause for eviction.

12. Contact the landlord immediately when there are any important repairs necessary.

13. Treat the property like it’s your own.

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The don’ts:

1. Do not buy a car if you plan to live in San José, unless you have a safe and affordable private parking.

2. Do not wear any expensive jewelry, or carry a camera or computer case when walking the neighborhood.

3. Do not sign a lease agreement in Spanish if you do not understand Spanish when renting an apartment.

4. Do not hand any earnest money down to someone you don’t know. Be ready to sign the agreement and pay the first month in full, so you get possession of the keys.

5. Do not break the agreement before the first year is over. You will be charged the full security deposit if you do.

6. Do not sub-let the apartment or part of it, as the law does not allow it unless agreed on by the landlord in the lease agreement.

7. Do not start a business in an apartment that was rented to you as a residential property. It is illegal.

8. As long as you are a guest in this country, try to be tolerant and adjust to the local customs and traditions. The culture and language are different and you need to adjust to them – not the other way around.

Even though according to Costa Rica leasing law you have seven natural days to pay rent after the payment date, a friendly landlord will do more for you than an unfriendly one, so try to pay on time.

Ivo Henfling is a Dutch national, a resident of Costa Rica since 1980 and a Costa Rican real estate broker for over 20 years. He is the founder of GoDutch Realty, which covers several locations in the Central Valley, including Escazú, Santa Ana, Atenas, Cariari and Grecia. You can contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at





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