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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 21          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Custom document protects buyer and seller
Option is the best way to tie up that property

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Finding a good deal on real estate can be harder to do these days in Costa Rica with land prices sharply increasing.

Once found, lock it up with an option contract, and register it with the Registro Nacional.  This step puts a legal lien on the property so the seller cannot weasel out of the deal if another buyer with more money shows up.  Double dealing occurs everyday in a fast-moving real estate market.

There are other good reasons to option a property before buying it, especially if there are structures on it like a house.  Home inspecting engineers now are available here to check out buildings.  Inspections to disclose defects in a property that could materially affect its safety, livability, or resale value can save money in the long run.

Most topographical surveys of real estate in Costa Rica are outdated. Verifying a property’s boundary line is important.  There are so many land disputes these days, not verifying the boundaries is poor judgment on the part of a buyer.

Options protect buyers as well as sellers from surprises and deal welshers.  They are better than a priority reserve because they can last longer than 30 days.  Options can have any term necessary.

Articles 1007, 1022, and 1053 through 1058 of Costa Rica’s Civil Code governs purchase options which are also called reciprocal promises to buy and sell.  The option contract establishes the terms and obligations of the parties during the option period as well as sets out the selling price, the payment method, and terms for the day of the closing.  Options are useful for selling other assets, but usually pertain to real estate transactions. 

Buyers obligations include putting up a good faith deposit and arriving at the final closing with final payment meeting the terms set out in the option contract. A third party should hold that deposit in escrow until closing. The third party can be anyone, but it is a good idea to use a Costa Rican notary.

Seller obligations including providing the buyer with any and all information necessary for the buyer to check out the property, including access for inspectors and surveyors.  Sellers also need to provide buyers with paid up tax receipts, certifications proving the property is free of liens and other encumbrances as well as proof no others like squatters or heirs have rights

Buyers and sellers should agree in the option contract as to what happens if the property does not check out as promised or is more than promised.  The latter happens, too. More land sometimes is found than negotiated in the sale.

The standard penalty if a buyer reneges on the deal is losing his earnest money.  If the seller backs out, the buyer should receive an amount equal to the earnest money from the seller.  Option contracts can outline much stricter penalty clauses.

Most people do not know that article 1055 of the Civil Code gives parties only one month

to file a lawsuit after the option term in a deal gone sour unless the option agreement outlines other conditions.

There are three ways to negotiate a purchase option:

1.) The Annotated Option.  This is the most secure method to make an option.  Parties agree in front of a notary and sign in the notary’s book a transcription of the agreement.  Filing the document at the national registry puts a lien against the property for all to see and is accessible via the Internet from anywhere in the world.

2.)  The Private Document Option.  In this case, the parties agree to terms in an agreement written down on anything.  The only way to protect ones rights under this kind of contract is by going through a civil court process that will probably outlive the people involved.

3.) Option Between Absent Parties.  When people are located in different locations, Articles 1008, 1009, 1012 and 1013 of the Civil Code delineates the criteria to formalize agreements and contracts including options between parties.  Terms are set out in a document written again on anything, but in this case, anything that can be FAXed. Coconut husks or napkins do not work too well. 

Signed and FAXed between buyer and seller, the document becomes a valid legal instrument in Costa Rica.  An important note here is the document must be FAXed, scanning a document and e-mailing it is not the same in Costa Rica.  The courts believe anything scanned is alterable.  This type of agreement is only enforceable in a long legal battle as with option two above.

The wise individual does not buy anything in Costa Rica without checking it out first.  Good sense dictates not taking anyone’s word about anything: All aspects should be verified before a buyer puts down real money as in the final payment on a home in Costa Rica.

The beauty of an option contract is they are flexible instruments that can protect both buyers and sellers in a deal.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 21

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Rodrigo Sanabria Víquez is among those demonstrating his faith to the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary.

A Christmas tradition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas is not over completely. At the Museo Nacional Friday afternoon there was one last tradition, usually celebrated Jan. 6. It is the Rezo del Niño or prayer to the Christ Child.

More than 100 persons showed up for the half-hour ceremony, which included traditional music by the Grupo Musical San Rafael de Tres Rios.

Of course no such event would be complete without the goodies that followed, including agua dulce, coffee, rompope (kind of a Latin eggnog) and various types of cakes.

The event is a restatement of the nation's traditional values, noted museum officials.
— José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

More rain brings alerts
as floods evict families

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More rain on the Caribbean and in the northern zone have chased persons from their homes and caused the emergency commission to open temporary shelters and issue a yellow alert. 

Continuous rain in the regions worried officials enough Friday that they announced a green alert, which warns residents in high-risk areas to be on the lookout.  But as the Río Sixaola in the southeast and others washed over their banks, workers set up two temporary shelters in the community center at Olivia de Sixaola and the Colegio Técnico de Talamanca and raised the alert to yellow Saturday.  55 persons were taking refuge at those two shelters.

The rain is being attributed to a low pressure system over the country that the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has predicted will stick around until Thursday. 

Three rivers have flooded so far.  The Río Chirripó in Corina and Baltimore, the Río Sixaola in the communities of Margarita Puente Lata, Catracho, La Curva de Olivia, Brisas, El Colegio, Las Vegas, Las Palmas, Barrio San José and Sixaola as well as the Río Sarapiquí in Horquetas, Hamburgo and El Carmen de Siquires, have breached their banks.  Residents also report that the Río Colorado, popular with tarpon fishermen, is so engorged that fishing there is difficult at best.

Since Friday, workers at the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias have been descending on the flooded areas.  They set up a command center in the town of Bribri and have sent supplies from San José, workers said.  Extra workers have also been sent to the affected areas to monitor the situation in case it should become worse, workers said. 

Body of policeman found
at mouth of Limón river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After three days of searching, rescue workers found the body of Mario Molina Madrigal, the Fuerza Pública officer who disappeared while in pursuit of two suspects across the Río Banano in Limón, Wednesday. 

Molina was responding to a call that a gas truck with the Zeta company was robbed that day.  He and another officer arrived on the scene and followed two men who fled across the river.  Molina was swept away as he tried to negotiate the strong current. 

Workers found his body at a beach 400 meters south of the entrance to the Bananito, they said.  His body was removed about two hours later, workers said.   

U.S. artist has exhibition
with university in Zapote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Artist Paula Temple, a professor of graphic design at the University of Mississippi, will have her work on display for the entire month of February at the Universidad VERITAS at the Gómez Miralles in Zapote.

Ms. Temple has exhibited her work throughout the United States and the Caribbean in some 60 shows.  Recently, the American Cancer Society used one of her works in the publication, “A Breast Cancer Journey.”  This work is permanently held at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

Entrance to the showing is free. 
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Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 21

This dicho is about a whack on the side of the head
Ni a Palos

“Not even if you beat me.” This dicho is used when we absolutely refuse to do something. In short, “I wouldn’t do that even if you beat me.” A palo is a piece of wood sort of like a switch.  Many years ago palos were used to discipline children at school. Ni a  palos is a definite NO!

One can also use this dicho to refer to something that absolutely cannot be done. For example, a mother might say that her boneheaded kid does not understand mathematics: ¡Ni a palos entiende matematicas!  Meaning, “He wouldn’t get math even if you beat him!”

When I was in first grade, the principal of our school had very long fingernails. And even though she was a very kind and gentle woman, those menacing nails of hers had a very negative effect on my 6-year-old mind. Yo ni a palos cruzo en frente de su oficina. I would rather take a beating than to cross in front of her office.

As I mentioned in a previous column, when I was a youngster as soon as school was out — especially if it was a rainy day — my brothers, sisters, and cousins would all rush to my grandfather’s panaderia to  have coffee with him and eat the warm bread he made for us.   It was almost a daily routine and one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood.

But after we had finished our coffee, we were all supposed to go home and do our homework. Well, I never did that. I would hang around the bakery until my grandfather closed up and walk home with him.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

I  loved my grandfather and liked spending time with him.  Mother, however, was not favorably disposed to my repeated infractions, and would sometimes comment in disgust: ¡Que problema ese muchacho. Ni a palos entiende que se debe venir a hacer la tarea!  “What a problem is this kid. He wouldn’t learn to come home  and do his homework even if you beat him!”

So now perhaps we understand this dicho a little better. Of course,  “not even if you beat me” is not a literal translation of ni a palos,  but it is a translation of its meaning. Like many such sayings and expressions, it is nearly impossible to translate it literally and at the same time capture the real meaning.

Take, for example, the English expression No way!, which, when translated literally into Spanish comes out something like no via, no camino, or maybe no hay manera, none of which even comes close to capturing the real meaning, which is, after all, ni a palos.

Fate of Mar y Sombra restaurant hangs on hearing today, owners say
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ramírez family will find out the fate of their restaurant in Manuel Antonio today, said Mary Ramírez, the daughter of owner Federico. 

Mar y Sombra has been a fixture on the popular tourist beach for some 40 years.  For much of that history, the establishment has been the object of a land battle that arose as the result of a law passed nine years after its birth.  The law states that no building can sit within 50 meters of the high-tide mark, a regulation Mar y Sombra has breeched for most of its history. 

Now, an order issued by the Juzgado Penal in Parrita told the Municipalidad de Aguirre to go ahead with the demolition of the building first ordered in 2003.  The Ramírez family appealed, saying the Juzgado Penal ordered the demolition but the Juzgado Civil issued an extension, Ms. Ramírez said.  Therefore, it is possible that the restaurant could remain standing but Ms. Ramírez is not hopeful.  There are cases both in the criminal or penal court and in the civil court.

She, as well as the rest of the family maintain that the restaurant is immune to the law because it went up nine years before the law went into effect.  However, courts have tossed out similar arguments in Tamarindo and Golfito, and demolitions have gone on as planned. 
The municipalidad tried to demolish the building Jan. 23 but lawyers for the family requested another hearing.  The Ramírez family will find out if that hearing will happen today.  When a front-end loader rolled in that day, several residents and tourists protested the pending destruction and some even chained themselves to tables and support beams. 

In addition to the demolition order, Federico Ramírez faces a criminal charge relating to the restaurant encroachment on the beach.  If Ramírez is convicted, he will not be compensated for the destruction of the restaurant, said José Enrique Marín Castro, a lawyer for the country.

The criminal case revolves around whether Ramírez built the structure and encroached upon the maritime zone, whether he purchased the structure and whether he occupied the restaurant before the law creating the zone was passed in the mid-1970s, said Marín.

If the restaurant owner is acquitted, he will be compensated for the destruction of the restaurant, said Marín.

Other restaurants also sit within the 50-meter line, and the family feels that they are being used as an example.  Marín said that Mar y Sombra will simply be the first to go and other restaurants will soon follow.  He lists corruption and mismanagement by the municipalities as the only reasons that the restaurants have been allowed to locate on the 50 meter zone.

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Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 21

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jesse Froehling
A sea of Liberación flags and even a canine supporter on Paseo Colón Sunday
One week to go and apathy could be sure winner
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The presidential campaign entered its final week Sunday, and the political highpoint was a major rally of supporters of Óscar Arias Sánchez in Paseo Colón.

The various public opinion polls suggest that Arias will win on the first ballot with more than 40 percent of the popular vote. But the big question mark is the estimated 40 percent of the electorate who may not vote because of apathy or unhappiness with the choice of candidates.

Considered to be in second place is Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, who is predicted to get 25 percent of the vote, according to the latest poll by  Unimer at the request of the Spanish-language daily La Nación.

A survey by Demoscopia for its client Al Día, another daily of the same chain, put Arias at 45 percent of likely voters. Interviewers questioned 1,200 persons all over the country. Unimer questioned twice that many in personal interviews.

Still Solís, 49, seems to have a solid following among the younger voters. Arias, born in 1940, attracts older voters, the surveys showed.

The election Sunday will show if the survey companies were able to reach a good cross section of the electorate or if younger voters were underrepresented.

Workers at the state monopolies, such as the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad and similar agencies are strongly opposed to Arias. The candidate supports the free trade treaty with the United States, and the treaty would create competition to the state monopolies.

By running, Arias is putting his reputation as a Nobel Prize winner to the test. So far he has tried to remain above head-on debates, preferring to participate only in highly controlled situations. He declined to debate Solís. Observers anticipate an imperial presidency, if he wins with a president who shuns press conferences in favor of spokesmen.

The apathy among the voters has caused concern among officials. The Catholic Church, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones and even President Abel Pacheco have urged everyone to go to the polls.

The biggest difference between the two leading candidates is that Solís does not favor the free trade treaty as written. He wants to renegotiate the document, something U.S. politicians have said is probably impossible.
Arias told his Partido Liberación Nacional supporters Sunday that there were three major points in his campaign: jobs, jobs and jobs. The implication was that the free trade treaty will create these new positions. He also pushed citizen security and road repairs.

Solís over the weekend said that he would insist that agricultural products produced here receive a priority, and that foreign food products only would enter the country if the national products were exhausted.  This was his bid for the farm vote.

However, both men want to see higher taxes and both support the fiscal reform plan that is in the Asamblea Legislativa. The plan would raise $500 million a year in new taxes.

Both men carry political baggage. Solis is closely identified with his brother Alex, who was fired last year as contralor general because he admitted to signing legal documents with other family members' names and then notarizing the documents.

Arias has been the target of an Internet campaign that claims he accepted money from deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in his 1986 race. Gun owners also claim he would confiscate their weapons and have embarked on a bumper sticker campaign.  Arias certainly opposes the U.S. military actions in the Middle East and rejected the mere token support given by the Pacheco administration.

The Internet campaign also claims Arias used political pressure to get the Sala IV constitutional court to throw out a ban on presidents running for re-election. In fact some sectors of the opposition claim Arias will be an illegal president, if elected.

An A.M. Costa Rica news story this month showed that the court responded to a legitimate constitutional question whether or not Arias applied pressure.

There are 16 candidates for president, although only a few will win voting percentages in the double digits. If Arias does not get 40 percent, he will face the second place winner in a runoff.

The big loser would seem to be Ricardo Toledo, candidate for the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. Not only is he way behind in the polls with from 2 to 5 percent support, he seems to have lost control of the party to Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier,  who says he may run for president again in 2010. Calderón is one of the two ex-presidents under investigation for corruption.

Unidad and Liberación have been the two dominant parties.

Way to circumvent shark law is now unacceptable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca is no longer allowed to accept sharks with fins unnaturally attached, something the institute had been ignoring for the past 10 years, an environmental organization says. 

This was a method in which fishermen were circumventing an old fishing law in which inspectors would count the number of sharks brought in and assume that the number of fins would correspond. 

However, fins are the most valuable part of a shark and in some parts of the world, they are considered a delicacy.  As a result, fishermen would fill their hold with sharks, and then catch more, cut off the fins, physically tie them to sharks that had already been
caught, and return the now finless shark to the ocean to die. 

This practice outraged a number of animal rights groups including the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Costa Rica's Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas. 

If inspectors were only counting the number of sharks a particular boat brought in – regardless of the number of fins attached to each shark – then wildlife welfare groups could not accurately monitor the number of sharks caught each year, the groups said.

Some boats bring in as many as 6,500 sharks per catch, said the turtle program.  So now the law is changed.  Shark fins cannot be tied on.  They must be naturally attached. 

Items sought for garage sale that will benefit handicapped children
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Roberta Felix is holding a garage sale to raise money, but the foundation needs items to sell.  To fulfill that need, the foundation is turning to the public to solicit donations.

“We will accept all items for the sale: clothing, furniture, kitchen items, shoes, toys, basically anything. We urge people to take the month of March to clean out those closets and storerooms and help us fund a very important service for children,” Ms. Felix wrote.

The foundation operates a rehabilitation center for disabled children near Quepos.  The sale is scheduled for April 8, in Barrio Los Angelos in Quepos.   
One specific need arises from the a large donation that allowed the foundation to buy a van to drive children to and from the center, Ms. Felix said.  However, the van costs money to operate.  With a driver, fuel, repairs, maintenance, insurance and other considerations, the van costs approximately $900 a month, Ms. Felix wrote.  She added that the bus is crucial for children with such mobility issues as cerebral palsy who generally can't take the bus or afford taxis. 

Items can be dropped off at Hotel California in Quepos at the CAIRE center, Ms. Felix said.  The foundation can arrange to pick up large items by van if needed, she said. For more information, call 777-3336 in English or 777-3424 in Spanish or go to www.felixfundacion.org

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