May 13-19, 2007 // CONSTRUCTION LOG #136
Contact phone numbers
New York: 315-279-6711
Toronto: 416-907-5758 // 416-461-2203
Land: 506-282-4142 Ext. 101
NOTE: the New York and Toronto numbers are "local calls" for people in the area codes; calls from outside the area code will be billed at the normal rate from the caller's area code to either the "315" or the "416" area code.
NOTE: NOW THAT THIS DEVELOPMENT IS ESSENTIALLY FINISHED, THE LOG WILL FOCUS MORE ON THE RIO ORO DEVELOPMENT. IT WILL BE INFORMATIVE TO THOSE PLANNING ON BUILDING, THOSE LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO PURCHASE OR TO LEASE, AND FOR THOSE WONDERING WHAT EXPATS DO IN COSTA RICA AND THE LIFESTYLE OF TWO ORDINARY PEOPLE.
The STORY: Land lording in CR: Even Paradise has
it's rotten apples!!
The fence inches along, one road is widened and the
bridge over the drainage ditch has been installed.
The land continues to be cleared of unwanted and/or
Again I met with the architect and again we reviewed
the floor plans for the larger houses. I'm awaiting a
full set of optional designs. I also challenged him
to turn the same structure into two, 1700 sf single
story units. We'll see what he returns with.
We have decided that we would focus on what we
currently have on the go before focusing on any other
RESIDENCIAS LOS JARDINES
Land lording experiences:
I've saved up three years of unpleasant experiences
and have now decided to tell the stories which have
not been told. Prior to managing residential property
in CR, I owned and managed numerous rental buildings
for 20 years in Canada —somewhere around 300 tenant
years. In all that experience, I probably didn't have
more than a handful of experiences like I'm going to
describe in my approx. 20 tenant years of experience
in Costa Rica.
It is often said that Costa Rica is the home of the
wanted and the unwanted. The saying is still true, in
my experience. The seasoned expat has learned to be
more reserved when making new expat friends —probably
because they too have been disappointed. Having said
that, however, I feel there may now be a higher
percentage of people who do not fit that description,
who have lots of options and are choosing CR. Whether
the former group has diminished, I don't know.
We have a very detailed lease based on N. Am. and
Costa Rican experiences. It spells out in substantial
detail mutual roles, responsibilities and
expectations; we expect to follow it and we expect
others to follow it. Having said that, the two most
frequently broken clauses which are technically
enforceable in Costa Rica are: (1) term of lease
(early terminations) and (2) the security deposit
is not to be applied against the last month's rent.
While these are annoying features which we commonly
experience, they are not the worst.
You have to realize two things: The landlord-tenant
legislation in this country is the most one sided
piece of draconian legislation that I've ever seen —the
Socialist party in Ontario (NDP) introduced very
lopsided legislation in the early 90s which has, over
time, become more balanced. Not so in CR. Therefore,
even if the courts did function expeditiously here
which they don't, there is little legal remedy.
Supposedly CR law recognizes as binding, private
contracts of which our lease would qualify. For us to
test it in the courts, it will have to be a major
The other thing to remember is that most expats
looking for rental accommodations have no history
which can be effectively searched. So, the landlord
is accepting blind based on what he sees and hears,
with virtually little recourse if the assessment is
wrong. This is reality as I've experienced it —perhaps
others know something I don't. Consequently, the
incidence of disappointment is much greater here than
my experience in Canada. In addition, I've not been
able to detect any difference based on age, sex,
economic status or nationality. Stories:
Residencias Los Jardines started as "Blue Skies
Bungalows" — 8 very basic s"homes" which leased longer
term for $300 mo. or so. When I purchased Blue Skies,
I inherited the tenants —virtually all of whom I had
come to know—. I set about improving the
infrastructure and some of the units as they became
vacant. The existing tenants remained on at their
historic rental rate as per CR law and were now able
to enjoy a more reliable infrastructure and the house
improvements made along the way. I replaced the
broken down washer/dryer with new coin operated units
and provided hot water which previously wasn't
One person tried to start a tenant revolt over the
pay-per-use washer/dryer. When he was unsuccessful,
he did a midnight move taking my furniture with him.
I traced him down and after I outlined what recourse I
would be taking, he returned the furniture.
Another couple left owing me $400 using the washing
machine as their excuse —and it was these same two
people who used the previous machine all day, every
Saturday— not allowing anyone else to use it and
complaining when it was broken and that there was no
One person threw a temper tantrum when I trimmed the
9' hedge on the side of the house to around 6'. He
felt it inhibited is practice of walking around in the
nude and now couldn't stand in the front door and
scratch his privates. I explained that his privates
were not 6' high so I in no what deprived him his
pleasure. He left shortly thereafter owing me.
Another person e-mailed me that he had to make a
quick return to California to look after his dieing
mother —on inspection of the house, it was a mess,
which was not surprising since his "wife" had 6 kids
who visited on a regular basis... We heard he
subsequently returned to CR and disappointed a number
of other people.
One elderly couple who fought terribly with mutual
verbal abuse announced one night they were leaving the
next day. Reason? They couldn't remember how to open
remotely the gate and continued to claim it was
equipment malfunction —despite numerous training
sessions and written instructions. Example: "dial 1
and hang up the phone".
I then developed Residencias Los Jardines and the
nature of the product changed dramatically. We
command premium rents which reflect the type of
product we offer —the stories don't change much:
We had one guy who we later suspected of being manic
depressive —he was certainly an alcoholic. At one time
he was over 90 days late on his rent but both the
owner and us felt the guy was genuine and decided to
play ball with him. He eventually made good, and then
two months later fell behind again. We had warmed him
that we would start evection proceedings were this to
occur and would otherwise "encourage" him to leave.
In the last week, of the notice period we gave him, he
did about $3,000 worth of damage.
One person visiting from the States was considering
buying a place at Los Jardines so that his wife could
visit her family in CR. I allowed him to use a unit I
owned for free for the week so he could check us out.
In the last night of his tenancy, he racked up $250
worth of phone bills and split. Despite repeated
promises to send a check, I've never seen a dime.
We had one person, who I knew to be very critical and
acerbic tongued and quick with poison pen letters. In
fact that is how I first met him —he beat me up over
a statement I had made in my website. He challenged
"... the soon to be completed new highway to the
Pacific..." I accepted his argument and changed the
statement to what it now is, when completed,
the highway..." He and his partner moved into a unit
at Los Jardines and used Los Jardines as a model of
what they were building in Jaco. After a few months,
his payment schedule became erratic; we pressed for
payments and compliance with certain clauses of the
lease. This resulted in a poison pen campaign
designed to alienate us from other tenants and
owners. After suffering three vitriolic letters
filled with personal attacks, innuendos, and
misleading information, I wrote those on his
distribution list a fact filled, level headed
non-abusive letter. He was alienated and ostracized
from those he had sought favor. He made a midnight
exit taking some things which didn't belong to him.
He's still trying to develop his project with
virtually nothing to show; I wish him well but I'm
fearful for his investors.
One of our investor/purchasers claimed to head up a
number of investor groups out of Florida. He bought
two units which were to be used as model homes for his
clients; he expected to buy more units and to partner
with us in our next project. The clients never
arrived. He was personally charming and very generous
and certainly very easy to work with. A series of
things started to happen which made me suspicious. I
did a Google Search and found that he had been a bad
boy in the 80s and had a prison record. In October he
had been arrested for money laundering as well as
several drug related charges in a DEA sting
operation. He pledged property to raise bail —it
seems that the property might not have been his to
pledge, that he had taken out large mortgages on
properties he didn't own, skipped town and had been
arrested in Italy and last I heard is currently
awaiting extradition to the US. I also understand
that a number of civil actions are pending. Until the
ownership is sorted out, we will continue to manage
the two units and when ordered to liquidate by a
competent authority having jurisdiction, will follow
their instructions. One of the unfortunate investors
was here this week scoping out the situation and I
believe is satisfied that the properties are being
leased and maintained effectively.
The most recent incident this past week involved a
short-term lessee. The one month with option to renew
turned into 12 stressful days. By mutual agreement,
we terminated the relationship. At my wife's urging,
I did a Google search on him and again found there are
a number of people who have not very nice things to
say about him and his business practices. When I
informed the referral agent of our experience, I was
advised that they too had had difficulty with him and
had severed all relationship. We shared a mutual
assessment of him and common opinion that he will not
settle well in Costa Rica.
Conclusion: What have I learned? My old rule of
thumb that most of the people are honest and honorable
most of the time is changing to some of the people are
honest and honorable most of the time. I've seen
posts asking if it is o.k. to lease to Ticos... I don't
have any experience but certainly it isn't a cakewalk
with expats. Will we get better at selecting our
clientele? I would like to think so but I'm not sure
how, at this point in time-usually there just isn't
much information on which to make an assessment. Will
we be quicker to take action when we are concerned?
Yes. We won't knowingly break the law but we are more
than likely to go down swinging if diplomacy fails.
Sales: We're working our way through the closing
process on 110 and 118.
Garden: For several years now we've been trying to
grow pineapples. We've had to move the starter beds
several times and each time took it's toll but we now
have three pineapples budding and hopefully, more of
the plants will follow suit. The professional
gardener laughed at me when he saw that I had planted
the tops of consumed pineapples. He said that the
faster way was to pick the sprouts from mature plants
and plant those. I didn't have any so had to go the
VOIP phone: We've experienced some reception problems
this past month. We don't know what is different and
why these problems started —it was working fine.
Anyway, we have upgraded the upload portion of the
bandwidth we purchase to see if that makes a
Unit 112: $170,000
Single floor, 1,300 sf, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, new Hofurnishings. The kitchen and both bathrooms have granite counters. The kitchen cabinets are made from natural wood- "cedro" and has a breakfast counter for casual dining. The kitchen features SS appliances-- 6 burner gas stove, and GE "Profile" microwave and exhaust space saver unit and all the small appliances and items needed for cooking and dining. The living room features a floor to ceiling full length book case/ display/entertainment center. Areas for a computer work station and TV are incorporated. The LR features one chair, love seat and a sofa as well as 4 wrought iron / granite topped end/coffee tables. There is a 6 seat glass and wood dining room table as well. On the covered terrace is a 6 seat dining table. The home is equipped with a stacked washer / dryer. It has vaulted ceilings, valance (direct and indirect lighting). It's located at the back of the property, near the large pool; it is part of a 4 unit
Unit 106 A:
Available June 1
Ground floor, 1,250sf, 1 bedroom with office/den/bedroom, two bathrooms, two terraces, granite bathrooms and kitchen; fully furnished.
- $900 mo.
Available May 1
Similar to Unit 120 (below) except it's attached on two sides.
- $1,350 mo.
Available May 1
2nd. floor, one bedroom (620 sf), fully furnished with display bookshelf/wall unit, home theater system, 42" Plasma TV, computer desk, large kitchen with natural wood cabinets and granite counters and backsplash including valence lighting, Bedroom has a full size (matrimonial) bed as well as a single bed. There is a matrimonial size pull out sofa in the living room. The living room overlooks the large pool and faces west. The bedroom faces east and has views of the mountains.
- $950 mo.
Residencias Los Jardines is a secure, gated, tranquil community with on-site satellite and / or CableTica TV, high speed internet, VOIP phone capability, 2 swimming pools each with waterfalls, 2-bar-b-qs and social areas, extensive manicured gardens, English / Spanish / German / Dutch / French spoken.
Weather: Mostly cloudy in the mornings with overcast
and rains in the afternoons/ evenings.
Hugo: changed his diet; still waiting to see...
Cars: T'was the week for car trouble: (a) locked my
keys in the car; (2) the ignition mechanism failed,
and (3) I met Lita and a friend of hers on the roadway
standing beside her friend's car which had died as
Texas Hold'em: another round on Wednesday; good fun;
we've had no winner win twice —eventually this will
happen but so far, no one is dominating the game.
Weddings: There were two weddings on Saturday, one of
which was conducted at Los Jardines.
Guests: we have a couple new to Los Jardines on site
for a few weeks checking us out for a longer term
commitment. One guest postponed her arrival because
she hasn't been able to sell her motor home yet.
Brian, Lita, Hairless Hugo and irreverent Vicka, the
pigeon toed parrot.