FAQ: General guidelines for Condominiums in light of the health alert by COVID-19 in Costa Rica
Due to the coronavirus alert, the Costa Rican Ministry of Health issued on May 12th, 2020, the sixth version of the general guidelines for Commercial Condominiums, condominiums with commercial and residential spaces and Residential Condominiums (“General Guidelines for Condominiums”). The BLP Real Estate & Hospitality team shares a series of frequently asked questions directed to tenants, owners or managers of commercial or residential condominiums.
What are the sanctions if condominium owners and/or the administration do not comply with the third version of the General Guidelines for Commercial Condominiums, Condominiums with commercial and residential spaces, and Residential Condominiums, given the Coronavirus (COVID-19) sanitary alert (“General Guidelines for Condominiums”)?
Condominium owners and tenants that fail to comply with the General Guidelines for Condominium, are exposed to internal penalties according to the sanctioning regime indicated in the duly approved condominium regulations.
The General Guidelines for Condominiums do not establish non-compliance sanctions per se, as it happens to be the case for the infringement of sanitary and isolation orders, and the temporary closure measures; where offenders are subject to the fines established in the bill number 21.894, passed by the Legislature on April 3rd, 2020, and published in the official newspaper La Gaceta Number 70 on April 4th, 2020.
What happens if the Condominium Regulations do not include a sanctioning regime?
In addition to the fines established in the bill number 21.894, the Regulatory Law of Condominium Property indicates that condominium owners may not conduct actions or incur in omissions that compromise the condominium’s health conditions, and in case of infringement of the beforementioned, they will be exposed to a fine equivalent to a base salary.
What happens if there is a sanitary order in a residential condominium?
In the event of a sanitary order, the General Guidelines must be followed for the monitoring and lifting of administrative acts (sanitary order) of domicile isolation due to COVID-19, as well as the General Guidelines for domicile isolation for Costa Rican citizens, residents and diplomats that enter the country given the Coronavirus (COVID-19) sanitary alert. Among the included measures, is the obligation of a person with sanitary order to remain under preventive domicile isolation for a period no shorter than 14 days, starting on the day of the issuance of said order; the person may only leave the premises if medical attention is required.
What happens if there are suspicions of an infected person with COVID-19 but the administration has not yet been informed?
The General Guidelines for Condominiums of the Ministry of Health state the obligation of condominium owners and tenant to inform the administration if they, or a family member within the condominium present symptoms associated with respiratory illness or have been in close contact with a suspicious case, through the established communication channels for that purpose.
If the notification does not take place, the administration is required to communicate this suspicious case to the corresponding health authorities through the hotline 1322. It is important to take into account that while informing the rest of the property owners and tenants about the suspicions or COVID-19 confirmed case, for the purpose of reinforcing their preventive measures, personal data protection of the suspicious or confirmed individuals must be observed. In this respect, the person must never be identified by name, surname or any other sensitive data.
How does the temporary closure as a sanitary measure affect commercial establishments?
The sanitary measure of temporary closure also applies to commercial condominiums, with the exception of those establishments situated inside a condominium whose trade coincides with any of the exceptions disposed by the Ministerial Resolution DM-RM-0852-2020 and its amendment DM-RM-0865-2020. However, basic operative and maintenance condominium services such as security and cleaning provided by the condominium will continue its duties to guarantee the proper functioning and hygiene of the allowed commercial establishments.
May the entrance of property owners and/or tenants in commercial condominiums be prohibited in light of the temporary closure sanitary measures?
The condominium administration may establish restrictions for the general public; however, they may not prohibit the entrance to condominium owners or tenants to their property because this is a private area. If property owners or tenants fail to comply with the closure sanitary measures imposed by the Ministry of Health, they are exposed to being sanctioned and feed by the corresponding authorities and expose the condominium to these penalties as well.
May the condominium fee be adjusted due to the closing of amenities or the suspension of services?
The condominium administrator may revise the condominium budget in the case that certain services must be suspended or given maintenance cost reductions, to determine if a temporary adjustment of the ordinary fee proceeds, which must be notified to all property owners. If the administrator or property owners consider the need to take permanent provisions, an extraordinary assembly must be convened to revise the budget and if applicable, a new condominium fee shall be approved for the rest of the period.
As set out by the General Guidelines for Condominiums, may the condominium administration restrict access to third parties or to property owners and/or tenants of residential condominiums?
According the General Guidelines for Condominiums, the administration must not restrict access to property owners and/or tenants, and, may not restrict access to condominium workers, as well as food, medicine and other daily use requirements suppliers.
May restrictions to the use and entry to certain common areas be maintained in accordance to the last version of the General Guidelines for Condominiums?
This last aspect has gone through several modifications due to the gradual lifting of sanitary restrictions. The latest version of the General Guidelines for Condominiums maintains the prohibition of the use of common recreational built areas as well as mass events, of commercial or social nature, in common or private areas.
As a new recommendation, the guidelines establish that recreational common areas such as green areas and courts may be used for contactless sports and recreational purposes among individuals belonging to the same social bubble, and following social distancing protocols, so as to reduce the possibility of contagion between condo units.
Other new considerations regarding the use of common areas in this version of the guidelines is the operation of gyms at 25% of their user capacity, following the provisions mandated by its specific operation guidelines, and the use of pools by residents of the same condo unit. On this last subject, each Condominium shall evaluate its specific situation and prepare its corresponding protocols of use, which must be approved by health authorities.
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