Rental Apartment - Costa Rica
by Margie Davis
On my fact-finding mission to Costa Rica last July  to decide whether or not I wanted to call this my home, looking at rental properties was high on my list of To Dos. How could I know long-distance from Florida what Costa Rican apartments and houses looked like? I had read that hot water in the kitchen wasn't a slam-dunk, so I had many questions and much curiosity.
I arrived in Costa Rica, eager and green. My visit coincided with the small window of dry weather that usually occurs from the end of June into the second or third week of July, so I didn't get to experience the mold effect that daily rain can have on walls, furniture, clothing, shoes, handbags, and many other things. I didn't see how daily rain can erode yards, walkways and streets, nor did I hear the deafening sound of rain on metal roofs that made talking on the telephone, or even hearing the telephone ring, impossible.
What I did do was fall in love with the first rental I saw. It was a spacious three-bedroom house with an acre of tropical garden and fruit trees. I plunked down the first month's rent and the security deposit. I remained in love with this place for two months after moving in, until my growing dislike of the boisterous birds next door and the diesel fumes that wafted through my bedroom windows at 4:30 AM did me in.
Yes, I saw the transportation company sign across the street from the house when I decided to take the rental, but it wasn't until I moved in that I learned how much diesel those trucks could spew. After I moved in, my landlord decided to store his rental buses in his yard behind my house. Those buses also started up at 4:30 in the morning, and a double whiff of diesel exhaust woke me every morning.
And did I mention that the previous tenant from Germany had changed many of the outlets to 220v, and I fried a phone system, a toaster oven and a blender before I insisted that the landlord pay an electrician to change the outlets back to 110v?
It was time to say goodbye to this lovely but deadly property, and look for a healthier environment. I used the same rental agency to help me find my current place, which is a two-bedroom townhouse in a small, gated complex with an even lovelier garden. I got lucky: the other renters and the landlord are wonderful people, they're helping me learn Spanish and I feel very safe here.
After six months in this comfortable apartment, I can't imagine moving anytime soon, but if I did, this is what I would check out in my next rental:
- road traffic
- early morning birds and roosters
- squawking peacocks that sound like injured cats
- barking dogs that aren't trained to quit barking
- neighbors (fighting, frequent parties, motorcycles, babies crying)
- karaoke bar nearby
- school nearby
- ability to hear inside when it's raining
- high fence with razor top
- electric gate with keyed door for when the electricity goes out
- abutting roofs or trees that could be used to access your place
- guard on duty who will call you for permission before letting visitors in
- meet your neighbors (are any anti-gringo?) and ask their opinion of your potential place
- secure place for your car and visitors' cars
- room for your luggage and empty boxes
- logical floor plan and adequate space to access all your stuff
- adequate outlets and lights in each room and outside the front door
- 110 outlets for US/Canadian appliances; 220 outlets for European appliances
- ground wire for your computer connection (ask if you can have this installed)
- water tank that supplies hot water to the kitchen, showers and bathroom sinks
- or hot water on demand in the showers - how many minutes does it last?
- ask the landlord what the water bill typically runs - if it's high, there could be leaks and you will have to pay for wasted water
- check for clogged sink drains
- make sure the toilet flushes properly
- test the water pressure in the shower
- the closest bus stop and the frequency of buses
- restaurants and stores nearby
- walking routes for exercise
- a place to sit outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and tropical foliage