In the process of buying a property, there are two aspects that require special attention: one of course is obtaining title, the other, which is as important, is obtaining possession of the property you are buying. In Mexico, possession of a property is a very delicate matter and in many cases is not treated with the importance it deserves. Under our legal system, the concept of possession can be quite complex and may differ considerably from the legalities of possessing a property in the U.S. or Canada. This is why in dealing with this controversial topic, it is best if you are aware of some scenarios in which you should act within the scope of what is considered lawful.
What should I do regarding possession if I am buying property in Mexico?
If you are buying a property from the developer, the purchase contract should specify a specific date for the delivery of the unit, with penalties in case of default. When this delivery date comes, most certainly the developer will have you sign a contract in which you agree to the conditions in which the unit is being delivered, and if there are still details or work to be done in your condo, then you should specify that in the agreement (punch list), along with a due date for those details. You should also be aware that your one-year guarantee starts to count as of the day you take possession.
If I already own a property in Mexico, what are my do’s and don’ts in terms of possession?
Mexican law tends to protect the person in possession of a property, especially if that person obtained the possession through legal means, like for example through a lease agreement. The legal premise is that you can only evict someone through a ruling from a judge obtained after a proper trial. Without this ruling, evicting someone (either by denying access, locking out or changing locks or codes) can be considered a crime which is called Unlawful Dispossession of Property (or Despojo in Spanish) and this crime can be punished with up to 3 years in prison.
You might think that just by having title over a property you have superior rights over anyone who is in possession of that same property, but this is not always the case. That is why before evicting someone from your property, you should consider carefully taking this action without following the proper legal proceeding, since by not doing so, the consequences can be severe and may include criminal charges.
Roberto Ortiz de Montellano is a Mexican-Licensed Attorney at Law with over twenty years of professional legal experience. He started his own practice in Puerto Vallarta five years ago. His areas of expertise focus mostly on Real Estate Law, Business Law, HOAs and Estate Planning.
Roberto Ortiz de Montellano F.
Mexican-Licensed Attorney at Law