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Two Key Issues for Condominium Owners in Mexico

Puerto Vallarta Condo
Credit: Harriet Murray

After 20 years of attending condominium meetings in Jalisco, I have learned that there are two key issues for condominium owners in Mexico: Lack of understanding (education) and lack of communication.

With those two core issues in mind, let me provide you with some specific information on condo ownership in Mexico that will help you.

Issue of Private and Common Areas

Yes, the condo regime, bylaws, rules, regulations and escritura (trust deeds) are in Spanish. It is still vital, however, to understand the most important clauses or definitions contained within these documents.

It is critical that everyone understand the location of common versus private areas.  Obvious ones may be the pool, front entry, and hallways. Is the roof the responsibility of all the owners, or does it belong to the penthouse or townhouse owner? Misunderstanding can cause problems for a long time.

“Water seeks its own level.” The water leak in some obscure pipe or between floor tiles may come out of an electrical plug three floors below on the opposite side of the building.  Water drops are deceptive. They find wires, channels and pipes to flow down in their goal to go as far as they can before they are “out.” Where did the leak start, common or private area?

Are parking spaces deeded, assigned or open? Are they on federal highway right-of-way or inside private property?

How does the association handle access through private areas to common areas, which may include planter boxes or railings? May a common area be the exclusive use of one owner?  Who pays to maintain it then? If the area behind a decorative gate is common area, why is it locked and enjoyed only by the owners of the one condo it serves?

Issue of Condominium Fees 

A fundamental responsibility of condominium ownership is payment of the common area fees.  These fees are to maintain the safety, legality and aesthetics of the entire building.

If owners don’t believe the right decisions are being made by the board or administrator, they have the right to be heard and answered.  Owners have the right to ask to see the bills and payments. Financial information should be furnished to them on a regular basis.

Voting on the regular yearly budget should be done in formalized meetings and require a majority for approval.  Reports should also be sent and/or available during the year to show where the fees are being spent.

If the board and/ or committees recommend expenses outside the regular budget, an extraordinary meeting needs to be called for discussion and voting. A higher percentage of votes are required to pass an extraordinary expense.

Voting rights are determined by the percentage of ownership for each individual condominium. These percentages should be in the condo regime and escrituras of the owners.

What if you question or disagree with the decisions being made? Put in writing your complaints and ask for a meeting with the board/administrator in person or by phone, internet, etc.  However, remember that your disagreeing does not change your responsibility to pay your fees. Your representatives of the association (administrator and board) are accountable for their actions, including responding to you.

Focus on the Basics

Several years ago, the retired CEO of a major US corporation said to me, “I spent 40 years in business, and now I don’t want to be overloaded with the business of our homeowner’s association.” In his case, he delegated most of the work to his wife.  How he felt is very common for expats who come here to enjoy their time and not work. My suggestion is to focus on the basics and create a system of feedback and accountability. Have a second plan for feedback and accountability, or plan “B,” also. Then, be sure to enjoy your time here. That’s why you’re here!

This article is based upon legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences.  I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of real estate conduct his/her own due diligence and review. 1