The Role of the Notary Public in Mexico
The Notary Public is the most important person you will deal with when you make a property investment in Mexico. Do not confuse the role of the Notary Public in the US or UK with its counterpart in Mexico: they are quite different. In the UK for example, almost anyone can become a Notary Public. Not so, in Mexico, where the role is appointed directly by the State Governor (the highest seat in State Public Office). The Notary Public has the power to witness and certify important business documents which require absolute authenticity. The appointment also holds responsibility for the management and secure storage of original records. Notary Publics must be Mexicans of at least 35 year in age, they must have a degree in Law, have 3 year’s work experience at a Notary Public office and they must pass a stringent exam. Those who pass, in time, are appointed as Notary Public by the State Governor.
Under Mexican Law, the deed to the property must be prepared by a Notary Public. As a buyer, it is your right to choose the Notary Public, and it should be your first port of call – or second after your lawyer.
The Notary Public will ensure that all documentation and permits are in order so that the transaction can proceed.
Everything official to do with your transaction should be done via the Notary Public: Do not take anyone’s word about documentation (like property deeds) being valid – take copies to the Notary Public for official verification. A good lawyer will be able to advise you on such matters.Common Checks that should be made:
The Notary Public and/or your lawyer will do a series of checks on the property and ensure that the property has a ‘clean’ history, and that there are no liens on the land (e.g. an old unpaid mortgage). Under Mexican Law, liens are passed on with title of the land – BEWARE!
Your Notary Public should also check that all land taxes have been paid during the last five years (if applicable) and that utilities (electric, gas, water and phone) have also been paid during the last two years. By Law, you are not liable to debts after these times.
Other items to be checked include: Checking all buildings are on tax registers and have the required building permits, utilities were legally installed and payments are up-to-date, the property is not jointly owned, or if it is, that both (or all) owners agree to the sale, and that the seller/s has/have the right to sell.
The Notary Public is legally responsible to ensure that all documents are in order and that all legal procedures have been adhered to. He will do a thorough check and will not destroy his reputation by hiding any problems, or potential problems from you.