U.S. Citizens Investing and Living in Mexico
It's Your Financial Assets
that are at Risk
The experiences described here are real. They are from my 15 years of practicing law in Mexico and are provided to give you a candid and realistic perspective on the obstacles you will face, not only in the Riviera Maya, but also in other parts of Mexico. If this seems daunting, don't worry, I am committed to you, to your education, and to helping you avoid the pitfalls that come with the dual territory.
If you are new to living in Mexico, you will find that business ethics and laws are significantly different than in the United States.
US citizens in Mexico, who are unfamiliar with the laws and local customs, may have a false sense of security. Often they become easy marks for the unethical and ignorant, many of whom are themselves foreigners living in Mexico. This can result in you making investment decisions that put your financial assets at risk.
Consider the following example. A married couple from the US who had dreamed of running a small hotel in Mexico, attempted to purchase one without the advice of counsel. They entered into a typical Mexico real estate contract, which was written by the real estate agent, for the purchase of a small hotel located between Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
Once the Mexico contract was signed, they returned to the U.S., quit their jobs, sold their home, and returned to begin living in Mexico and managing the hotel while waiting for the closing date.
Soon, they learned that the hotel boundaries were not as they had been represented and that a significant portion of the hotel was sitting on the adjacent property. After trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a resolution of the problem with the Seller, the couple was forced to start a court action. This resulted in their being forcefully removed from the hotel, leaving them without home, without work, and without a significant portion of their "nest egg" which they had invested in the hotel. The couple has now been in litigation for years.
It is not uncommon to see U.S. citizens lose their Mexican property because they cannot read and do not understand the documents they are signing. Nor do they know the Mexico law governing the transaction. You don't want to be one of those U.S. citizens who come to Mexico and sign contracts to purchase houses, timeshares, or businesses; without performing any due diligence or seeking legal advice. Because later, when you try to enforce the contract, you may learn: that the Seller didn't own the property; that the boundaries weren't correct; that there was a lien on the property; that the property couldn't be sold; that the property was already sold; that nothing the timeshare salesperson said was correct; etc., etc. Also, more times than not, your contract will contain a fatal flaw that renders it unenforceable.
Many People Who Attempt to Prey
on Your Dreams are Also Foreigners
To repeat, when talking about the unethical, it is crucial to realize that many of the people who prey on the ignorance of foreigners, are themselves foreigners. Should you hear from a seller of real property, "you can trust me, I'm an American", please keep in mind the following example.
Folsom & Associates recently represented a U.S. citizen client who, from the U.S., responded to an advertisement he saw on the internet for beach front property that was for sale on the Riviera Maya by another U.S. citizen who claimed to be the owner of the property. Our client negotiated with the seller via e-mail and later flew to Playa del Carmen to see the property and finalize the transaction. After meeting the seller, they agreed on a price and went to the seller's office to sign the contract. The seller took the contract out of his computer and, as they signed the contract, he said, "you can trust me, I'm an American".
After executing the contract, the client hired Folsom & Associates to finish the transaction. One week later, the seller wrote the client and advised him that he was not going to honor the Mexico contract because the value of the real property in Playa del Carmen was increasing so rapidly that he wanted more money than he originally agreed. When the client responded that he intended to enforce the contract, the seller's response was he could not enforce it because it was not valid. Upon investigation, it was learned that the seller did not own the property, that the legal description of the property given in the contract did not exist, and that the contract was unenforceable for various technical reasons. When the seller was contacted and confronted with these facts, his response was that that there was nothing the client could do to enforce the contract because it was not legal.
Internet Related Crimes
This case raises the issue of internet related crimes. The internet has provided an easy avenue for the distribution of misinformation, whether intentional or unintentional. As a result, new areas of international law are emerging that govern cross-border internet related fraud crimes and the jurisdictional issues that they involve.
If you feel that you have been the victim of such a scheme contact Folsom & Associates for a free consultation as there are remedies available to you.Spring Break Law
As your lawyer in Mexico, Folsom & Associates feels a responsibility to be available 24/7 for the care of your teen-age Spring Breaker in case of emergency. Contact us ahead of time to make prior arrangements.
Every year thousands of our teenagers and young adults come to Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya on Spring Break. Many of them end up in jail or fall victim to crimes. It is customary for hotels to employ an "animator" whose job it is to ensure the guests have fun. This usually involves the continuous flow of alcohol for days on end. Our teen-agers come to this very traditional culture completely unprepared and unaware of how their dress and conduct can make them targets of different types of abuses - ranging from relatively minor cases to extreme cases.
Additionally, others will suffer accidents or illness that require medical attention or hospitalization. Please be aware that hospitals require proof of payment before admission. They are under no obligation to provide services even in emergency situations. Please be sure your Spring Breaker has proof of medical insurance with coverage in Mexico or access to cash or credit cards with high enough cash availability to be used in case of emergency.
Call Us Before You Need Us
You can have your own lawyer here in Mexico. Contact us to make prior arrangements.