What is the Federal Zone in Mexico?
The beach is the land covered and discovered by the sea; the twenty meter wide inland strip of firm, walkable land, counted from the median of the low and high tide, is the Federal Zone in Mexico.
When the coast lacks beaches and has rock formations or cliffs with an inclination of thity degress or less, the Federal Zone will be the twenty meter inland strip contiguous with the sea coast.
The Federal Zone is property of the Nation. This means, it is not private property, it cannot be bought or rented, but it can be used through a concession. Our law firm believes that there is no similarity between the legislation in Mexico about the Federal Zone and the legislation in Canada and the United States. In certain States, Provinces or counties of Canada and the United States there may be private ownership of beaches, even more in the so-called dry sand.
When Mexico was a Colony of Spain, the Departure Laws of Felipe II considered the land of the beaches of twenty common rods above the high tide as Spanish crown land. After independence, Mexico continued this tradition and in 1894 it was established, for the first time, that the Nation owns the Federal Zone, represented by the Federal Government. The current laws govern in the same way, so that in Mexico, there are legally no “private beaches”, only beaches that are difficult to access, geographically.
The use and exploitation of the Federal Zone is administered by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). The imposition of sanctions through administrative procedures for the use contrary to the concession of the Federal Zone corresponds to the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA).
The General Directorate of the Federal Zone of SEMARNAT, with offices in Mexico City, has the powers to grant concessions. There are concessions for general use, ornament and conservation. Protected areas can obtain authorizations, permits or concession solely for their conservation.
General use includes buildings with foundation or non-foundation such as beach clubs or condominium pools. Ornament allows for constructions for beautification or defense against natural phenomena but without profit activities. The protection does not allow construction nor profit activities. The federal zone concessions are independent of the construction permits in the Federal Zone, which requires prior environmental impact authorization from SEMARNAT.
The use or enjoyment of the Federal Zone requires the payment of rights, with or without concession. The payment of rights for Quintana Roo is equivalent in 2020 to approximately USD $ 2 per square meter per year for protection and ornament and approximately USD $ 6 per square meter per year for general use.
Since the duty to pay for the use or enjoyment of the Federal Zone is generated even without a concession, there is no advantage in not requesting and getting one. On the contrary, the disadvantage of not holding a concession is: that any third party, even someone different than the owner of the property adjacent to the Federal Zone, may request and obtain the concession. A concession title holder may use the Federal Zone for a purpose different than that of the owners of the adjoining property. For example, the owners of beachfront property bought it to secure a peaceful waterfront location, and a potential concession title holder may set up a beach club in front of the beachfront property, in the Federal Zone, with day and night parties.
There may be strategies available to secure a peaceful beachfront property, if that is what you want and for that you will need to become the title holder of the Federal. If you, as an individual or a company, are interested in using the Federal Zone, or in preventing a third party from using it; or if you already have a Concession title and you require any modification, you must file an application process before the General Directorate of the Federal Terrestrial Maritime Zone in Mexico City.
There are various procedures related to the Federal Zone such as:
- Concession application (Concession Title that authorizes the use,ornament andconservation of the area).
- Extension and / or Modification to the Concession Title.
- Transferof rights, lease or loan of a fraction of the concession area.
- Extension of Transitory Permitfor walking trade in the Federal Zone (ambulantaje).
The Concession request is the main process, it may be submitted by any person or corporation of Mexican nationality, as well as foreigners. In the case of foreign companies they may do so through a trust with a national financial institution.
On some occasions, buyers do not know if there is a concession title or not in front of the beachfront property, and since concessions have an average duration of 15 years, the Concession title is sometimes lost.
Our firm has expertise Federal Zone, we have guided our clients through the legal considerations of the Federal Zone. Many beachfront developments have condominiums located within the Federal Zone, which is delicate because the ownership of the Federal Zone belongs to the Federal Government, so having the rights over the concession is very important.
Our firm also has experience in Federal Zone litigation, these litigations are very specialized and are often carried out in Mexico City. Our firm has achieved the first precedent in favor of condo onwers granted by the Specialized Chamber on Environmental Matters of the Federal Court of Administrative Justice, in which the assignment of the Federal Zone in favor of a third party was nullified, determining that the condo owners of the neighboring property to the Federal Zone, had the best right over it. If you want to know more follow the link to our article: Do owners of beachfront property have rights over the Federal Zone?
In conclusion, if you have doubts or require more information about the Federal Zone, properties or constructions in front of the beach, do not hesitate to Schedule a Free Call with us.