Photo credit: Construction on La Reforma by Matthew Rutledge
It was all over the news. If you missed it, new amendments to Criminal Code for Mexico City, in force as from July 27, 2011, provide for new crime and penalties for misusing zoning permits.
The sole purpose of having a real estate property is the ability to exploit it under the extent of law, i.e. if you have a residential property and law allows to change zoning permit into office property, and even more, you already have an interested party to lease that property, Law should protect your constitutional right to economically exploit your property.
The exact words of Article 343Bis of Criminal Code for Mexico City are “Hereby will be imposed from three to nine years of prison and from one to five thousand days of minimum wage to the person who maliciously gives a different use than zoning permit or obtains an economical benefit from that conduct …”
As clearly provides the Code, it refers to a person who uses a property with a zoning permit with a different scope or obtains an income for that. Obviously, this provision does not apply if owner of property can change zoning permit under the Law, whatever the reason, as wrongfully has been spreading in some internet and media sources.
Should you be concerned? If you own a property and lease it or sell it, definitely. This provision should be challenged through amparo constitutional rights trial
Those who have experience in real estate in Mexico City know that changing permit zones are extremely difficult, since any change rely on neighbor´s approval, pre-approval on city development program, pre-approval on county development program, and even in special development program, and other series of red tape filings that have not been simplified enough.
There has been a lot of effort from Mexico City Government and counties to digitalize and reorganize Public Registry of Property, as well as to update all development programs to the needs for construction and the demands of office and commerce that require new locations. Some throw blames on bureaucrats unions trying to retain employments for their members. That is for sure, a noble cause, especially in these crisis times. Another cause may be a slow assimilation of IT on the inner circle.
It is not to challenge the efforts from City Major, Local Assemblymen and all County Presidents, but they urgently need to reorganize for all zones in the City. Truth to be told, this is a titanic task that has to be continued by forthcoming administrations.
However, changes like recent Amendments to Criminal Code do not acknowledge the fact that many office and commerce are in grey area, and therefore not protected by Law since needs and business are always way ahead of legislation.
The only sustainable solution is to call for a gathering of all person representing the interests of the City, including of course business men, who by the way, provides 650 thousand jobs, according to the Business Coordination Board (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial or CCE for its initials in Spanish).
It is election time in Mexico, and the left-wing politicians want to keep capital city for other 6 years (they are in power since year 1997). This might be a point of pressure from private sector investors and especially, restaurant and bar industry, who have struggled the more with zoning.
All elements appear to converge to give the City an upgrade which its citizens and businessmen have long waited to happen.