Why do I need a Notary Public if I’m buying property in Mexico?
If you have been through any legal or bureaucratic process in Mexico, you probably have noticed that here we love our paper. Because our legal system is Civil Law everything must be written in order to be proven and valid. Also, contrary to what happens in Anglo-Saxon countries, it is part of our culture to have a certain degree of distrust when engaging in any transaction and therefore we need to document everything and provide as much formality as possible to that transaction. This is why here in Mexico if you are buying real estate, your purchase contract must be signed before a Notary Public and granted in a public deed.
So what is the difference between a Notary Public in Mexico and a Notary Public in the U.S.?
In Mexico a Notary Public is a person empowered by the Mexican government to validate and give formality to certain acts. Even though the basis of this role is the same as in the US (to certify that someone’s signature is in a piece of paper), in Mexico the Notary has a more extended field of work because by law the use of a Notary is mandatory if you are executing certain contracts or performing certain acts. In Mexico a Notary Public must also have a law degree and they must pass something similar to a bar exam to be granted a Notary license. All real estate transactions in Mexico that exceed a certain amount, must be performed before a Notary Public.
If I’m buying or selling real estate in Mexico, will a Notary Public represent my interests?
The Notary Public is neutral. He won’t represent either buyer or seller. Notaries are required by law to verify certain facts regarding the transaction brought before them (such as if there is a lien on the property that is being sold), but it is not the role of the Notary to negotiate the terms of a contract with your counterpart or to provide you with legal advice on your transaction. The Notary represents the state government and must act in an impartial manner accordingly to what is established in the Notarial Law.
You must be aware that here in Mexico we have different kinds of Notaries. Most of them are competent, knowledgeable and they follow the law, but every now and then you can find those who don’t exactly fit into that description. If you are buying property in Mexico, choosing the right Notary is extremely important because your investment will be protected and therefore you will have peace of mind.
This article is written by Roberto Ortiz Montellano, a licensed attorney who is a member of the Mexican Bar Association and the Mexican Association of Corporate Attorneys. Check his website here.