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Building in Yucatán: Permits and contracts for Mérida’s historic center

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Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

In Mérida, construction permits are different depending on the area in which you’re building. As the Centro Histórico is one of the most popular neighborhoods for newcomers, there are some technical — and legal considerations to keep in mind.

Facade in the Historic Center, near Santa Ana. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Now, it’s true that it is the builder’s job to know and obtain the legal permits for the work, but as the owner of the property, it is important to be aware of the needs and obligations to stay in compliance with the law. After all, if permits are not correctly obtained, the fine will be on you — not the builder.

These fines can be up to US$20,000 and can include the cancelation of the construction and in extreme cases even jail time.

Remodeling under-way in the Historic Center, by architecture firm Arkilätt. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Standard building license

This is the first document you’ll want to obtain, as it grants owners the rights to build, expand, modify, repair, dismantle or demolish the facility’s existing constructions. This permit authorizes constructions with a range greater than 45 square meters, for any surface on the top floor and walls with a height greater than 2.50 meters, on the land or real estate for residential use. 

It is absolutely necessary to avoid penalties or shut-downs of the construction site. It is obtained via the City Council from the Urban Development Department.

When requesting it, you will need:

  1. Copy of the testimony of the property deed of the land or real estate, printout of the image of the entry of the current registration, or document that proves the possession. 
  2. Proof that you are up to date in the payment of your property taxes — known as predial.
  3. Copy of your business licence (only applies for commercial purposes).
  4. In case of remodeling and/or expansion, submit two letters or double letter size plans of the house, as required by the magnitude of the project, with measurements, scales and surfaces of the work to be done with the signature of a Municipal Construction Surveyor (PCM), with sowing on the lot where the existing work and the new work are indicated, clearly indicating the construction or expansion to be done.
  5. In the case of newly constructed single-family dwellings, you will need two copies of the ink or printed plan, with measurements, scales and areas of the work to be done, with the signature of a PCM.
  6. In case of not being the owner, written proof from the owner, with a copy of official identification, stating his consent and authorization of the work to be done.

Building permit for historic sites

Now, although this is standard procedure for any construction in Mérida, if you’re planning on building — or remodeling — in the Centro Histórico area, you’ll also need to consider the INAH permit. 

Homes in front of Santa Ana park, within the limits of the Historic Centro. Photo: Verónica Garibay

The INAH in Yucatán, or National Institute of Anthropology and History, works with the City Council to consolidate and preserve the Historic Center, which is 3 square miles centered by the Plaza Grande.

Streets around the historic center, in downtown Mérida. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Although the buildings are privately owned, when dealing with historical sites you will need authorization on facade touch-ups, space requirements, minimum green areas, among others.

To obtain this permit, present the following documentation: 

  1. Complete set of architectural plans of the current state of the monument.
  2. Complete set of architectural plans (floor plans, cuts and facades), with architectural details, specifications of materials, finishes and dimensions of the project or preliminary project.
  3. Color photographic sequence of the entire street where the property is located and showing the height of the adjoining properties and places where the work will be carried out.
  4. Descriptive report of the works and specifications.
  5. Copy of the Registration of the Director Responsible for the Work or copy of the Professional License of the architect responsible for the work. 
  6. Legal documents that accredit the ownership of the property. 
  7. Copy of the alignment with a valid official number. 
  8. Valid land use zoning certificate, issued by the local authority. 

They respond in 10 days from the receipt of the request. If you do not obtain an answer in the specified time, you should consider your request denied, and checking up with your construction manager – or INAH itself is recommended.

Previously in Yucatán Magazine: Keeping a colonial renovation on a budget

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