The Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone is the strip of twenty meters wide of the mainland, walkable and contiguous to the beach.
The Federal Zone comprises Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone (ZOFEMAT), and Reclaimed Land (terrenos ganados al mar), land gained from the sea.
Both Zofemat and Reclaimed Land are part of the Federal Zone belonging to the Mexican nation and administered through SEMARNAT (Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales).
The Federal Zone not only pertains to beaches but also borders of rivers, lakes, highways, and lagoons.
Buying beachfront property does not mean you own the beach nor can you restrict people from swimming or using the beach in front of your home. It is important to understand that obstructing public property, such as blocking people’s access to the beach can result in up to 12 years in prison and a fine between 300 and 1,000 times the daily minimum wage – approximately $5500. USD.
The Federal Zone controls the 20 meters from the high tide line. Although owners can apply for a permit/commission of rights for the land in front of their property no one including Mexican nationals can own this property.
Examples of this commission may include hotels or restaurants wanting use of the beach for a patio or lounge chairs or individual homeowners who do not want a food stand popping up in front of their home. The concession is temporary, and the government may renew them for specific periods.
The concessions/permits are granted according to the intended use, for example; protection, adornment, economic activities or general use. In the tourist areas, the permits are typically awarded to tourist facilities such as beach clubs and restaurants.
Foreigners cannot apply for the concession directly; they must request it through the fideicomiso.
It is recommended to request the concession before the fideicomiso is drafted, although it may be altered later, the amendment process will require consent from the trustee.
Discuss performing due diligence regarding the Federal Zone with your lawyer before you acquire beachfront property. If a concession already exists on the property, it is vital that all the rights are transferred to your fideicomiso as part of the transaction to avoid issues down the road.