10. August 2010 21:14
It may seem at first glance that everything at Lake Chapala is just like back home – after all we tout our groups and events that meet each month in English, the high speed internet, satellite service and grocery store filled to the rafters with imported items and a new mall with movie theater, Walmart and Domino’s Pizza are lined along the highway at the edge of town.
Don’t let your eyes fool you. Lakeside is a series of small Mexican villages – occupied mostly by…Mexicans. Expats are still less than 10% of the local population – yes, even in Ajijic! And our world revolves on a Mexican clock which functions thanks to a Mexican power company. We cook on gas stoves supplied by local delivery trucks and we answer phones with lines installed and maintained by the world’s richest man – Carlos Slim.
You’ll find that the common daily operating systems of all of these common utilities (along with the water, cable/satellite and cell phone service) have surprises for all newcomers.
Here’s a list of tips to give you a head’s up on some of the twists and turns that await those who live here.
- When a buyer purchases a home or a renter moves from one house to another, the utilities are not turned off. Instead, the utilities (and taxes) are prorated fairly according to the amount of time each party is in the house.
- Before making an offer on a home or signing a lease to rent a house, be sure to check the written inventory of goods that will remain in the house. Be absolutely certain that the stationary gas tank, the telephone line with number xxx-xxxx and the satellite system's dish, descrambler or tuner box(es), motor and other necessary equipment are specifically listed. It’s not good enough to say telephone and/or satellite dish.
- At closing, the buyer receives copies of the current paid electric and telephone bills, letters to the electric and telephone companies transferring the accounts to the buyer and copies of the seller's identification papers so that the utilities can be put in the buyer’s name.
- The buyer's broker withholds a small amount of money from the seller's final money until all of the outstanding utility bills have been received and prorated.
- The buyer must contract for their own new cable or satellite TV programming service.
- The electric and phone bills must be paid on time, even if you don't receive them.
- Because all homes use propane gas for cooking, clothes drying and most for water heating (a few have solar heaters) there is no regular bill. You must be home when the gas is delivered and you must pay for the gas in cash.
- Even if your neighborhood or your house does not receive water, cable, electricity or telephone service for several days or weeks, you will not be eligible for a proportionate refund or credit on the bill.
- Many newer homes have installed water pressure systems to move water through the house. When there's no electricity to power the pump, there is no water. Don't remove the tinaco (rooftop tank). Instead pipe the water through it with your pressure system, and have a valve so you could switch to gravity flow if necessary.
- Because the electric company charges more per kilowatt hour as your usage climbs, you might be able to lower you bill by installing a second meter. Dividing the kilowatt hours just might do the trick.
Mexican utility companies
Learning to maneuver through the maze of gas delivery, Telmex red tape and delays, CFE's complicated billing practices and paying your water bill annually takes some time, some Spanish and some patience.
These utility challenges is just one of the reasons we suggest that new residents at Lake Chapala rent first—the rental manager will pay your bills from a management account you set up in their office, along with your first and last rent and security deposit. With someone else paying your bills, you'll just need to remember to visit the office once a month to replenish the management account and pay the rent.
Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living
at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region,
in the state of Jalisco.
Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly
newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico
Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.
Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about
the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.