The construction standards in Ajijic and Chapala depend on how expensive is the house.
My suggestion is to get value, get estimates from different contractors or architects. My advice is to always ask the contractor or the architect if they can refer or if you can call one of the clients to ask about their experience with the contractor being considered, because most of the contractors and the architects will say they have the experience and then later there could be some problems.
I have not heard of a house that collapsed but the problem starts with the details that sometimes in one or two years there might be a little bit of leak, not a lot of water coming in, or problems with the plumbing or electricity. These are usually the most common things.
There is a permitting process, which can be divided into two categories. One, the contractor can provide the permit and there are two permits. One is from the local authorities which means the contractor has to go to the City Hall to get the permit and in order to have that they have to manifest the area of construction, the details of if it’s going to be one or two floors, etc. Once they have that they have to have an architect drawing, like a plan, and then also the second permit is IMSS and that is really important. If the contractor does not give their customer the IMSS release, when the owners want to sell their house the realtors would ask for the release from IMSS. Why? Because if a contractor does a remodeling or a new house and does not have the IMSS release, the IMSS can seek payment and penalties from the owner of the construction up to 10 years later. The construction workers need to be registered in the IMSS. The release you should receive from your contractor states that the construction was done and the construction workers received IMSS, which is the medical attention. So it’s really important because if one of the contractors does not provide IMSS and one of the workers gets into an accident or dies, one option is that IMSS can come to the homeowner and the homeowner would have to pay for the medical costs related to the accident of the worker. So if you are the owner of a construction project, make sure that you have a signed contract by the contractor where the contractor guarantees that they are going to be in charge of the workers, that there is not any legal liability or medical liability of all the workers that are working. The homeowner should be protected because usually the contractor is the one that supposed to get the construction permit and the IMSS permit to do that. So once they have a really good contract then if something happens and the contractor did not get the IMSS, did not get the permit and some accident happens to the workers then automatically it’s the responsibility of the contractor if there is a contract. But if there’s not a contract then there is a good possibility that at the end the homeowner is going to be responsible. Anywhere in Mexico, just as in the US, ignorance of the law is no protection from it.
These permits are when the construction is not in a housing development or a private condo area. When a foreigner buys a property in a private condominium area or a housing development, they also have to get approval from the neighbors association of that condo in order to approve the construction, which adds a third permit: the condo from the neighbors association inside of the condo then the construction permit and then the IMSS permit. If a person lives in the condo and goes directly to the City Hall to get a work permit, they will not issue it unless they have approval of the committee or the neighbors association that belongs to that housing development or that condominium.
(Traditional home, Ajijijc, Mexico, pictured.)