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The Acquisitive Prescription of Ejidal Lands In Mexico

By Odilisa Gutiérrez - Odilisa Gutiérrez Mendoza & Asociados
Founding Partner and CEO

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Odilisa Gutiérrez By Odilisa Gutiérrez | Founding Partner and CEO - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 13:00

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The acquisitive prescription of ejido (communal) lands in Mexico is a topic of great relevance in the field of agrarian law, since it addresses the possibility of acquiring ownership of ejido lands through continuous, public, and peaceful possession during a determined period. In this article, I will examine the legal framework that regulates the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands in Mexico, the necessary requirements for it to proceed, and the practical implications for ejidatarios and those interested in acquiring ejido lands.

The ejidal property system in Mexico is a sui generis regime established in the  Mexican Constitution, which recognizes and protects social property as a form of property different from private property. The Agrarian Law regulates the ejido system and establishes the applicable rules for the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands, which can be acquired even without previously having agrarian status, as through this process, the right of legal possessor of parceled lands belonging to the ejido is also obtained.

The Agrarian Law establishes in its article 48 that the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands is possible when the person interested in acquiring them owns a plot as holder of ejidatario rights, in a peaceful, public, and uninterrupted manner, for five years if in good faith or 10 years if in bad faith. There are other requirements. These include that the entire parcel be owned, that it is not forest or jungle, that it is not a human settlement reserve and that the person prescribing is an individual.

Before determining whether the described requirements are met, we must keep in mind that the only ejido surfaces that can be subject to prescription are the plots, given that common-use lands and common plots, such as the school plot, the women's plot, or even the youth development plot, are parcels that belong to the ejido for their common exploitation; therefore, they cannot be considered plots for the purposes of prescription.

Regarding the concept of “holder of ejidatario,” it is important to highlight that it is not required to be an ejidatario previously; it refers to having acquired the plot from whoever was the owner and that he has acted as authentic holder, as if he were a person more of a member of the agrarian nucleus with the right to possess, as if it were the owner of that agrarian right, which is demonstrated with the cession of the ejido rights contract and/or sales contract, because although this is not possible in the ejido regime, it is necessary to point out that the figure legal of acquisitive prescription is resorted to when the title that gives the right to possess, and with which it is intended to prescribe, is imperfect.

Regarding peaceful possession, it implies that the land has not been violently possessed and that during the period of possession it is being held in peace, that there are no acts that dispute possession as the owner; however, it is important to notice that if there were any dispute, the computation of the prescription time is interrupted and that if the claim is unfounded, it will continue.

When the law establishes that it must be public, it refers to the fact that it must be possessed in view of others, which implies that it is known to the neighboring people that it is possessed there and that whoever owns that area is the one who intends to prescribe, which is say, not to be on ejido lands without others seeing it.

With respect to the requirement related to uninterrupted holding, it must be considered that the land has not been abandoned, since precisely the acquisitive prescription against the owner-seller is the loss of that right due to the negligence in abandoning the land.

Possession in good faith implies that the possessor is unaware of the existence of any legal obstacle that prevents him from acquiring ownership of ejido land, and that he acts under the belief that possession is legitimate. On the contrary, in bad faith it belongs to those who know the defects of the document through which they entered to possess the plot.

The procedure to request the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands is jurisdictional and must be requested before the Unitary Agrarian Court (TUA) corresponding to the jurisdiction where the plot object of the prescription is located. The interested party must present a claim in which he exposes the facts and circumstances that justify his claim, as well as the evidence that proves the requirements.

Undoubtedly, the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands in Mexico is a legal mechanism that allows the acquisition of ownership of plots under certain conditions, which can generate investment and development opportunities in the social sphere, such as the coasts of our country. However, this can also give rise to conflicts and controversies between the ejidatarios and those interested in acquiring ejido lands, as well as possible abuses and dispossessions, which must be avoided since it is ensured that when it is intended to prescribe it, it is carried out in strict adherence to the law.

Therefore, it is essential that both ejidatarios and those interested in acquiring ejido land are aware of their rights and obligations in agrarian matters and especially in relation to acquisitive prescription, and that they seek specialized legal advice in agrarian law to carry out the actions necessary to protect their interests and avoid future conflicts that put at risk the investment for the businessman and the possession and exploitation of the land by the ejidatario.

In this sense, ejidatarios must be alert to situations in which third parties occupy their land without authorization or through informal agreements, since such situations could give rise to acquisitive prescription if the requirements established in the Agrarian Law are met. Likewise, the ejidatarios can adopt preventive measures, such as the execution of lease contracts or other legal instruments that regulate the occupation of their lands and avoid possession suitable for prescription by third parties, always making it clear that possession is delivered temporarily and not as owner.

On the other hand, those interested in acquiring ejido land through acquisitive prescription should be aware that this mechanism is not a quick or easy way to obtain ownership of ejido land, since it implies complying with strict requirements and undergoing a judicial process that can be complex and lengthy. In addition, it is important to note that the acquisitive prescription only refers to parceled land and, therefore, is not applicable to land for common use, which cannot be subject to individual appropriation.

In conclusion, the acquisitive prescription of ejido lands in Mexico is a highly relevant issue in the field of agrarian law, which poses challenges and opportunities for both ejidatarios and those interested in acquiring this type of land. To address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities adequately, it is essential to have a solid legal foundation with specialists in agrarian law.

Photo by:   Odilisa Gutiérrez

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