In 2006, a new law was passed known as Decreto 801, a law which determined what type of structures could be built in coastal areas, including improvements to existing buildings.

On March 20, 2014, this law was replaced by Decreto 160, creating the new “Programa de Ordenamiento Ecológico del Territorio Costero del Estado de Yucatán”, or Ecological Legislation Program of the Coastal Area of the State of Yucatan.

The main difference between the two laws is that with the new law, instead of regulations applying to various waterfront and urban “zones”, each individual lot is assessed. The law applies to all land in a coastal area, not just waterfront land as commonly believed.

For those who have land in a coastal area and plan to build, be sure to get the proper permits. If you begin construction with only a municipal building permit, and don’t get the environmental OK for your construction from SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), you are at risk of having your construction halted, or worse, having to tear it down after it is finished…and to pay some very hefty fines.

The law exists as a way to protect the coastal dunes. These dunes are active, and when they disappear they can bury and destroy entire ecosystems. The problem is when construction is too close to the beach, the dune foliage, which acts as a barrier to erosion, is destroyed, because the waves crash against your house or barrier wall and drag the sand back into the sea. These dunes form belts which protect the adjacent land and keep the beach itself higher than the high tide line. The reason for the construction controls is, simply, to prevent erosion. Homes built before the laws came into effect are exempt.

Let’s all do our part to keep this coast as beautiful as it was when we found it.

For information about the new environmental regulations, and help determining what can be built on your land, contact Celina Cervantes at

Recommended reading:
Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico
Real Estate: Beach Homes
Building and Remodling

Map of the Yucatan Peninsula


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