Getting Utilities as a Property Owner in Mexico

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Living in short-term rentals for our first six months in Mexico we didn’t have to think about or deal with service providers for electricity, water, gas, or garbage.

Moving into a place of our own, we had to figure out how to work with an array of public and private utility providers to “keep the lights on” as it were.

This post covers the following topics:

  • Utility providers’ names
  • Do you need accounts in your name?
  • How to view & pay your bills
  • How to request service
  • Details on our monthly costs

 

Electricity is provided to residential and commercial customers by the state-owned monopoly, Comisión Federal de Electricidad, commonly known by its acronym CFE.

Paper copies of your bill are typically dropped in your home’s mailbox on a bi-monthly basis. Though I’ve heard rumors that paper billing will be stopped, it has not happened yet in our area.

When accounts get set up, CFE issues customers a random username for logging into the website. Many customers lose it and get blocked from accessing their accounts.

Instead, I suggest downloading the CFE mobile app to your mobile and managing your account from there, as the app uses your email as the username and a password that you create.

The CFE app allows you to view your account balance, the due date for your next payment, energy usage, and receipts for past payments. It’s also useful for reporting an outage and finding the closest CFE office to your home.

Bi-monthly payments are required by the due date (printed on your bill). These are dates to be taken seriously if you want to keep the lights on.

We inadvertently forgot to pay the bill last fall and had our power cut off. Once this happens to you, it isn’t possible to pay the bill at an Oxxo or 7-Eleven. You must visit a CFE office in person to have it restored, and pay a fee on top of the unpaid balance.

If you Google “CFE” offices in your area, be sure to read the reviews to ensure that it’s still operating, as many offices closed during the pandemic and did not reopen. You can also check for locations on the app.

Online payments are possible if you have a Mexican bank account or a local credit card. If you do not, paying at a CFE office, Oxxo or 7-Eleven is also an option, though convenience stores will tack on a modest service fee of around $10-15 pesos per transaction. A foreign credit card may be used at a CFE office, but not at an Oxxo/7-Eleven.

There are also a variety of apps that can be used to pay utility bills online. Covering them all is out of scope for this post, but one such mobile app is “UnDosTres”, which enables users to pay utility bills quickly and securely on their phones, and conveniently works with a foreign credit card. Read how it works here.

Feel free to share any other payment apps you’re using in the comment section below.

Don’t worry if you do not have the CFE bill in your name when you take over the service. While it may seem odd to an expat, your service will never be cut off for this reason. As one Tapatio told me… They don’t care whose name is on the bill as long as they get paid.

If you’re determined to get the bill changed into your name, you’ll need to visit a CFE office and provide all sorts of identification, a property deed (or rental agreement), and whatever else they ask for, such as an RFC number. We didn’t have one yet and somehow my husband sweet-talked his way into getting the account name changed. He’s good at that; your mileage may vary.

We work from home and use a variety of electronic gizmos. Our bill averages $650 pesos per month, or about $37 USD. This is one utility that can be more expensive than the U.S. and the reason why many gringos that live in hot coastal areas install solar power.

 

Water flowing through your home plumbing in Guadalajara is provided by the public municipal entity, el Sistema Intermunicipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado, commonly referred to by its acronym SIAPA.

When you acquire an existing property, the account will be in the previous owner’s name. If it’s a brand new house you will need to get the service set up yourself.

As with CFE bills, many Mexican households do not have their SIAPA bill in a current resident’s name. This is due to how much bureaucratic red tape is involved with getting the name changed.

To be clear, SIAPA will never cut off your water service for this reason (or anything else).

In Mexico, access to water is considered a human right. It’s embedded in the Mexican Constitution under Article 4, paragraph 6:

“Toda persona tiene derecho al acceso, disposición y saneamiento de agua para consumo personal y doméstico en forma suficiente, salubre, aceptable y asequible.”

For this reason, no one seems to get their service turned off for non-payment. Indeed, a recent investigation by the local newspaper El Mural found that approximately 300,000 customers in the Guadalajara metropolitan area have unpaid debts to SIAPA.

On a more practical note, there’s literally no mechanism to turn it off at the individual property level. That said, I’m not advocating that you act irresponsibly.

For further reading, this article outlines the scope of the problem. Suffice it to say that SIAPA lacks the funds to invest in adequate maintenance and upkeep, with some unfortunate results here in Guadalajara.

Many neighborhoods have been dealing with dirty water emanating from their faucets. After publicly denying the problem for months, SIAPA is now playing catch-up, repairing old, faulty pipes all over town.

Paper water bills are dropped in your mailbox — if you’re lucky — every other month. We once found one of our bills (along with a few neighbors’ bills) blowing in the wind on our street.

You can take your bill to an Oxxo or 7-Eleven to pay in person. Alternatively, it’s possible to pre-pay for the year and receive a discount, with the amount based on the property’s water usage rate in the prior year.

This may be a great deal if usage by a previous resident was modest. In our case, they was a family of four who used vastly more water than my husband and me. Hence it wasn’t a good option initially, even with the discount.

This year our water bill has averaged roughly $510 pesos monthly, or about $29 USD.

Since the water coming from your pipes is never safe to drink, accessing drinking water is a process all its own, which I described in a separate post.

Gas service is by private, for-profit companies via truck directly to your home’s tank. Your property may or may not require gas service. Apartments in Mexico typically don’t need it as they’re generally powered by electricity, whereas houses typically do.

Gas for household needs in Mexico is a mixture of propane and butane gas. In our home, we use gas for cooking and heating water.

After spending any amount of time in Mexico, you’ll begin to notice a lot of gas trucks cruising around.

Some of the more popular ones in Guadalajara are Zeta Gas, Gas Rosa, SoniGas, Gas Perla, and Kiwi Gas. Zeta even has a catchy jingle you may have heard as one of its trucks drives by… ZE-TA, ZE-TA, ZETA Gas.

Reading your meter is pretty straightforward, assuming that you can gain access to it. Ours is on the second story accessible only by ladder, which we didn’t have at first. Hence, we ended up running out of gas within a month of moving into our house!

To request service, just choose a provider and call or message them via their web application (they all have one). Unless it’s a Sunday or a holiday, a service call is normally answered within a few hours.

We typically use Gas Rosa, and get refills every 3-4 months. We’re paying $175 pesos per month on average, or about $10 USD.

Garbage. Garbage collection is a public service in big cities like Guadalajara. Collection days vary by neighborhood, and unlike the States, it’s common to have trash collected multiple times per week.

In our neighborhood, there is general waste collection on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Unfortunately, there’s no curbside recycling service. That said, we’re fortunate in Zapopan to have public bins for our recyclables (glass, plastic, metal, paper, and Tetrapaks) about 5 minutes down the street, which we take there ourselves.

Organic waste (leaves, branches, etc.) also gets collected by the municipal garbage trucks, but only on certain days. As with most things in Mexico, your mileage may vary.

We’re not billed for garbage service in Zapopan; it’s provided for via local taxes. That said, it’s customary to tip the guys collecting garbage 10 pesos or so when you see them. If you have larger items you wish for them to take, offer them a bit more to take it off your hands.

Internet service is a private, for-profit business, just like gas service. To date, we’ve used two different companies, and it has been something of an adventure.

I described our experience with Megacable and TotalPlay in a recent post.

In your first year as an expat and a property owner, dealing with utility providers can be one of the more vexing challenges you’ll face, testing your patience and resourcefulness.

Getting it all dialed in is a critical skill to master. That said, with persistence and a little bit of luck, you should be able to get it all squared away so you can get back to doing something far more enjoyable!

About Live Well Mexico

My name is Dawn Stoner. In 2022, my family sold our house and half of our possessions, then relocated to Guadalajara, Mexico. We now live here full-time.

Since then, we’ve learned how to navigate the real estate market, deal with the Mexican bureaucracy, and manage our finances as expats… all while having a pretty fine time!

I created this blog to help newcomers solve the everyday challenges of living in Mexico, because it isn’t easy figuring all this out for yourself.

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