You Just Bought a Property in Puerto Vallarta, Should you Keep the Pre-Existing Staff?

By Miguel Fernandez and

This is a common question that we receive from our clients. Frequently residents from the United States and Canada are not used to having a housekeeper and a handyman, and they feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of having servants. After all, they did everything themselves back home, why would they want to make someone else do their work in Mexico? We explain to our clients that the housekeeper and the handyman are usually very reliant upon the income that they receive from the property for their livelihood, and that it is extremely important to honor this. Also, the household staff is frequently one of your best resources for information regarding your property. They know the idiosyncrasies of the house and the neighborhood, and frequently have an excellent handle on where to find specialized workers to help with other repairs.
Our advice is to look into getting a recommendation from the previous owner, as well as check into getting references from any other people that the staff has worked with. If they have a great track record, then by all means consider keeping them as your household staff.
It is important to keep your relationship extremely professional with the household staff, and work with your sales agent and an attorney to draw up a contract defining the terms of employment. The contract by the previous owner is no longer valid, once a new owner purchases the property. In fact, the previous owner is obligated to officially terminate the staff members prior to your rehiring them. And, that being said, they are also obligated to pay termination pay to the staff. This is the sellers responsibility, but it’s important for you to understand the legalities:
The termination pay shall include 3-months salary plus 20 days for each year worked plus prorated vacation and Christmas pay.
If you hate math, take a deep breath:
20 days means 20 times the daily rate, which is 1/7 of the weekly rate.
Example: A maid worked 2 days per week for $200 pesos per day for 4 years. That is $400 pesos per week. There are 13 weeks in 3 months. Her daily rate is not $200. It is 400/7 = $57.14. So her termination pay will be (13 x 400) + (20 x 57.14 x 4) = 5200 + 4571.20 = $9771.20 plus any Christmas and vacation pay that may be due.
If the full termination amount cannot be paid at the time of termination, regular salary shall continue until the termination is paid in full.
If the employee quits voluntarily, termination pay is not required.
Bear in mind that Mexico is very pro worker. When an employee is terminated, he is entitled to termination pay unless:
1. The employment was for a specified period of time. Such as, while building a house, or completing some other special project. It is imperative to have the time stipulation in writing.
2. For just cause. This is a VERY complicated issue, and you will most likely need the help of a labor lawyer if the employee appeals to the labor review board. Just cause is spelled out in detail in the law. Your real estate agent can assist you in finding a labor attorney.
Next week we’ll look at employee pay schedules, bonuses and health insurance coverage.


  1. This article regarding staff when property is purchased, answers questions I had back in the early 1980s when on a stopover in Mexico City on our way to Puerto Vallarta. On a bus tour of the city and the pyramids , we were shown the houses of the well to do in Mexico City. I inquired of the bus driver what were the two wings of the large central building used for? I was informant that they were the servants quarters.

    I could not imagine this , for each wing of the building were larger than my three story residence in San Francisco. My home was custom built by my grandparents in 1927, and when completed, occupied two pages of pictures in the leading San Francisco newspaper, pictures of the elegant detached custom built home.

    When I later moved my wife and children into the home, my wife insisted that we remove the servants entrance, and make the downstairs dance floor, into a grandmothers apartment. Although we have had up to 40-50 dinner gusts in our home, we either have had pot luck dinners, or we have done the cooking and cleaning when it was for family occasions like Christmas and thanksgiving.

    I have always done the gardening, even when my grandparents were alive, and when I moved back in, I usually do most of the the gardening, outside painting and roof re-tarring and graveling. We would not think of having servants doing the work in our home, except for contractors that do the speciality work that we cannot do ourselves.

    America’s culture is not about elitism, and paying for others to do the work we can do ourselves. Of course, with the present diversity and influx of immigration, that is all changing. I find that it is better to be innocent until proved guilty, than guilty until I can prove innocence. The old Napoleonic Code may have been good for the Emperor, but is not good for free sovereign citizens.

    I realize that in Mexico, the government will provide a job for all who ask, but in America, we must create new businesses or obtain the education and skills in order to find the job we want.

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