Renters Beware: Baja Tom Does It Again

Over the last 3 years we’ve had about 7 people contacting us regarding problems with rent deposits not being given back after contracts are over. One of those people was so angry and felt so frustrated that decided to pay us to publish an ad in the paper for a couple of editions, since we’ve heard about this problem before we decided to keep printing the ad for free. The ad is still being printed in the classified section of our paper.

Today we received another complaint from another tenant, a lady that claims to have given notice to him that he was leaving the house on January before Tommy Springer just went ballistic on her, this is her original message on social media:

“Many of you know Tom Springer… I just told him January will probably be my last month in a rental… Hes giving me 24 hours to vacate before he comes in and changes locks, poisons my dogs, and takes off with my deposit and rent. I know rights are very different here… Does anybody have any advice??”

We’ve heard everywhere about Tommy’s victims in La Mision, we’ve written about it before and will continue to do it to try and help other people from falling victims to his scam.

He always refuses to give back the deposit by plain lying to people, saying he will get them their money whenever the property gets rented, which of course is not true.

In the latest complaint we got the tenant stated that Tommy threatened to hire guys to rape her. That’s typical from him. When we printed the “Renters Beware” ad on this newspaper, Tommy called and said he was going to murder the publisher of this paper stating that he knew the car he drove and his even his VIN number.

If you’re one of his victims or know someone that is, we highly recommend to go over to the police station and file a report for threats, it will not get him arrested but if we can get enough people to file reports he could sure get himself deported from Mexico.

Policemen Protest And Take City Hall

About 900 municipal police agents from Ensenada took to the streets yesterday protesting that their salary, that was due on the 23rd, wasn’t paid yet. They were also complaining that their holiday bonus hasn’t been paid and is already two weeks due.

The group marched from the Macroplaza mall in Transpeninsular all the way to City Hall with signs and banners demanding the payment of their salary.

“Policeman live day to day, if we don’t get paid, we don’t have means to feed our family, I say this so citizens of Ensenada can understand us, we are not doing this because we like it, we need that money in our homes and delays in our salary can’t happen” said Rafael Ruiz, local agent.

A local cop salary starts at about $650 USD per month. Of course it can be more, depending on their rank and seniority.

Other policeman complained that their credit score was affected when the last city administration didn’t make payments on loans the agents got, even when those payments where directly discounted from their paychecks.

Before the day ended, their salary was deposited into their bank accounts but not yet their holiday bonus.

City officials said they were doing everything in their power to get more resources in order pay the amount they owe the police and that they were hoping to make the payment on the holiday bonus this coming Friday.

 

With information from El Vigia

Reflections on the Baja 1000

Congratulations to Justin Morgan of El Cajon, CA, whose Honda (Pro Moto Unlimited Class) crossed the finish line 28 seconds ahead of Second Place Winner Cameron Steel of San Clemente, CA, in his SCORE Trophy Truck.

In all, there were 285 entrants, most of whom were from SoCal, although there were a few from widely scattered places such as Las Vegas, NV, and other regions such as Utah, Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico, plus Mexicans from places such as Mexico City, Puebla and yes, Ensenada!

The Baja 1000 is a grueling event, and the only vehicles that make it to the finish line have been constructed to withstand severely rigorous conditions. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart: The drivers take a beating along with the pounding endured by their cars or trucks.

Not everyone affected by the presence of the racers and their entourages is a fan of these events (the Baja 1000 is held annually in mid-November, while the Baja 500 begins May 30th and ends June 3rd), but like it or not, these events appear to be traditions that are here to stay.

In their defense, they bring a voluminous amount of revenue to the city coffers. The hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes and bars are filled to capacity, prior to and during the events.

Contrarily, they cause local traffic mayhem that raises the blood pressure and tries the patience of the local residents, who still have to go to work, school or place of worship, and have to do so in many instances by adjusting their schedules and their usual routes. Blvd Costero (the coast road), from Playa Hermosa to the end of town is the focal point of the race, and is especially constricted in the area bordered by the Riviera, CEARTE and Museo Carocol. That’s where the racers set up their trailers and pits and retail kiosks. Local vendors also set up food carts. Musicians roam the area. Foot traffic is heavy, vehicle traffic is highly restricted.

As a result, many motorists choose to use alternate roadways, such as Pedro Loyola and Reforma, thereby causing congestion on those arteries as well.

Ultimately, there is a traffic burden testing everyone’s patience from Zona Centro to Playa Hermosa, and all primary routes into and out of  the city.

I used to experience angry meltdowns when caught in one of these traffic traps, but eventually I learned to roll with it.

Now I actually enjoy the festive atmosphere and the period of lucrative exchange that the local vendors enjoy serving our strange but wealthy visitors from other worlds.

The operative word is “wealthy.” In case you hadn’t noticed, the vehicles that are trailored into town to compete in these big events are expensive, and their entourages include pit crews, mechanics, family members, support vehicles carrying spare parts, etc.

The drivers themselves are either rich and/or have sponsors with deep pockets.

Anyway, my change of heart came about a couple of years ago. I was in the parking lot of a Calimax in Zona Centro, preparing to use their ATM, when one of those monster trucks pulled up next to me and parked.

When its driver went into the store, I got out of my car to take a close look at the thing, marvelling at all the expensive hardware adorning it. I noticed a skinny, pimply-faced teenage boy sitting shotgun, watching me gawk at the truck.

“Wow, quite a machine,” I offered.

“Yeah, it’s my Dad’s! He’s really proud of it. He works on it all the time. It’s kind of his hobby,” the little geek replied.

“Hobby?!?” I thought. “Wow…”

Well, who am I to judge? There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy and building a great big gas-guzzling monster truck, is there?

And heck, who’s to blame the guy for taking it to a foreign country, tearing up a few thousand acres of desert, perhaps accidentally killing a few indigenous and/or domesticated animals (and the occasional human being), for sport and profit?

Welcome to Baja! Thanks for coming! See y’all in a few months, when we can all share and enjoy the desert together.

Anthony’s Bar Building On Fire Once Again

Yesterday morning a once popular bar in Ensenada caught fire for the second time, on its top floor, where it has several rooms for rent.

The fire was reportedly caused by a failure on the electrical wiring of the building. Local firemen where able to control it in a little less than an hour with no one injured.

Four years ago, on September 2, 2014, the same top floor of the building caught fire, at that time authorities said the fire could had been intentional, but no one was apprehended.

The bar, that was almost a landmark in Ensenada with its huge gorilla, has been out of business for a couple of years now.

Watch out for those Santa Ana winds

Health authorities from Baja are recommending staying at home when Santa Ana winds are active. Problems in the respiratory tract, eyes and skin have been reported during the winds, and thus they are recommending staying home with doors and windows closed.

Dr. David Perez, chief of medical services, stated that these winds affect the health because they carry a lot of dirt with them because of the severe dryness. He also recommended to stay away from street food during this condition, as it can get easily contaminated by pathogens in the wind and can induce gastric diseases.

Perez emphasized the importance of drinking enough water and making sure house pets have enough clean water, which should be changed more often to avoid having them drink contaminated liquids.

Do we really need more signs?

At least in Ensenada, authorities and business leaders think so. The third ENSENADA “letters” sign was officially inaugurated in the cruise ships terminal, focused on more national motifs than regional, since it’s almost exclusively going to be seen by cruisers. The sign features the agave plant, charros and the Aztec calendar.

The first one was installed in Playa Hermosa, featuring local animals; the second one, featuring a cruise ship and the cranes in the port, was placed in the “Ventana al Mar” Malecon.

Each of these signs is costing around $7,500 USD and the original project planned for 8, some in the city, one in San Quintin and other ones in the Guadalupe Valley.

The money is coming from a trust managed by local business people, called FIDEM, funded by the state government, through giving back 5% of all payroll taxes that businesses paid during the year.

There is one more sign at the entrance of Ensenada, but that one was placed in there by our tourism officials with federal funds, as they have done in most tourist cities in Mexico.

Fish Report

Tijuana Bull Ring

Local action has been slow recently — not many bonito or bass, and just a fair number of little rock fish. Out west in the flats, however, the skipjack fishing has been great.

Coronado Islands

After a month or so of very little action, the 10- to 15-pound yellowtail are back on the bite.

The word we have is that yellowtail were seen on the rockfish area just to the NE of North Island and were taking the 6x jr., 6x and 7x yoyo iron, fished on 40- to 50-pound monofilament. Scrambled egg and blue/white were working well also.

Along with the yellowtail, a bunch of 4- to 6-pound bonito were seen spread out along the weather side of North Island.

Offshore

Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.
Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.

Below the 425 / Upper Hidden & Hidden Bank

This zone continues to be the best bet for yellowfin, with the most productive area being below 32.06, down in the Upper Hidden Bank area.

There is a temp break running east/west at that number. Temps are below 68°F, and to the north of it as well as 68°F to 69°F to the south.

The yellowfin, skipjack, yellowtail and dorado have nearly all been kelps now with not a lot of open-water jig stops happening.

The average-size yellowfin has been small, mainly from 6- to 10-pounds, with a few up around 20-pounds. The skippies were in the 5- to 8-pound range. The yellowtail have been little rats, from 1- to 3-pounds and the dorado have been small as well, from 5- to 10-pounds.

Lower 9 / Coronado Canyon / 425 / Upper Hidden / Hidden Bank

A couple of boats went exploring and checked out this area today. They didn’t find a lot of fish — in fact, most of the area was a barren desert, but they did find a couple of kelps which produced good numbers of yellowfin and skipjack along with a sample of rat yellowtail.

295 / 238 / 450 / 1140 Finger / Lower 500

Still the location where the biggest scores of yellowfin were coming from, but with a catch: 95% are on kelp paddies.

Easy limits of 6- to 35-pound yellowfin, along with some skipjack, yellowtail and a lone dorado were caught recently.

Most of the area is a desert now as well, with lots of dead water; but be sure and check out any kelp or any dolphin you run into, because these could be holding yellowfin.

Ensenada

Captain Louie Prieto checked in, reporting that for the last couple of weeks, yellowtail fishing has been spotty, but the big bonito and bottom fish have been biting full speed. Water was 63°F to 66°F inside the bay and has been flat and calm most days.

Several high spots at Bahia Salsipuedes were producing sand bass to 7-pounds, reds and chuckleheads to 5-pounds and one nice 23-pound sheepshead on a large root beer colored scampi tipped with squid. Best action was in 120- to 150-feet of water for all the bottom fish. There were several nice bonito on blue and white salas 6x jr. between Punta Pescadero and the Gas Plant. No birds were working anywhere in the bay, but when bait was found on the meter, the bonito have been found as well. Also, lots of bonito are reported a couple of miles inside of the southern end of Todos Santos Island. None of the deeper “go to” spots seem to be holding any yellowtail yet. Only a matter of time until they show. Live bait is not available until probably April, so bring squid.

San Quintin

Only a few groups recently. Troy Hutton, plus some amigos from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., found excellent action fishing aboard Captain Kelly Catian’s 25-foot Parker Offshore III, scoring a mix of yellowtail, big red rock cod and lingcod.

Bahia de Los Angeles

Currently, in a November tease mode with nice weather and only moderate breezes in the afternoons, most if not all the yellowtail action was dropper loop stuff, fishing at depths of 200-feet or so around the Islands. Cabrilla, grouper and pargo was also in the mix closer to shore. So far, north winds have not cranked up to full winter mode.

Mexican Land Trusts, Big IRS implications

I was intrigued by a recent presentation by a Mexican bank on the subject of Fideicomisos (land trusts). By way of a quick primer, ownership of real property in the “restricted zone” (100 km from borders, 50 km from shore) by a foreigner must be done through a Fideicomiso.

As it turns out, Mexican banks have a monopoly on this Fideicomiso business. The bank’s role is to hold the title to property on your behalf. One can direct the disposition of the property; sell, give away, or otherwise encumber the property. ‘Fidos’ are good estate planning vehicles from the Mexican perspective. At death, the property is transferred via the trust, perhaps a more efficient mechanism than Mexican probate.

Some banks appear to be pulling out of the “fido” market. When I asked why, I was told there is increased emphasis on anti-money laundering compliance by bank regulators, which to me means there may be a new spotlight on this market segment.

One of the reasons I attended was to see how much awareness there was on the part of bank officials on the federal income tax aspects of Fidos.  None. Zilge-ola. That means you, the person who may need to enter into a fido to own property, must pay special attention, because the bank won’t tell you.

Here’s the rub. What may work from a Mexican perspective may be sheer disaster from a U.S. tax perspective. Properly structured fidos (meaning they meet IRS requirements) are deemed to be “disregarded entities,” and the IRS will not bother you. When they are not, they become IRS ‘radioactive’. They become reportable foreign trusts. Every time there is an IRS reportable ‘anything’ you have better had done it right from the beginning.

“Good” fidos have only one property in them.  At the presentation it seemed like it was common to add more than one property per fido. Again, ok from the Mexican point of view, but runs afoul of IRS ‘safe harbors’. In fact, bank officials later confirmed they gladly would add properties to an existing fideicomiso, for a fee.

Another trait of “good” fidos:  They do nothing but hold title to property. Be wary of the bank doing other things for the property; managing it, paying taxes or other things. The IRS does not like that.

Food for thought:  New owner, new trust, or just substitute the name? Does one inherit the federal tax troubles of the last fido owner?

Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (with a Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court and other taxing agencies.  His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to federal and state tax matters of U.S. expats in Mexico.  He can be reached at tax@orlandogotay.com or Facebook: GotayTaxLawyer.  This is just a most general outline. It is informational only and not meant as legal advice.

Growing Pains

We Ensenadenses are experiencing a metamorphosis the pulse and pace of which are increasing exponentially.

Even as we traverse the same streets and boulevards en route to our usual places of work or worship, of play or passion, we notice that seemingly in the blink of an eye, a new monolith rises from the rocky soil, a skeleton of steel shrouded in concrete and adorned with neon. And within minutes of its birth, it becomes alive with the energy of people who have found a need to enter and explore it, to patronize it, even though it didn’t even exist seemingly moments ago.

As one who has lived here only seven years, I find the growth exhilarating. During my relatively brief presence here, I have commented on the recent efforts by our mayor to improve the infrastructure of the city.

For that praise (especially regarding the major street repaving projects) I have received some sharp criticism.

Perhaps because I referred to those areas of the city over which I traverse regularly, finding many of the once-devastated avenues so plagued with potholes as to represent a danger to the undercarriage of my car, now properly repaired and delineated.

I was excoriated by several people who own homes here and pay taxes and whose neighborhood streets still look like downtown Saigon during the Nixon administration.

Forgive me. I am forever the optimist.

But even I am beginning to wonder if this tidal wave of new construction can continue without some tipping point of reality to cause the boom to bust.

Why?

Because even with a brand-new desalination plant now fully operational, we still experience water shut-offs, although admittedly less frequent and shorter in duration.

Even with a new fleet of garbage trucks from Los Angeles roaming the streets, the problem of litter is still appalling. One reader sent me a photo of medical waste spilling out from an open dumpster on 14th Street at Ruiz.

And even with the massive effort to repair the minefields that comprise our network of roads, there are still so many left to upgrade that the prospect of complete success seems daunting, if not quite completely impossible.

But again, I am forever the optimist. During one of my deliveries, I entered the Baja Pharmacy on Calle Blancarte, next door to the Casa Del Sol Hotel. I noticed a small black-and-white photo on the counter, depicting the storefronts on La Primera (“The Avenue,” or 1st Street, the shopping mecca for the tourists from the cruise ships), taken decades ago.

I asked Jose Ibarra, the proprietor, about the photo.

“Where was that picture taken?” I asked.

“Right across the street,” he replied, pointing to the new La Primera Restaurant on the adjacent corner. “I’ve been here for over 50 years, in this same spot, and I’ve watched all these new businesses crop up, and seen the skyline of the city change over the years.”

That says it all, folks. Build it and the people will come. If it doesn’t work, we’ll find a way to fix it.

The people are coming, there is no doubt about it. The influx of population seems always to be one step ahead of the infrastructure, and the people may bitch about it but they won’t leave, because the truth of the matter is that regardless of its problems, Ensenada’s enchantment far exceeds its challenges.

Otherwise, why would Jose have stayed all these years?

I can’t imagine how amazing it must be for anyone of any age who was born and raised here to remember the place of their childhood and compare it to the city as it is now.

It’s a beautiful city and we all want it to work.

I guess we’ll just have to cooperate with each other; we can figure it out as we go.

Dealing With An Emergency Here If You Don’t Speak Spanish

Expat911 is a smart phone app that was designed by expats for expats.  It is a service that covers you for all types of emergencies when at home, on the road or out for a night on the town.  It utilizes GPS location services which allow the operators to target your exact location.  Many of us may have the capability to say our home address to Mexico’s Spanish speaking 911 operators, but what happens when we are in an unfamiliar area?  How can you explain where you are when you have no idea what the names of the streets are in the area during your emergency?  Also, how will you explain in detail about the type of emergency you are having?

Expat911 is an app that works on Android and iPhone devices.  Within the app you have a profile with information that will speed up the process when reporting an emergency.  You have a basic medical profile which has your blood type, allergies and sicknesses.  There is also a contact area where users can add 1 US/Canada contact and 2 Mexico contacts.  Expat911 will notify these contacts after your emergency has been reported to Mexico’s 911 on your behalf.  This way your family back home will know about your situation and so will the people that you trust here in Mexico.  The Mexico contacts can be neighbors or local doctors that speak English.  Many times our neighbors can come to our aid while we are awaiting the emergency services to arrive.  The Mexico contacts can also be used for our insurance agents or medical air evacuation plans that we may have in place.

So how does Expat911 work during an emergency?  You only have to click on one of the 3 emergency buttons.  There is a button for Police, Ambulance and Fire.  Within seconds an English speaking operator will call your phone and verify the emergency.  If you do not pick up, then they will assume that this is a serious emergency and report to Mexico’s 911 on your behalf.  If you answer, they will verify some quick details about your emergency and then call Mexico’s 911 to report the emergency.  Once the emergency has been reported, they will then confirm this with the user.  At this time they will stay on the phone with you if you request them to, or they will start calling your emergency contacts.  So it is very simple to use during an emergency and all you have to do is click a button.  They will take care of the rest.  They also record all calls so that there is a record of the emergency being reported to Mexico’s 911 and the call with the user as well.

Expat911 does have a cost to use their service.  It is important to understand that this is a 3rd party service who worked directly with Mexico’s C4 and C5 offices around the country.  C4 and C5 are the agencies that handle all 911 calls in Mexico.  Expat911 has a direct line of communication with all local C4 and C5 offices nationwide.  It is also important to realize the value of this service.  An alarm in our home has a cost of 1,000’s of pesos to install.  Then we pay an average of 250 pesos per month to have the service in case our alarm goes off.  So the yearly fee of an alarm in Mexico is 3,000 pesos on average.  This alarm system will only cover your home and you while you are at home.  There is no translation services included with your alarm company and you are only covered for police emergencies.  This is why we see the huge value in Expat911 which has a cost of $ 99.00 per year.  That cost is under 2,000 pesos per year and will cover you everywhere within Mexico.  Plus Expat911 has the added benefits of being 100% English spoken and contacting your friends and loved ones during your emergency.

Expat911 has recently implemented a couples plan.  The first user pays the full amount upon registration.  They will then contact Expat911 to ask for a coupon code which will be used on their spouse or family members.  The user will be provided with a 50% off coupon code for any other family members that wish to use the service.  So it is not just limited to your spouse and can also be used for you children, brothers and sisters who may also be living here in Mexico with you.  All additional accounts have a fee of $ 49.50 which is 50% of the original rate.

Expat911 is already serving a large number of expats in Mexico.  They have active users in 11 states and are growing daily.  It is a great service for those of us who have not been able to develop a strong command of the Spanish language.  It is also great for those of us who do speak Spanish well enough, but might worry about the stress during an emergency hampering our ability to speak another language.  It is also a great aid when we are traveling to an area that is unfamiliar to us.

If you are interested in using this service, we highly recommend reaching out to the company.  You can visit their website here:  https://www.expat911.mx/ref/baja/  If you have any questions about the registration process or require assistance, then you can email them directly at info@expat911.mx.  You can also request a call from them by sending an email and setting up a time to speak with a representative.

Send this to a friend