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Buying land in thailand
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  1. #1
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    Thai property law states that with a few exceptions – like a Board of Investment approval or suitcases full of money deposited in a Thai bank – foreigners are not allowed to own freehold land. They can only lease the land for a maximum of 30 years. But Thai law has many grey areas; in fact, it seems at times it has more grey areas than black and white areas.

    In 1999, the government lurched out of the 19th century to amend the property law to allow a Thai spouse (male or female) of a foreigner to buy land.

    Unfortunately it only lurched as far as the early 20th century. For the spouse to buy land, proof is required that the money used to purchase the land is legally the Thai partner’s, with no foreign claim to it. Get divorced or separated and the Thai “ex” gets to keep it all. Even if the Thai spouse dies, the foreigner has no claim to the land and there is nothing to stop the relatives from moving in (if they haven’t already) and booting you out.

    If you want a house to call your own without the prospect of your spouses’ relatives circling hungrily, this is not a good option.

    Most foreigners who “own” land and houses – as opposed to condos, which can be owned outright – go for a leasehold agreement of typically 30 years, with two prepaid 30-year renewals. The lease will include clauses that automatically allow freehold ownership if the laws of foreign ownership change in the future, and the right to sell and/or transfer the property.

    This gives you 90 years with strong backup, making it effectively ownership.

    Just to complicate things a little, while you can only lease land, all the buildings – either on the land when it was purchased, or improved or built by you after purchasing the land, are yours freehold. Technically this means that once the lease expires, the owner of the land must purchase the building(s) at an independently and legally valued price, or negotiate another lease period. God knows how that can work.

    The structure of a lease agreement needs to be watertight. But because this has become the preferred way of holding land in Thailand for foreigners, this type of lease agreement has become more or less a template, with add-ons to suit individual buyer’s needs.

    But don’t draw it up yourself. Get the advice of a lawyer versed in such things. And don’t sign anything or hand over any money until you fully understand and are happy with what’s written on the lease agreement.

    One thing you need to be aware of is the title status of the land you are purchasing. In much of upcountry Thailand, including favourite places to buy for foreigners like Phuket, Ko Samui, Pattaya and Hua Hin, most land has not been surveyed or has been dubiously titled.

    Land is titled depending on its survey status. Make sure of the land title before you buy – often prices vary greatly depending on the type title – or you might find someone else laying claim to your rai after just after you finish building your retirement home.

    “Chanott ti din” are title deeds with land accurately surveyed. If you have one, it gives you incontestable possession of the land. The most developed areas of provinces have these titles. But even in farang-friendly Phuket, for example, only 10 per cent of the land is under this title.

    As it stands, most “titles” around the country are “Nor Sor Sam” or “Nor Sor Sam Kor”. They are land title deeds in as much as clear records of ownership are maintained, and that they may be sold or leased, but they tend to be less accurately surveyed than Chanott titles.

    If purchasing Nor Sor Sam-titled land that lacks clearly defined physical boundaries, ask the owner to stake out the boundaries and then ask neighbouring landowners to confirm his work.

    And there are more. Sor Kor Nung, Tor Bor Tor Hoc, and Tor Bor Tor Ha are essentially squatter’s rights registered at the district office for a small fee. Unlike the Chanott and the Nor Sor Sam Kor, they cannot legally be sold, nor can you build on the land if you are stupid enough to buy it. So be a prudent foreigner and ignore the Sor Kors and Tor Bors.

    Oh yes, I almost forgot one: the Sor Bor Kor. These are true title deeds, accurately surveyed and pegged (like a Chanott). They can be mortgaged and developed. But the big but is they cannot be leased, sold or transferred.

    So, also ignore Sor Bor Kor.

    Chanott and the Nor Sor Sam Kor are the only titles over which a registered right of ownership or lease. Stick to them.

    Phil Macdonald

    The Nation (15 November 2002)

  2. #2
    laoman Guest

    question

    I have heard about a rule where a foreigner can own 49% land or business. Does this rule exist? Then the spouse can own 51% and the husband gets “almost” 50%.

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