Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thai Property Law’

25th March 2010

This author recently came across a discussion of the forecast of the Thailand property market in 2010. For those who are not up to speed on the Thai property market, the year 2009 was not a particularly buoyant year for those in the Thailand real estate sector. This may be due to the fact that the overall economy around the world was not particularly vibrant. That being said, there are optimists who believe that 2010 will be a better year for Thai property.

There has been some talk in and around government circles about reforming Thailand property law. Some believe that a reform of Thailand real estate law would provide more economic efficiency and make foreign buyers (particularly commercial buyers) more amenable to purchasing land in Thailand or other forms of property in the form of Thai condos or houses.

To quote the website ThailandPropertyNews.com:

“The initiative of this government to reform property and land taxation with a view to creating fairness sounds positive, but it will only be possible to determine the effect on the property market once the details of the proposed legislation have been finalised. “So long as the new tax legislation is on a fair basis and the tax rate not so excessively high as to discourage investment, CBRE sees this reform as beneficial for the market,“ Ms. Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, Managing Director of CBRE Thailand said. An additional measure that CBRE urges the government to consider is the extension of the long lease term from the current 30 years up to a maximum of 90 years. This will help improve the market mechanism and make large-scale commercial projects viable which would not be feasible if such developments were freehold due to the high land cost or if they were on a 30-year lease due to the limits on lease terms. The extension of the lease term will also have a direct benefit for resort destinations such as Phuket and Samui where the property markets are primarily driven by foreign demand.”

It is interesting to note that some feel that an easing of the legal restrictions placed upon Thai leases would be a net benefit to the Thai real estate market. Currently, the Thai Civil and Commercial Code places restrictions upon the length of time that a Thai lease will remain enforceable in Thailand. There are exceptions, but currently, the enforceability period is 30 years or less. Providing foreign buyers with the option of obtaining a 90 or 100 year lease might cause an increase in demand for Thai property. It will be interesting to see how the government deals with these issues and what impact any legislative changes will have upon the Thai real estate market.

more Comments: 04

26th January 2010

There are many foreign nationals who have opted to take up long term residence in the Kingdom of Thailand. For many expatriates, a pivotal question regarding residence in Thailand deals with the issue of Thai property law. Under the current laws in the Kingdom of Thailand foreign nationals are effectively barred from purchasing a Freehold Chanote (Title Deed) to land in the Kingdom. This being said, foreigners are allowed to take freehold title to Thai Condos provided certain legal requirements are met, but for many foreign nationals in Thailand actual home ownership is the preferred method of living in the Kingdom.

In the past, a Thai company could be used to own Thai Real Estate, but the company had to be structured in such a way that it comported to Thai law. In recent months there has been some discussion by Thai government officials about doing away with this system of property ownership. How this will play out remains to be seen, but some foreigners, who are still interested in enjoying Thai property, are looking at other ways of structuring their interests so as to properly comport with possible future restrictions.

One method involves the bifurcation of Thai title. What this means is that the land underneath a structure is owned by a Thai while any structures on the land are owned by a foreigner. This arrangement would be legal under current Thai law, but many are confused about how such an arrangement could be set up. This is where the Yellow Tabien Baan becomes an issue.

A Yellow Tabien Baan is used by foreign nationals who live in the Kingdom. However, they are very difficult to obtain and are usually only promulgated if the foreign national has bought a Thai condo. That being said, a foreign national who is on a Tabien Baan can obtain a building permit to build a structure in Thailand. Once the structure is built, it can be owned wholly by a foreign national. A foreigner could secure long term lease to the underlying property while maintaining ownership of the structure. Use of a Thailand usufruct or superficies would also strengthen the foreigner’s property interests without violating the de facto restriction placed upon land ownership for foreigners. This is not the only benefit that a Yellow Tabien Baan can confer upon a Foreigner in Thailand as there are other major benefits that foreign nationals can enjoy by being on a Foreign Tabien Baan.

more Comments: 04

11th January 2010

In recent days there has been speculation about Thai authorities cracking down on any Thai Company which was formed solely for the purpose of facilitating foreign ownership of Real Estate in Thailand. Unfortunately for foreign nationals, the Thai government restricts land ownership and will not allow foreign nationals to own land without Ministry of Interior approval. As a practical matter, this approval is nearly impossible to obtain so the Kingdom essentially has a De Facto ban on Real Estate ownership by foreigners. This being said, foreign nationals are still permitted to own Thailand property in the form of condominiums. A foreign national may own a Thai condo in freehold provided the condominium complex adheres to the provisions of the Thai Condominium Act.

In a journal written about the Thai housing market this author found the following quotation:

“[O]n May 15, 2006, the Ministry of Interior issued a policy to all provincial governors regarding the avoidance of foreign land ownership laws. The policy sought to prevent the purchase of land for the benefit of a foreigner in accordance with Section 74 of the Land Code. It directs officials to be more vigilant in scrutinizing land purchases of land by entities with foreign shareholders or directors, or where reasonable grounds exist to believe that a Thai is a nominee shareholder on behalf of a foreigner. The policy requires competent officials to carefully scrutinize the supporting evidence submitted for consideration, while paying particular attention to the occupation, duration of work and the monthly income of the Thai shareholder. If, following the investigation, the competent official’s opinion is that the transfer registration represents an avoidance of law or that a Thai is trying to purchase land for a foreigner’s benefit, he should investigate further and submit the case to the Land Department for ministerial advice.”

As can be gathered from the above quote, the Thai government places a great deal of administrative discretion in the hands of local land office personnel when it comes to the issue of foreign ownership of Thai property. It would appear that these administrative prerogatives will be brought to bear against those that use nominee shareholders to own land or Real Estate in Thailand. In this legal environment, it may be wise for foreign nationals to carefully assess their options in order to ensure that the best decisions are made with regard to property investment. In any case, it would be wise for anyone thinking of investing in the Kingdom of Thailand to consult an attorney in order to come up with a coherent strategy.

more Comments: 04

12th November 2009

For many people living in Thailand, the prospect of owning property would be considered highly beneficial. Unfortunately, Thai law places great restrictions upon foreign nationals who wish to purchase property. That being said, no such restrictions are placed upon those who wish to lease Thai real estate.

In Thailand, the Civil and Commercial Code provides for leases of varying lengths of time. A lease’s enforceability is based, in part, upon the length of the lease. For example, a common misconception among many foreigners is based upon the idea that a lease can be unrecorded and enforceable for a period exceeding 3 years. However, this is not the case as parties to a Thai lease exceeding 3 years must record the instrument upon the Chanote (Title Deed) in order for a subsequent court to enforce the provisions agreed therein.

In Thailand, the longest lease that one can practically obtain has a duration of 30 years. A novel approach to acquiring what amounts to a longer lease would utilize multiple 30 year leases in which the date of lease commencement coincides with the end of the prior lease. For example, one could acquire a 30 year Thai lease that begins in 2010. Then acquire another 30 year lease to the same property, only this lease does not come into effect until the day after the prior 30 year lease is expired in 2040. As a result of these efforts, the leasee would effectively have a lease that runs for sixty years, but in reality, the applicable Thai laws have been adhered to because the 60 year lease period is the product of two legal leases each for no more than 30 years.

Although this type of legal configuration may be possible in theory, these types of staggered lease agreements, like any legal construct in Thailand, may not be practically feasible as the officers at the Thai land department may not accept the documentation and thereby could preclude this legal instrument from being recorded on the Chanote. Each Thai land office interprets the rules and laws differently. Therefore, retaining experienced counsel in the form of a Thai attorney to assist in recording leases and other property instruments may be beneficial to a foreigner in Thailand as the attorney could assist in facilitating the recordation of a rarely seen legal instrument.

Another issue that may be of interest to foreigners is the use of a Thai usufruct. A usufruct allows a foreigner to retain lifetime rights of use in the underlying Thailand property. Therefore, this type of instrument can act as a sort of “lifetime Thai lease,” as the beneficiary of the usufruct could use the Thai property until his or her death. It should also be noted that different rules apply to those looking to purchase a Thai condo because it may be possible for a Foreign national to purchase a Thai Condo in freehold.

more Comments: 04

16th October 2009

Escrows in Thailand

Posted by : admin

In 2008, the Kingdom of Thailand passed legislation that made escrows legal. An escrow is a relationship where two parties contract with a neutral third party to hold funds until the completion of some specified condition. Since the enactment of this legislation, escrows have become increasingly common in the context of Thai Real Estate and Thai property transfers. The reason for this increased usage is due to the many benefits that both parties can receive from utilizing a Thai escrow agent.

The following is an example of how an escrow agent can be utilized in a situation where a foreign national wishes to purchase property in Thailand:

If a non-Thai national wishes to buy Thai property and hold the property freehold, then the options are limited. One of the most popular methods of purchasing Thai Real Estate is to buy a Thai Condo. Under the Thai Condominium Act, a foreigner can hold the Thai Chanote (or Title Deed) of a Condominium provided the Condominium Complex has 49% or less foreign ownership. Once the buyer and seller agree to a price the two parties can agree on an escrow agent and place the funds in the escrow agent’s care. The escrow agent will often agree not to disperse the funds until the parties agree to do so.

An escrow can be an effective way for buyers to be assured that there will be not fraud or misrepresentation in a property transaction. A common occurrence in Thailand involves property developers taking money for Real Estate construction and then failing to complete the project. Another, less common, tactic utilized by unscrupulous operators is to sell interests in property that the seller does not actually own. Using an escrow agent in tandem with a Thai property attorney to conduct due diligence can help ensure that a property buyer is getting what they pay for.

Until relatively recently, Escrow agents were not permitted to operate under Thai law. As Thailand does not have a common law tradition, the ideas of trusts and equitable title are not present within the provisions of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code. That being said, the government in Thailand understood the need to protect buyers and sellers from fraud. The need for “honest brokers,” to hold Thai property purchase payments was self-evident. The recognition of the need for escrows and escrow agents is a credit to the foresight of the Thai authorities. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a trend toward more consumer protection laws to protect Thai property buyers.

more Comments: 04

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisement. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.