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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Real Estate Law’

5th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that Economic Ministers from the jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to meet in Indonesia over the upcoming weeks. Of especial importance, in this blogger’s opinion, is the fact that said meeting is set to include representatives from the United States of America and Russia. In order to shed further light upon these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Nation, NationMultimedia.com:

Free-trade partners of Asean, in addition to the United States and Russia, will join Asean economic ministers for a meeting in Manado, Indonesia, next week with the aim of tightening economic integration. Indonesia will host the Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting from August 9-13. Yanyong Phuangrach, permanent secretary at the Commerce Ministry, who will lead the Thai delegation to the meeting, said the main agenda was to forge closer cooperation among Asean member states and trading partners, mainly with FTA partners and the two economic giants – the US and Russia…

Readers are strongly encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this important article in detail.

In recent months there have been many positive developments in the ASEAN region as discussions pertaining to a possible unified ASEAN visa have been broached. Meanwhile, discussions pertaining to the South China Sea appear to have lessened some of the tensions between ASEAN members nations and China. However, as of yet, a final framework for dealing with the South China Sea has yet to be developed. As the ASEAN region continues to show further economic potential it stands to reason that geo-politically dominant economies will show increasing interest in the Southeast Asian region.

In news specifically related to the Thai Real Estate and Property markets, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that Singaporean and international real estate developers have noted their optimism regarding the Thai property market. In order to provide further elucidation regarding these developments this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the PropertyShowrooms.com website:

A Singapore property development company has decided to invest in a series of condominium projects in Thailand over the coming year. Speaking to Property Report, business development manager at Dalvey Developments Noel Goh described the Thai real estate sector as “a very attractive market with high growth potential”. “Moreover, property prices remain low when compared to neighbouring countries,” Mr Goh added…According to one Asian real estate expert, buyers from Hong Kong are increasingly being drawn to high-end properties in the Thai capital. Executive director for investment and project marketing at CB Richard Ellis Rebecca Shum told the Bangkok Post that the city is a “top-two destination for lifestyle” from the point of view of Hong Kong investors. She added that a rise in optimism about Thailand’s political and economic conditions is helping boost the luxury property market in the nation.

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click on the relevant hyperlinks above to read further from this article.

For many, the purchase of property in Thailand can be a cumbersome and somewhat confusing endeavor as Thai law on the subject has been described as rather complex and, in some cases, byzantine. This is especially true in cases involving foreigners wishing to purchase land in Thailand since there is virtually a de facto prohibition on foreign nationals purchasing Thai land. That stated, such a prohibition does not exist in the context of a Thai lease, Thai usufruct, or Thai condominium. In fact, pursuant to the Thailand Condominium Act, foreign nationals in Thailand may be permitted to purchase a Thai Condo so long as that proposed real estate holding comports with the relevant provisions of the Act. For this reason, and many more, some opt to retain the assistance of an attorney in Thailand to assist in conducting due diligence and conveyancing matters pertaining to Thai property.

For information related to legal services in the Kingdom of Thailand please see: Legal.

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20th July 2010

A Thai prenuptial agreement (also referred to as a Thai prenup) can provide a great deal of protection for individuals should a marital union be dissolved. A premarital agreement can also be very beneficial because it can provide certainty and transparency for the parties to a marriage. That said, a prenuptial agreement (Thai or otherwise) should be drafted in such a way that it provides protection for one’s property or real estate holdings as well as corporate assets and financial instruments. In Thailand, ensuring that a prenuptial agreement comports with all applicable formalities can be difficult which is why it is always prudent to consult with a Thai lawyer regarding such matters. For those foreign nationals with assets outside of the Kingdom of Thailand it may also be wise to consult with an attorney in the jurisdiction where one resides or maintains property in order to take all reasonable measures to ensure the integrity of one’s estate.

In Thailand, a prenuptial agreement must be registered at the time of the marriage in order for it to be enforceable by Thai courts. In a way, it may be better to think of prenuptial agreements as simply “nuptial  agreements” as the agreement does not exist until the simultaneous registration of that document and the marriage. Many Americans in Thailand opt to register a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage that will act as a basis for a US Marriage Visa.

Corporate Assets

For those with corporate assets in the form of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or options it is always prudent to seek information regarding a prenuptial agreement as such an agreement could protect one’s corporate assets in the event of a marital dissolution. In Thailand, those who have an ownership interest in a Thai company are wise to research prenuptial agreements prior to marriage in order try to maintain one’s holding in the event of a divorce.

Thai Property

Although foreign nationals cannot own land in Thailand, there are other property interests that one may have pursuant to Thai law, these include, but are not limited to: Thai Condo ownership, Thai usufructs, Thai 30 year leases, etc. Those with Thai real estate should consider a Thai prenup prior to marriage registration.

Marriage is a major event in one’s life. It can also have a significant impact upon the legal posture of one’s assets and interests. Therefore, those with an eye towards marriage should consult with a family lawyer within one’s local jurisdiction prior to marriage registration in order to help ensure that one’s assets are properly protected.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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26th October 2009

For those interested in purchasing property in the Kingdom of Thailand, Condominiums can be an attractive proposition. One of the major benefits of Thai Condo ownership is the fact that a foreign national is allowed to take possession of foreign freehold title to that particular piece of Thai Real Estate. In Thailand, foreigners are greatly restricted with regard to Thai property as they cannot own land outright. There are certain situations in which a Thai company can be utilized in such a way that a foreigner enjoys the benefits of land ownership, but these type of structures can be cumbersome and recently the Thai authorities have been cracking down on such entities.

Thai Condos provide the benefit of allowing the foreign national to be registered on the Thai Chanote (Title Deed). Further, by being the owner of a Condo in Thailand, the foreigner can apply to obtain a foreign Tabien Baan (house registration booklet) which can be a major benefit as this document is very useful in conducting legal and business transactions in the Kingdom of Thailand. Further, a Thai Condo owner may be able to enjoy some immigration benefits in the form of a Thailand visa as the owner can show that they are living in the Kingdom and contributing to the economy.

One notable issue that often arises in cases involving Thai Condominiums is the requirement that all funds used to purchase the Condo must originate from overseas. This requirement can be met by those earning an income in Thailand, but a great deal of paperwork must be submitted in order to use income earned in Thailand. An even more pressing issue, however, is that of capital flight after the future sale of a Thai Condo unit. The government of Thailand along with the Thai banks have promulgated policies in order to keep foreign capital in the Kingdom when that capital has been previously used to purchase Thai real estate. For example, if a foreigner in Thailand has a Condo unit and opts to sell it. The proceeds from the sale could be practically impounded in the sense that the Thai authorities will place many restrictions on sending said funds abroad. This situation can be averted throught prior planning. If one seeks the advice of a Thailand Real Estate lawyer, they could provide advice and strategies about how one can structure a Thai Condo purchase in such a way that the proceeds from a future sale can be moved abroad at a future point in time, should a sale even occur.

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16th October 2009

Escrows in Thailand

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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.

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2nd September 2009

Apparently the Thai government officials in Phuket are actively investigating companies that might be using Thai nominees in order to conduct otherwise restricted activities in Thailand.  To quote the Nation via Thaivisa.com:

“A fact-finding effort is underway in Phuket to compile information about local businesses in which Thai people are hired by foreigners as their nominees – a practice considered suspicious and possibly illegal.”

The major concern seems centered around use of Thai nominees to own Thai property. Thailand has imposed many legal restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai property. Many are under the mistaken idea that foreigners are completely barred from owning land in the Kingdom of Thailand. This is in fact not true as foreigners can own land, but they need Ministry of Interior approval and this approval is virtually impossible to obtain except in limited cases involving inheritance.

The above quoted article doesn’t really mention anything new regarding the attitude of Thai authorities, but instead seems to mark a change in attitude regarding the use of nominee shareholders. Although nominee shareholders are expressly prohibited under Thai law, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what constitutes a “nominee.” Basically, a passive shareholder could be considered a nominee, but the term would be inaccurate because the supposed nominee has a vested interest in the company and is not holding shares for anyone else. The real poison pill comes down to land. Where a company is being used to own Thai real estate the issue of nominee shareholders is a major one that will likely be heavily scrutinized by Thai authorities. That being said, a Thai company that owns property is not illegal as a Thai company is not barred from owning land in Thailand. This being said, the Thai land department is taking a very tough stand regarding the use of nominees:

“The provincial land office said legal action would be taken against any businesses found to have been operated illegally with a majority of foreign ownership, because Thai land laws imposed strict sanctions on foreigners owning land plots in Thailand.”

For those who wish to own property in Thailand, it may be best to obtain a Foreign Freehold Title to a Thai Condo rather than attempting to circumvent land department regulations. At the present time, it would appear that Thai authorities are stringently enforcing the land laws and foreigners in Thailand should be prepared to deal with increased scrutiny. Strict observance of the law may be the best method of ensuring the least amount of difficulty.

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17th August 2009

Thailand Real Estate law is a complex area of jurisprudence. Many people, particularly foreigners, have misconceptions regarding what type of property rights can be accrued by non-Thais living in Thailand. First there is the mistaken belief that foreigners cannot own land. In reality, there is merely a de facto prohibition regarding foreign land ownership. A foreigner can own land in Thailand, but he or she must obtain approval from the Thai Minister of the Interior which can be a difficult proposition.

Another slightly incorrect idea circulating in the Thailand expat community is that one cannot obtain a lifetime right of use in any type of Thai real estate. However, it may be possible to acquire a usufruct which would give the person holding the usufruct the right to use the land or the structures thereon for their lifetime.

A 30 year Thai lease can also be acquired for Thai property, but it must be properly registered with the local land office. Another common misconception is the idea that one can have a 3 year “automatically renewing” lease in Thailand. This mistake would seem to stem from the fact that an unregistered Thai lease is enforceable for up to 3 years, but one needs to continually get a new lease from the land owner in order for the lease to rollover.

Recording a Thai mortgage is one method often employed by foreigners resident in Thailand who finance the purchase of property in a spouse or loved one’s name. If the foreign national ever wishes to retrieve their interest in the equity of the property, then all they need to do is foreclose on the property in order to re-acquire their funds.

There are some issues when it comes to recording these types of property interests where a third party has encumbered the Thai property by recording a mortgage at the land office. Thai banks often provide mortgages on Thai property and in order to obtain some sort of property interest in the encumered real estate one must first obtain permission from the bank. Therefore if one wishes to obtain a 30 year lease or a lifetime usufruct on the encumbered real estate owned by another, then it may be wise to contact the bank which holds the mortgage and inquire as to their position on recording leases on property they have an interest in. Sometimes, retaining the services of a competent Thailand property lawyer can be beneficial in such matters particularly as an experienced Thai real estate attorney can predict the likelihood of bank acquiesence.

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