Integrity Legal

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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