Land Ownership by Foreigners in Thailand.
Foreigners in Thailand generally enjoy the same rights as locals when it comes to real estate property under the Thailand Civil and Commercial Code. However, while foreigners can buy condominiums and apartments, they cannot buy land on which the apartments sit. In general, the laws in the country prohibit foreign land ownership, although there are legal ways to circumvent these hurdles.
Thai Law on Land Ownership by Foreigners and Foreign Companies Thailand offers no freehold ownership of real estate (land and houses) by foreigners. Thailand’s Land Code Act of 1954 prohibits ownership of land by foreigners. This law borrows heavily from the European civil law.
Foreign companies are also not allowed to own land in Thailand. They are further disallowed from using their influence Thai companies as nominees to own land in the country. However, foreign companies with significant investments in the Thai economy can get special privileges with regard to land ownership for the duration of their operation in the country.
Foreign Land Ownership through Treaties
The country can give treaties allowing foreigners from certain countries to own land in Thailand. At the moment, no such treaties exist. In fact, the last time such a treaty existed was in 1970. Consequently, any foreigners in violation of the country’s current land laws can pay a fine of up to twenty thousand baht or face imprisonment of up to twenty years.
Ownership through Inheritance
As stated earlier, outright foreign ownership of land is not allowed in Thailand. Exceptions arise in the case of foreigners married to Thai nationals. Even so, in cases of land ownership under a treaty, the inherited land must be disposed of within a year of its acquisition.
Land Ownership through a Company
Until 2006, foreigners wanting to own land in Thailand formed companies. Nevertheless, amendments to the Foreign Business Act have suppressed this practice. The government seems keen to introduce laws that make it impossible even for foreign companies to have long-term land ownership interests in Thailand. Still, companies with significant foreign influence can get controlling interest in Thai companies and use the power to own land in.
There is a long history behind this practice.
Land Ownership through Renewable Leases
Foreigners have the option of getting 30-year renewable leases. Under this arrangement, the foreign buyer registers with the Land Office and can renew the lease contract indefinitely for 30-year periods. Nevertheless, this option comes with limitations on the lessees such as inability to transfer ownership interest without consent.
Land Ownership by Investing in Board of Investment Approved Project
Under an amendment made in 1999, foreigners can own up to 1600 square meters of land for residential purposes. Nevertheless, this provision comes with the condition that the foreigner has to invest 40 million baht in Thailand in certain assets or government bonds considered advantageous to the local economy. Still such land would still not be transferrable by inheritance.
Caveats for Aspiring Foreign Land Owners in Thailand
Once you decide to use any of the above channels to own land in Thailand it is important to take note of certain issues to avoid further problems. For instance, title deeds can be a problem in the country. Make sure the title relates to land that has been properly surveyed, which is, luckily, the case with land in well-developed areas, which is what most foreigners go for.
Owning land as a foreigner in Thailand is obviously not an easy thing. Options available include inheritance from a Thai spouse and using a Thai company with minority foreign ownership and majority foreign control to acquire land. Other options include making substantial investments in Thailand or obtaining renewable 30-year leases.