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Land Ownership – Lots of Farang do it wrong

Just got back from a dinner with friends. The age old subject of land ownership came up again. I find an inordinate amount of ‘not that rich’ falang who are really dependent on their house have done a really lazy and sloppy job of setting up the ownership issue.

First off, keep in mind that land ownership laws in Thailand came on the books in 1971. Simply stated, the laws state that a foreigner or foreign-owned company can not own land within Thailand. Under strict interpretation, a wife of a foreigner could not own land either, since she would be in essence holding it jointly with the foreigner. This wasn’t desirable (zero house sales to rich foreigners), so the rules were relaxed so that the wife could gain title to land if the husband signed an affidavit that stated the property was property of the wife only and not the husband.

The purpose of the law is to retain land ownership for Thai citizens, so that Thais do not become second class citizens in their own country. Because of the desirability of Thailand as a retirement venue, load of foreigners are interested in property and land ownership. The pragmatic Thai government is interested in spurring on the economy. Today the construction industry specializing in development of foreign own communities is huge. It’s an interesting situation. On the one hand you have this entire industry building out foreign developments, while on the other hand the law technically doesn’t allow foreign land ownership.

The ‘go with the flow mai pen rai’ solution is to just put the property in your spouse’s (or significant other’s) name. This is one of those irritating things about Thailand — everything is mai pen rai until there is a problem. You: “it is a problem, that is my house you’re kicking me out of.” Them: “Mai pen rai”. You: “what do you mean Mai Pen Rai? It’s my house”. Them: “You buy new house, mai pen rai”. You: “But I don’t have the money”. Them: “You go bank get money, mai pen rai”.

Since it is a civil law system here, things are very literal. What is in writing is very important and carries a lot of weight, meaning this: If you set things up correctly you won’t have a problem. Now, if you buy a house for you wife’s mother — that is one circumstance. But if you buy a house that you rely on for your abode, that is quite a different matter. The law states you have NO RIGHT to enter your house, even to retrieve your things, so… keep this in mind.

Now, assume for a minute you and your wife/husband love each other dearly and there will never be a falling out. One day your wife gets hit by a truck and killed. I can tell you one thing, the house won’t be passing into your name. Too late to do a lease or company now. Hopefully you get along with the beneficiaries and there won’t be a problem. Or your wife is out of town and a pissed off neighbor calls the police and swears you’re a burglar — where is that piece of paper that says you have any right to be in that house.

Why would anyone put themselves in this situation? Why not RENT for a while until you get things figured out. Any lawyer can help you with this basic easy situation when you decide you’re ready for land ownership.

My new recommendation is for folks to do a leasehold agreement for properties worth under 5 million baht. It is a simple one shot deal and it’s over with. For my situation I have always used a company here since I have other business interests and I believe it is the overall best and most flexible land control solution, but it is more complicated. If you think about the difference between leasing and buying you can weigh the pros and cons.

If you are in a situation where you are living in a house that hasn’t been correctly set up — it is an easy situation to rectify. In all probability your significant other (and land owner) won’t have any problems with helping you get things sorted out. After all, you are just trying to do things

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