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Many foreigners wish to buy or lease real estate and land in Thailand but are confused by the often contradictory
information and misleading claims on the internet. There are specific legal issues under Thai land law regulating
the ability of foreign nationals to buy or acquire rights to real estate and property in Thailand. Here is a summary
of some of the basic principles:
Are foreigners allowed to buy land or property in Thailand?
Thailand land laws generally prohibit foreigners from owning freehold land in Thailand. However, there are various
exceptions in the law regarding this issue. There are also other methods available for acquiring valid and legal rights
to land and real estate in Thailand that do not amount to outright ownership.
What are the different ways of acquiring land rights or purchasing property in Thailand?
- Land Leases: Although Thailand real estate law restricts land ownership rights to non-Thai citizens,
foreigners may hold 100% interest in a Thailand land lease. Thailand lease law allows a 30-year maximum lease
period, with the possibility of renewing the lease for additional 30 year periods.
- Company Ownership: Thailand registered companies with majority Thai ownership are able to buy land in
Thailand. In the past it has been common for foreign nationals to acquire an interest in Thailand real estate
as minority shareholders in a Thai majority company.
- Investment: Thai real estate law allows foreigners to buy and own a limited amount of land based on
investment of 40 million baht for five consecutive years, provided that the land is used for residential purposes.
- Thai Spouse: According to Thai real estate law, a Thai spouse of a foreigner may be allowed to buy land
or property in Thailand in his or her own name. However the married couple may be asked to sign declarations at the
Land Department to state that the funds used are the separate property of the Thai spouse. This may have the effect
of waiving any claim on the land or property by the non-Thai spouse. This may become problematic in a divorce case
as it may be difficult for the non-Thai spouse to prove that the land was marital property. In this case, a skilfully
drafted Thailand prenuptial agreement may come in handy to minimize the risk to the non-Thai spouse.
- Usufruct Habitation and Superficies: A non-Thai may acquire a life term interest in certain types of property
rights in Thailand. One example, a usufruct, is a right to use (and profit from) land and is similar to leasehold but
is non-transferable with some important differences.
Can Thai nationals buy real estate in their name and then execute an agreement that the land is held for a foreigner?
This is a risky approach because it is technically illegal under Thai property law for a Thai national to act as a nominee
of a foreigner to buy real estate. Therefore, the agreement may be illegal and problematic. It is best to consult an experienced
real estate lawyer in Thailand for the best available options.
Can foreigners own houses in Thailand?
In general, foreigners can own buildings and houses in Thailand as Thai real estate law places no nationality restrictions
on ownership of houses or buildings in Thailand.