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Last week, we said a property buyer should have an agreement to make sure he or she gets the deposit back if something turns out to be wrong with the title.
Let’s look at an example. Suppose you have decided to buy a two-bedroom house at a development close to the sea. It’s a gated community with many facilities, such as a pool and tennis court.
Several other foreigners already live there and the place looks well-maintained.
The developer presents you with a set of documents, explaining that what you’re buying is a 30-year lease on a piece of land on which he’ll build a house for you, once you’ve paid. You sign all the papers. He does, too. You give him part of the money and he starts work on the house. But you’ve forgotten a step.
Long before this, somebody has to go to the land office on your behalf and check to make sure the title is clean.
If you don’t, you may not be buying anything.
First, let’s look at what you’re buying. You probably know that with rare exceptions that we’ll discuss in a later column, foreigners can’t own land in Thailand. Although Article 86 of the Land Code allows foreigners to own land in Thailand if there is a treaty allowing this, there is no such treaty.
There were treaties allowing citizens of 16 countries to own land in Thailand but they were terminated on Feb 27, 1970. Since then, Thailand has not entered into any treaty that would allow foreigners to own land.
This goes for US citizens, who are often told that because of the Treaty of Amity between the US and Thailand, they can own land here. In fact, land ownership is an exception to the treaty and, despite the long-standing special relationship between the US and Thailand, US citizens can’t own land in Thailand.
What a foreigner can own is a long lease. How long? Generally, it’s 30 years, because Section 540 of the Civil and Commercial Code provides that the duration of a lease can’t exceed 30 years, and if it does, the period must be reduced to 30 years. Section 538 of the code would allow a lease for the life of the tenant, and if the tenant lives longer than 30 years, the lease will continue for this period.