Foreigners and foreign juristic persons are allowed to own a condominium unit in Thailand in their own name, but keep in mind that this refers to ownership of an apartment unit in a condominium building registered under the Condominium Act of Thailand. Not all apartment buildings in Thailand are registered under the Condominium Act. Unregistered apartment buildings are common in the tourist areas of Thailand and foreigners are often not aware of the difference between a unit in a condominium registered under the condominium act and a unit in an unregistered apartment building. Both buildings and units may look the same, however, in case of an unregistered apartment the legal protection is limited compared to the protection offered to the owners and purchasers under the Condominium Act, and only registered condominiums offer freehold ownership over the units.
In case of an apartment building which is not registered under the Condominium Act the units do not have ownership unit title deeds (ownership of the units is not legally separated from the building as a whole) and the units can only be leased as part of a building, or the building as a whole must be in joint ownership by all unit purchasers together, however, this will not include the land the building stands on, as foreigners can’t own land in Thailand. Only in case of a true condominium the individual units offer freehold ownership and the land is jointly owned by all the unit owners.
The main document of ownership in a true condominium is the unit title deed issued and administrated by the local Land Office. The local Land Office is responsible for the transfer of ownership and registration of ownership of the individual units in the condominium building. The apartment unit title deed is proof of ownership. Proof of ownership should not be confused with a ‘house book’ in Thailand or Ta.Bian.Baan, which is an official document issued by the local Administrative Office and contains the full address and the occupants of an apartment (not necessarily the owner of the building or apartment). Apartments in a building not registered under the Condominium Act the units may have a separate Thai ‘house books’, however this should not be confused with an ownership document.
Freehold ownership of condominiums by foreigners is restricted under the Condominium Act and the main restrictions / requirements for foreign ownership are:
1. Not more than 49% of the total floor area of all units in a condominium building added together may be foreign owned. In case of 100 equal apartments in a complex 49 can be foreign-owned, the remaining 51 must be owned by Thai nationals.
In case the 49% quota for foreign freehold ownership in a condominium project is ‘sold out’, the remaining units may be leased under a registered 30 year lease agreement. There are no lease restrictions and normal ‘hire of property’ laws (as for land or house) apply on condominiums.
2. To be eligible to register ownership the foreigner who buys a unit under the Condominium Act must bring foreign currency into Thailand, at least to an amount equal to the total purchase price.
The handling bank in Thailand must exchange the currency into Thai baht and will issue a (FET-form) Foreign Exchange Transaction form or Credit Note for smaller amounts. Without proof of remittance of foreign currency into Thailand the Land Office will not register the apartment unit into the foreigner’s name (unless you are a resident in Thailand).
As in all property investments (especially in a foreign country) it is important to hire the service of a reputable lawyer or trusted real estate agent who can advice and assist you in the purchase and who makes sure that everything is checked out, the condominium is registered under the Condominium Act and to ensure the unit is correctly registered into your name.
The units in an apartment building which is not registered under the Condominium Act the units can only be leased as ‘part of the building’ or jointly owned by all the purchasers. Both in case of a long term rent (over 3 years) over such units or joint ownership over the building as a whole by the unit purchasers this must be registered at the local Land Office where the property is located. Unregistered apartments require extra caution.
Robert Spelde (LL.M)
Legal Consultant For Thailand Law Online
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