Foreign Ownership Rights
As already stated, non-natives are not allowed to own the freehold title to land in Thailand unless it is purchased through a company registered in Thailand, with certain pertinent requirements. A freehold title to a building on the land may be purchased.
Most non-natives who purchase property in Thailand will purchase a leasehold on the land and ownership rights to any improvements currently on the property or subsequently built on the property. The property seller will lease the land to the non-native purchaser, usually for a period of 30 years, with two extension opportunities for two additional 30 year periods. This works well, and is a common form of property ownership. The buyer is protected since they own freehold title to all the buildings and improvements on the land.
It is common practice for non-natives to form companies for the purpose of purchasing property in Thailand. This facilitates the transfer process if the property is sold. Often a British Virgin Islands Corporation is the easiest, since the seller can simply transfer ownership of the company and all its property to the new owner, making title changes unnecessary.
Also, companies which are registered in Thailand and 51% owned by native Thai people can purchase land. It has become common for companies to be formed for this purpose. You own 49% of the company and hold the directorship of the company, retaining all voting control, hence control of the property. You must have good legal representation in setting up this kind of arrangement, since the Thai Government has become strict about whether a Thai owner is consider a nominee, and will investigate the source of money used by Thai shareholders who own the 51% of the company required by Thai law for purchasing a freehold title to land. The use of nominee Thai shareholders is prohibited under the Foreign Business Act (1999) and is a potential source of issues if not handled correctly.
When purchasing a leasehold, certain rules must be followed. If a leasehold is purchased for thirty years, but the lease isn’t registered with the Land Department within three years, then the lease is only considered enforceable for the initial three years. The lease must be registered in order for the lease to be enforceable for the full thirty year term, and only after the lease is registered will it appear on the land title.
Condominium ownership is handled differently, since land is owned in common by all condominium owners within a complex. With a condominium development 49% of owners who are non-native are allowed to hold freehold ownership of the total number of condominiums owned within the complex. In some instances, where the developer obtained the correct condominium license, 100% foreign ownership may be allowed. To the remaining non-native purchasers a leasehold ownership will be offered. The entire complex is considered owned by a Thai-based Condo Corporation, and as long as the foreign freehold ownership level is below the 50% level, the law against foreign ownership in land is considered as enforced.
In order to qualify for freehold ownership in a condominium, overseas buyers must wire the funds into Thailand from a foreign bank, and the receiving bank in Thailand must accurately record the receipt of funds in the form of a Foreign Exchange Certificate (Thor Tor 3) which will provide evidence of the deposit of foreign currency into the authorized local Thai bank. The total amount of funds wired in must meet or exceed the amount needed for purchase of the condominium, and the Foreign Exchange Certificate must state that the purpose of the remittance of foreign funds is for the purpose of purchasing the specific condo unit or units specified in the contract of purchase.