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Further Reading:

Land Titles in a Nutshell - Not All Land is Created Equal

This month and over the coming issues I intend to explore some of the practical aspects of buying property in Phuket. I will cover some of the legal aspects of ownership and give some pointers on what to look (out) for when buying a property.

In an earlier issue I touched on the shortage of beach front properties and this statement may have been surprising to those of you who have driven along the largely mountainous west coast of Phuket and noticed how little development there is whenever the beach gives way to a rocky shore. The reason for this is very simply that this land neither has a land title deed, nor in most cases, a sufficiently strong claim to apply for one to be issued. A similar situation applies to most hilly or forested (including many plantations) parts of the island.

Do you fully comprehend this?

True title deeds (Chanott ti din) are indeed only to be found in the most and longest developed parts of the island and account for less than 10% of the total land area of Phuket. Chanott titles, issued by the Provincial office of the Thai Land Department, are accurately surveyed, plotted in relation to a national survey grid and also marked by unique numbered marker posts set in the ground.

It is the long term goal of the Land Department, that eventually all land in Thailand will be covered under the Chanott title system, but with currently available funds, manpower and resources this process will take several decades to complete

Most "titles" in Phuket are however of the Nor. Sor. Sam or Nor Sor. Sam Kor. (N.S.3.) variety and are in the strictest interpretation "land exploration testimonial deeds". They are however to all practical purposes land title deeds (issued and maintained by the Ampher or District land office), in as much as clear records of ownership are maintained, and that they may be sold, leased, used as mortgage collateral etc..

In the case of the Nor. Sor. 3. (but not the more recently issued Nor. Sor. 3. Kor.) 30 days public notice is necessary before any change of status over the land can be registered .

N.S.3. titles are in general less accurately surveyed than Chanott titles. In the case of the older N.S.3. titles the boundaries are only recorded in relation to the neighboring plots and survey errors in length of boundary or area of as much as 20% are not unusual. The newer Nor. Sor. 3. Kor. is in general much more accurately surveyed and each plot is crossed referenced to a master survey of the area and a corresponding aerial photograph. For this reason whenever purchasing N.S.3. land which lacks clearly defined physical boundaries it is a wise precaution to ask neighboring land owners to confirm the vendors interpretation of the boundary - don't rely solely on the drawing on the deed.

Below the N.S.3.. title there are a host of other forms of land claim document such as the Sor.Kor.Nung (S.K.1)., the Tor.Bor.Tor.Hoc. (T.B.T.6) and the Tor.Bor.Tor.Ha.(T.B.T.5.). These rights are essentially a form of squatter or settlers claim which has been filed with the district office and upon which a small fee has been paid. Unlike the Chanott and N.S.3.. it is neither possible to register a sale or lease over these land rights, nor will a bank accept them for collateral and most importantly you cannot apply for (or obtain approval to) build on such land.

In certain circumstances based on the length of the claim and the use to which the land has been put, it is possible to upgrade these land claims to N.S.3. or Chanott title. The steps involved in such an application and the number of government department required to approve such an application (where such approval is often discretionary) is however quite daunting and most definitely not recommended to anyone with out the best of connections at the district, provincial and (in many cases) national level.

I hope the above has conveyed clearly the rudiments of land titles in Phuket, but a word of caution..The land code is complex, so before entering into any property acquisition do speak with either a local lawyer or an experienced real estate consultant.