Thai Wive’s Land and Planning Approval
I am a US citizen and work in Taiwan. My wife is Thai and lives in Taiwan with me. She owns a condo in Bangkok, a townhouse in Suphan Buri and 10 rai of land in Suphan Buri. All were bought by her before we were married. She owes money on the condo and the townhouse. If I pay off the condo and townhouse can I can them put partially in my name?
As I believe you already know, land in Thailand may only be owned by Thai individuals or Thai companies. Two or more Thai individuals or companies can be registered as the joint owners of land, but there is no provision for joint ownership of land with a foreigner, whether married or not, even if the Thai interest in the property exceeds the foreign ownership interest. The only way to structure such a joint ownership relationship between Thai and foreign nationals would be by means of holding shares in a Thai company. A Thai company (save in certain special exceptions) may not have more than 49% foreign ownership, and if that company is to own land the foreign share holding must be less than 49% and any shares owned by your wife would need to be included in the foreign quota (not so if the company did not own land).
If your wife still holds a Thai name, I.D. card and house licence, it is very probable that her land right limitations would be overlooked by the land office and you could get away with a situation were she and you held a majority of the company - but if ever your wifes marital status was to be brought to light, you would need to do some very fast restructuring of the ownership of the company to preserve the companies rights to own the land.
The condo (assuming it is a condo in the legal sense with a condominium land title) can be foreign owned (provided that foreign ownership in the building as a whole does not exceed 40%) and the town house (as distinct from the land it stands on) could also be foreign owned or indeed jointly owned directly with your wife. A situation in which you owned the town house building and your wife the land on which it is built would also be allowed and registrable. Also, are we allowed to build a house on the land she owned before we were married? There is no house there now.Absolutely, she (even you) can build (and own) a house on the land. You would almost certainly need to obtain planning approval (you would need to check the detail of the local codes with the Planing Authority in Suphan Buri) since there are now very few areas left in Thailand were there is not a requirement for obtaining planning approval. Generally speaking obtaining planning approval for individual residential houses is not difficult or restrictive. In this regard it is worth noting that a house (unlike land or a condominium) does not have a title deed, and for this reason the land office requires the positing of a public notice (to see if their are any ownership disputes) if a building is to be transferred without the land it is built upon. As such if you do not own the land, you would need to take a few steps to secure your claim to ownership of building. The steps to take would include obtaining planning approval in your own name, making a contract in your own name with your building contractor for the construction of the house (and keeping it until you sold the house) and/or registering a lease over the (vacant) land giving you the right (even the requirement) to build a house on the land. If the house to which you wish to receive ownership already exists you would want to be sure that your purchase of the house was registered at the land office (this would be subject to transfer fees, stamp duty and tax) and make sure that you keep the copy of the land offices sale purchase contract as evidence supporting your claim to ownership of the building.