Land Code Amendments
A gentleman from Nova Scotia e-mailed to ask "I heard recently
that there have been changes to the land laws that now allow foreigners
and Thai wives of foreigners to own land in Thailand. Can you confirm
this and explain how it relates to residential property purchase in
After months of rumors, drafts and re-drafts, there have at the end of March, actually been some changes made to the Thai Land code and other related property issues. These issues along with the much needed new bankruptcy laws have now been passed by the senate (who had been blocking their passage for several months) and after final readings in the lower house will come into effect when signed off by the King and published in the Royal Gazette in about two months time. There are three separate amendments which I will take in turn
LAND CODE AMENDMENT BILL
This bill is what is what remained, after all the debate, of the proposal that foreigners should be able to purchase residential land lots of up to one rai in size - as expected the initial proposal was whittled down significantly and is (as now passed by parliament as well as the senate - and just awaiting official publication in about two months time) limited to foreign nationals making an investment in Thailand of at least 40 million Baht for a duration of at least three years. A similar right has in fact already been open to investors in Board of Investment (BOI) approved businesses for several years - but this bill now puts this exception formally on the statute books and significantly widens the investment types that qualify.
BILL ON PROPERTY LEASE FOR COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
Passed in the Senate, but now back with the government, (where it has
not yet been passed and is rumored to be undergoing further revision
and scrutiny), this is a considerably watered down version of the original
proposals that the maximum registered lease duration be raised from
the current 30 years to 50 years with the possibility of a registered
option to renew for a further 50 years. As now drafted this bill is
clearly limited to industrial and commercial property in Bangkok and
other large municipal areas. This amendment (even in the few situations
when it would apply) only seems to offer marginal improvements over
the current widespread practice of 30 year leases with two 30 year renewal
MINISTERIAL DECREE AMENDING THE 1941 LAND ACT
Another bit of legislation (this time by ministerial decree - so coming into force immediately) brought into force at the end of March (after the Phuket Gazette had already gone to press and rendering parts of what I wrote last month invalid when published!!) is an attempt to address the discriminatory laws preventing Thai spouses of foreigners from buying land. Long held to be in contradiction of the constitution which guarantees equal protection and bans discrimination on the grounds of origin race, language sex and age - a Thai married legally (or otherwise) to a foreigner will now be able to acquire or receive ownership of land - provided that the funds used for that purchase are her own - and the foreign spouse signs a declaration confirming that statement (the effect of which would be to exclude the land from the common properties of the marriage in the event of a divorce).
While all of the above are likely to be of little relevance to the majority of people considering purchasing residential property in Phuket, and give away much less than many pundits had been hoping for, I do believe that they represent a small but significant step in what should be seen as a trend towards a more liberal land code for foreigners that has been ongoing, albeit slowly, for several years.