samuiforsale


Thai Nominee Property Ownership

Icon Thai law

THE LAND CODE ACT prohibits foreigners from land ownership in Thailand and makes it illegal for a Thai national to act as a nominee land owner or owner of the land as an agent for a foreigner (section 96 Land Code Act). You could use the same section to argue that it is forbidden for Thai companies to hold the land on behalf foreign nationals, but property holding companies have a whole set of different legal problems under Thai law.

Land laws

  • Section 96 Land Code Act: 'When it appears that any person (including a juristic person) has acquired land as the owner in place of an alien or juristic person under the provisions of Section 97 and 98, the Director-General shall have the authority to dispose of such land and the provisions of Section 94 shall apply mutatis mutandis'.
  • Section 113 Land Code Act: 'Any person who acquires land as an agent of an alien or juristic person under the provisions of Section 97 or 98 shall be punished with a fine not exceeding twenty thousand baht or an imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both'.

A structure that sometimes is put in place is that a foreigner loans money to Thai to buy land, and in consideration for the financial loan the Thai national rents the land back to the foreigner under a 30 year land lease agreement whereby rent is set-off against payment of interest on the loan. The legal restriction in this setup is that the Thai may not be deemed the agent of or nominee owner on behalf of the foreigner. When the Thai national can’t be seen as the freehold owner this structure becomes illegal - continue Land Department info...

FREEHOLD OWNER can be defined as the person with the right to sell, mortgage, transfer or exchange the property, and/or to exclude others from doing these things. The Thai national must have the title to the property, to the exclusion of the foreigner. The Thai must have the right to dispose of the property. The foreigner may have an interest in the property through a lease or usufruct but he will not obtain the title to the property.

Note: In a lease back structure there are tax liabilities for the Thai land owner. Income or assessed income derived from a lease is taxed as personal income for the Thai individual.

Section 74 Land Code Act

If there is reason to believe that a Thai national is purchasing land on behalf of an alien the land office must interrogate the parties and could refuse transfer of land to the Thai national (section 74 Land Code Act). For this reason, if a nominee structure is put in place, transferring land to the Thai national and at the same time registering rights for the benefit of a foreigner (a real estate lease or usufruct) is usually not done on the same day.

Section 74: '.... ..... if there is reason to believe the recording of such rights and legal acts is in evasion of the law or there is reason to believe the purchaser is purchasing on behalf of an alien, instructions shall be asked of the Minister whose word shall be final'.

Nominee practice example

Land registration in a Thai girlfriend's name

A FOREIGNER bought land and had title deed issued in Thai girlfriend's name. Later, the girlfriend applied for a mortgage and tried to use the land as collateral, but the Land office refused to allow this because she did not submit the original title deed with her application. The Thai girlfriend claimed that the foreigner had the possession of the land title deed and applied for a replacement land title deed to be issued to replace the original deed. The foreigner requested the Land Office not to issue a replacement title deed.

The Land Department considered both applications and delivered the following response; 

  • The foreigner's application for the Land Office to deny issue to Thai girlfriend of a replacement title deed is believed to express his intention to prevent her from distributing, selling or transferring the land, or using it to borrow money or as collateral for debt repayment. In this case it must be deemed that the Thai girlfriend has acquired the land under section 96 of the Land Code, but as the owner in place of an alien, which contravenes section 113 of the Code.

  • In doing so she has provided false information to government officers, which contravenes section 137 of the Penal Code, making her liable, if found guilty, to a term of up to six months in jail or a fine of 1,000 baht, or both. She has also contravened section 267 of the Penal Code, which carries a penalty of up to three years in jail and/or a fine of 6,000 baht. (read Penal Code).

  • The foreigner has acquired land by means that contravene section 86 of the Land Code, and so has committed an offense aiding and abetting the commission of an offense under section 111 of the Land Code, which carries a penalty of two-thirds of that of the offense itself.

  • The Land Department ordered the local Land Office to file a complaint with the Inquiry Officer (the relevant legal authority) and take legal steps against both the foreigner and the Thai girlfriend.

  • The Land Office was also ordered to inform the foreigner that he must dispose of the land within one year of receiving official notice to do so. If the foreigner fails to dispose of the land within the time given, the Director-General of the Land Department is authorized to dispose of the land and retain a fee of 5% of the sale price before any deductions or taxes.

The Land Office must inform the foreigner and the Thai girlfriend of the following;
  1. The person who is to be registered as the new owner of the land - including an person the foreigner consents to selling the land to – must be a person who can lawfully possess the land;
  2. The sale price of the land must be fixed by the foreigner, and the foreigner must be the recipient of the money;
  3. As the person in whose name the land is registered, the Thai girlfriend's duty will be to manage the disposal of the land. But she will not be involved in selecting the recipient.

--------------

Thai spouse and nominee

A Thai national who is married to a foreigner can also be deemed an illegal nominee acting on behalf of the foreign spouse (read article...), but he or she is not a nominee for land ownership if the correct legal procedure for the acquisition of land by a Thai national married to a foreigner has been followed read more...

Information issued by the Land Department on this subject

Source: Department of Lands

If it appears the fact last that there is the threat of land holding as an agent for a foreigner, the measures to the land disposal and the offender punishment shall be enforced as follows;

  1. Measures on land by enforcement to dispose of the land in accordance with legal procedures. Under Section 94 and 96 of the Land Code, stipulate the regulation when it appears that person who obtained the land as an agent for a foreigner or foreign entity or foreigner who obtained the land illegitimately, he/she shall dispose of such land in the portion of his/her possession within the period of time specified by the Director-General of the Department of Lands which shall be not less than one hundred eighty days and not more than one year. The Director-General shall have the power to dispose of such land if time limit elapses.
  2. Measures on individuals with criminal offense and to be punished in accordance with laws. In the case of applying for land registration as an agent for a foreigner, there will be a criminal offense as follows;

2.1

Offenses against the Criminal Code Section 267 due to information the competent official to recode false statement in the official documents shall be subject to punishment with an imprisonment of not exceeding three years or a fine of not exceeding 6,000 Baht or both.
2.2 Offenses against the Land Code. The alien who commits the offenses under the Land Code Section 111, due to the acquisition of land illegitimately; shall be subject to punishment with a fine of not exceeding 20,000 Baht or an imprisonment of not exceeding two years or both. Juristic person who commits the offense under the Land Code Section 112, or Section 113 in case of Thai people; due to the acquisition of land as the agent for a foreigner or foreign entity shall be subject to punishment with a fine of not exceeding 20,000 Baht or imprisonment of not exceeding two years or both.

-------------