See the Thailand Land Code as we are going to cover what would be important to a foreigner in Thailand. Likewise investing in property in the country does come with its own risks as generally foreigners can’t own land in the country. The property laws are covered by the Land Code Act 1954 (to 2008 amendments). Likewise Chapter One is only the definitions used in the Act.
In addition Chapter Two covers (land allocation for the people) which are applicable to Thai nationals. Lastly Chapter Three covers (delimitation of rights in land). Again not something foreigners should consider. From Chapter Four or (issuance of documents showing rights in land). This is where property rights become really applicable to foreigners. This primarily concerns individuals who are married to Thai citizens. They who are interested in purchasing land with a title deed that doesn’t grant complete property rights. This is covered below to show the title deed ‘upgrade’ process. See also the articles on real estate law Thailand on here.
You will note in the first part of this article that to upgrade the title deed of land is a difficult and time consuming process. You should always look at buying land with a Chanote title deed only. This even if you wish to buy the property for your Thai wife. Likewise also see the encumbered property and building regulations Thailand.
Chapter 5 is about (land surveying) where there is a very brief summary added for interest. Chapter 6 covers (recording of rights and legal acts) which is not applicable. This as well as Chapter 7 which covers (limitations of rights in land for religious purposes). It is however Chapter 8 which is explained at the bottom of this article that pertains to foreigners. those wishing to own land in the country. It is Chapter 8 which covers (limitation of alien’s right in land).
Lastly for interest by those who wish to start a business in Thailand. Chapter 9 covers the (limitation of rights in land of some categories of juristic persons). Chapter 10 (land trade) was repealed and Chapter 11 covers (fees). Likewise, Chapter 12 covers (penalties).
We will only concentrate in this article on Chapter Four or (issuance of documents showing rights in land). This for those who bought land with a limited title deed. Also a brief overview of Chapter 5 about (land surveying) and Chapter 8 which covers (limitation of alien’s right in land). Showing the restrictions on foreigners owning land. Finally Chapter 9 covers the (limitation of rights in land of some categories of juristic persons). This is also covered as many place their house into the name of a Thai company.
Firstly Subject to Section 56/1, the formats, regulations, and processes governing the issuance of the Pre-emption Certificate, the Utilization Certificate. (See this website for the explanation of the Utilization Certificate) as well as the Land Examination Certificate, or the Thai Title Deed.
To facilitate the issuance of a Title Deed or Utilization Certificate. The government follows a specific protocol outlined in Section 56/1. This process involves a meticulous examination to confirm that the land in question does not encroach upon public or State-owned land. This determination is based on the analysis of aerial photo maps or aerial photographs. These which must be thoroughly reviewed and validated. The ultimate aim of this scrutiny is to establish the land’s suitability for acquiring either a Title Deed or a Utilization Certificate. Furthermore, alternative methods of assessment and verification may be employed as per the regulations set forth by the Director-General.
What you should look for is that the Title Deed and the Utilization Certificate must contain the following details: the land rights holder’s name, surname, and address, the land’s location, its area, and a map outlining the boundaries in all four directions. So in terms of Section 57 of the Land Code Act the Title Deed must have the person’s identification as well as the location of the land. In order to limit land fraud they are produced in duplicate for both the Title Deed and the Utilization Certificate. Note that one copy is provided to the land rights holder, while the other is retained within the Land Office.
Section 58 addresses the process where the Minister determines the suitability of issuing the Title Deed or Utilization Certificate. This in a specific province as well as year. This is then published in the Government Gazette. Note that it is specifying both the province and the year for the intended cadastral survey *or land use examination. It’s important to note that the permanent forest domain classified by government authority. This is not to be encroached within the provincial boundaries stated by the Minister.
*(mapping, surveying, and registering the specific boundaries and ownership of land parcels)
Following this announcement in the Government Gazette. The provincial Governor is then tasked with designating the location and initiation date for the field survey. Likewise a notice regarding these particulars must be posted at various local offices. Including the Land Office, District Office, District Branch Office, Sub-District Headman Office, and Village Headman Office. This has to be done at least thirty days prior to the survey’s commencement.
Once Step 2 has been completed then the individual specified in Section 58, paragraph two, or their representative. They must then accompany the authorized officials or duly authorized individuals in conducting the cadastral survey or land use examination on their respective land. This at the time and date that has been specified.
In order to issue the Utilization Certificate the officer from the Land Department can empower and appoint a qualified person to complete the task. The appointed person(s) are then regarded under the Thai Penal Code as a public officer*.
When the cadastral survey or land use verification according to Section 58 is completed. The competent officials are authorized to issue the Title Deed or Utilization Certificate, as applicable. This to individuals as per paragraph two, provided the land they possess meets the eligibility criteria for issuance under this Code.
(1) Individuals with supporting evidence of their claims to land possession. Such as Pre-emption Certificates, Squatter’s Certificates, Utilization Certificates, Certificates of Ownership in Lieu of Title Deeds, Pre-occupation Certificates marked “Already Put to Use”, or individuals with rights under land allocation laws for habitation.
(2) Individuals under Section 27
(3) Individuals who possess and utilize land after this Code comes into effect. Those without holding Pre-emption Certificates, Squatter’s Certificates, or evidence demonstrating rights under land allocation laws for habitation. Under this section, individuals with evidence supporting their land possession claims in paragraph two (1) include those who continue to possess and utilize land following the methods of the aforementioned individuals.
Title Deeds or Utilization Certificates whichever one is applicable. This can be issued to individuals under paragraph two (2) and (3) but only for a maximum of Fifty (50) Rai of land. When the land exceeds Fifty (50) Rai. Then this need to be approved by the provincial Governor as well as adhering to rules established by the Land Department Committee.
This becomes important as foreigners should not look at these types of title deeds in Thailand. These cannot be sold or transferred during the 10 year period. This ensure that people do not just sell the property for financial gain and place them back to being landless.
Note that during the ten years subsequent to receiving the Title Deed or Utilization Certificate under paragraph one. The individuals with land rights as outlined in paragraph two (3) are prohibited from transferring the land to other individuals. This unless through succession or transfer to public bodies, governmental organizations established by law, State Enterprises, or registered cooperatives for fulfilling obligations with the registrars’ approval.
Within the proscribed period stipulated in paragraph five, such land is exempt from compulsory execution.
Section 58 governs the issuance of the Title Deed within a specific province for land already possessing a Utilization Certificate complete with an aerial photo map. There is a 30 day advance notice in the Government Gazette for this process. The aerial photo map evidence from the Utilization Certificate is adjusted according to the theoretical basis of the aerial photo map, without necessitating a cadastral survey except in necessary instances.
After deciding the Title Deed issuance commencement date in accordance with Ministerial Regulations outlined in paragraph one, registrations involving rights and legal acts related to the land requiring a cadastral survey through aerial photo map use will be halted, except when necessary. In such cases, permission may be granted by competent officials on a case-by-case basis, in alignment with rules set by the Committee.
Under this Section, the Title Deed is issued to the individual named in the Utilization Certificate as the rights holder. Upon finalizing the preparation of the Title Deeds for conferment to rights holders, land officers will announce the Title Deed conferment date. Starting from the announced conferment date for the Title Deeds, the Utilization Certificates for the relevant land parcels will be voided, and these nullified certificates must be returned to the land officers, unless lost.
Section 59 to Section 63 which are the last parts of Section 4. These mainly cover the issue of illegalities, land possession that was not taken into account and errors. These parts are not relevant to foreigners as this is land possession by Thai nationals.
Under Section 58 of the Land Code, the authority to designate a trained individual as an official for verifying and investigating land utilization lies with the District Chief. This appointed official* assumes the status of an officer under the purview of the Criminal Code.
The defendant already possesses a utilization certificate for their land. Subsequently, the defendant requested the government to grant them another utilization certificate through the utilization of aerial photographs for the same land parcel. The defendant relayed this to P., the investigating officer appointed. P. asserted that the specified land plot had never previously obtained a utilization certificate. Consequently, the government proceeded to issue a benefit certificate to the defendant. However, subsequent to the Governor of Buriram’s directive to annul this benefit certificate due to the defendant’s provision of false information.
The actions undertaken by the defendant thus amount to an offense of reporting false information, as stipulated in Section 137 of the Criminal Code. (Judgment of the Supreme Court No. 1329/2529)
Chapter 5 covers the Land Survey or land surveying in Thailand. This is not really applicable to foreigners. This covers the rules which govern land surveying in the country. The land surveyor can enter any land during the day as long as they have given prior notice. They are allowed to cut branches and dig in the process.
Except for the government surveyor nobody is allowed to destroy, alter, and move or remove any boundary marker or mapping stake. Likewise they have the power to correct mistakes on the title deed. They will contact both parties including the adjoining property to correct any mistakes. They may also summon people for evidence be this documents or oral evidence.
Chapter 6 covers the registering of rights and legal acts over immovable property and the registering of these. Likewise the documents for these registration of rights either for the Title Deed, Land Examination Certificate, or Utilization Certificate. The Chapter also covers the procedures to follow for these registration of property rights. In addition the process of dividing or consolidating land parcels as well as the redemption of mortgages. The law of succession and acquired land through succession is also covered. There is also the registration of executors’ names, attachment of land, and objections to unlawful attachments and the legal procedures.
Likewise Chapter 7 covers religious institutions such as Wats, temples, Roman Catholic Churches, Christian Foundations, and Mosques. They need permission from the Minister with the land not exceeding 50 Rai. The Minister can approve the acquisition of more land. Note that a juristic person acquiring more land than allowed by Section 84 after the Code’s effective date must sell the excess within five years. If not done within this time, the Director-General can forcibly sell the excess land following procedures similar to those for forced land sales in Chapter 3 of the Code.
Chapter 8 is the Chapter that foreigners need to read and understand as this was amended.
Likewise Section 86 of the Land Code outlines that aliens can acquire land, based on treaty provisions and in accordance with this Code*. Aliens can obtain land for various purposes, such as residence, commerce, industry, agriculture, religion, charity, and burial, with specific limits and permissions set by the Minister and detailed procedures defined in Ministerial Regulations.
Section 87 specifies the allowed land quantities for different purposes, including residence, commerce, industry, agriculture, religion, charity, and burial. These quantities range from 1 Rai for residence to 10 Rai for industry and agriculture. The Council of Ministers can grant exceptions for more land for industry under specific conditions.
Section 88 clarifies that land acquisitions by aliens exceeding these limits before the effective date of this Code are not affected. Those holding less land than the prescribed limit or disposing of land can acquire additional land as long as they stay within the set limit.
Section 89 emphasizes that once permission is granted for a specific land use, it must be adhered to. Changes require permission and adherence to the limit outlined in Section 87. Non-use of land must be reported, and aliens wishing to change land use can request permission from the Minister.
Sections 90 to 95 describe the disposal of excess land, inheritance, change of nationality, and consequences of unlawful land acquisition by aliens. Sections 96 and 96 bis introduce provisions for land acquisition by foreigners under certain investment conditions. Section 96 ter stipulates that land granted for acquisition under investment conditions must be used for residence within two years; otherwise, the Minister can dispose of it.
*Note that the law was originally designed to provide the following allowances to foreigners.
For residence, per family, not more than 1 Rai. Likewise for commerce, not more than 1 Rai. In addition there was provision for industry, not more than 10 Rai as well as for agriculture, not more than 10 Rai. Finally for religion, not more than 1 Rai. Lastly for public charity, not more than 5 Rai.
You will note that aliens can acquire land, based on treaty provisions and in accordance with this Code. Subsequent to that period, Thailand has refrained from entering into any new bilateral agreements granting foreigners the right to own land within the country. In other words you could own land as stated under the treaty, however Thailand has no treaties at the present moment. These laws had been drafted in the 1970’s when these treaties did exist.
Nevertheless, there have been revisions to the Land Code, specifically Section 96, which now stipulates that as of January 19th, 2002, foreign individuals are permitted to buy land in Thailand solely for residential purposes. The land acquired for this purpose must not exceed an area of one Rai. To proceed, explicit authorization from the Ministry of Interior is mandatory, and adherence to the subsequent regulations and prerequisites is obligatory.
These condition starts with transferring an amount exceeding forty million Baht into Thailand for investment purposes and upholding this investment for a minimum of five years. Note that this must also be predominantly in assets endorsed by the Board of Investment (BOI) or government bonds advantageous to the Thai economy. This is the prerequisite for acquiring land. Permission from the Minister of the Ministry of Interior of Thailand is also needed. The funds brought in must be allocated towards the following avenues of business or activities:
Investing in government bonds, bonds issued by the Thai National Bank, bonds from State Enterprises, or bonds financially endorsed by the Ministry of Finance.
Investing in property mutual funds or mutual funds designed to resolve financial institution issues, as legislated under the law on Securities and Stock Exchange.
Likewise investing in the share capital of an entity granted investment permission under the promotion of investment law.
Investing in an activity officially designated for investment promotion by the Board of Investment.
The desired land for acquisition should be situated in Bangkok Metropolis, Pattaya City, Tessaban (Municipality), or in an area specifically designated as a residential zone according to the law on Town and Country Planning. It must not be within a military safety zone as per the law on Military Safety Zone.
Permission-holding foreigners are exclusively allowed to utilize the land for personal residence. This aligning with local customs and community well-being. Non-compliance with stipulated rules and conditions will necessitate the disposal of the land. Likewise within the possessor’s jurisdiction within a timeframe directed by the Director General of the Department of Lands. This ranging from one hundred eighty days to one year.
Additionally, if permission holders fail to utilize the land for residential purposes within two years from the date of land acquisition registration. Then the Director General reserves the authority to liquidate the land.
Moreover, subject to legal limitations, aliens can inherit land as statutory heirs. However, the combined inherited land and previously acquired land must not exceed specified legal limits, such as one Rai per household for residential use, one Rai for commercial use, and ten Rai for both industrial and agricultural purposes.
If an alien’s spouse is a Thai national, the Thai spouse can purchase land. However, the non-Thai spouse must jointly confirm in writing that the money used for the land purchase is solely the separate property of the Thai spouse, distinct from jointly owned assets.
Chapter 9 is the last chapter which covers property where foreigners might have an interest in. Many foreigners place the house into a business. The Chapter is called the (limitation of rights in land of some categories of juristic persons).
We start with Section 97 and the subsequent juristic entities. They shall possess equivalent privileges as foreigners:
(1) Limited companies or public limited companies with registered shares, where foreign ownership surpasses forty-nine percent of registered capital or foreign shareholders represent over half of the total shareholders, as applicable. In this chapter, any bearer share certificate issued by the limited company will be deemed to be owned by a foreign entity.
(2) Registered limited partnerships or registered ordinary partnerships. Where foreign capital investment exceeds forty-nine percent of total capital or foreign shareholders constitute over half of the total shareholders, as applicable.
(3) Associations, including cooperatives, with foreign members constituting more than half of the total membership, or those predominantly established for the advantage of foreigners.
(4) Foundations primarily established for the benefit of foreigners.
Further Section 98 states that if any juristic entity mentioned in Section 97. If it holds shares of or invests capital through shareholding in another juristic entity indicated in Section 97. It shall be considered a foreign entity.
This article covered the property laws in Thailand for foreigners. Speak to our property lawyer Thailand for more information, clarification or assistance.
The information contained in our website is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advices. For further information, please contact us.