Foreign land ownership and Thai spouse.

Foreigners living in Thailand together with their Thai spouses have likely encountered the problem of co-ownership of land (or even condominium in some instances).

Since foreigners are not allowed to legally own a land in Thailand (unless we consider usufruct), one way of going around this problem is to register it in the Thai spouse’s name, which naturally carries some risk and complications. Should a couple decide for this option, the Thai spouses is required to provide a proof stating that the money used to purchase the property is hers and has no foreign claim to it.

Thai spouses have been allowed to legally acquire and register ownership of land in Thailand only since 1999. Prior to this year, Thai national married to a foreigner lost the right to acquire land due to the fact that the old legislation unintentionally enabled foreigners to acquire an interest in land as property between husband and wife. The updated regulation patched this loophole, so now, even if the Thai spouse acquires land, it will remain a personal property and not a jointly owned property between husband and wife.

Nowadays, the certified letter or a proof of the money’s origin issued by the Thai spouse is a prerequisite for obtaining the approval of registration of ownership by the Land Department. In essence, with the land being a separate and personal property of the Thai spouse, the spouse can sell, mortgage, transfer or exchange the property without the consent of the foreign spouse. Such is the risk of registering the ownership in the Thai spouse’s name.

Inheritance of land by a foreigner

There is one special scenario when a foreigner is able to acquire land in Thailand, and that is by inheritance as a statutory heir. A foreigner obtaining land as a statutory heir can register ownership of the inherited land upon a permission of the Minister of Interior. However, this is in theory – in reality, the regulations allow inheritance of land by a foreigner only when inherited land was foreign-owned under a treaty. Foreigners thus cannot inherit land as statutory heirs from their Thai spouses.

Inheritance of condominium by a foreigner

Inheriting a condominium unit is significantly easier than inheriting land. A statutory heir or inheritor under can be granted ownership of such unit, provided they qualify to register ownership with the Land Department (section 19 of the Condominium Act). Should they fail to qualify or their ownership would exceed the allowed 49% foreign ownership in the condominium building, the heir is required by law to dispose of the unit within one year from the acquisition.

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