It should be noted that foreign ownership is an individual personal right of the qualified foreigner under Section 19 and, therefore, foreign ownership of the unit is not transferable to another foreigner unless that foreigner also qualifies for ownership under Section 19 of the Condominium Act.
In the event that the foreign freehold units in a condominium project are no longer available, the remaining units may be leased to foreigners. Normal rental property laws apply to the rental of a condominium by foreigners. There is no separate published law regulating the lease or rental of condominium units by foreigners as opposed to the purchase of a condominium.
A foreigner can buy property in Thailand only in a condominium registered and licensed under the Thai Condominium Act. Unregistered apartment buildings licensed as condominiums are common in the tourist areas of Thailand. These apartment buildings are basically like any other building and the owner can rent out parts of his building on his own terms and conditions. Unregistered apartment buildings could, for example, be sold as a kind of timeshare in which units are sold through leases to many different parties, each with a specified block of time during which they can use the apartment.
Usufruct, also called “Sidhi-kep-kin” in Thai, refers to the temporary transfer of property rights from one person to another for the use and enjoyment of the property.
A Thai usufruct can be very advantageous for the foreigner seeking to buy property in Thailand. It provides a large degree of security because, under the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, a foreigner is not allowed to own land (with certain exceptions). Since a Thai usufruct is not ownership of land, but merely a right to use it, the legal restrictions on a foreigner in Thailand are greatly reduced.
Generally speaking, Thai usufructs granted to foreigners are for 30 years. However, an individual, foreign or Thai, is entitled to a Thai usufruct for life as long as the Thai usufruct agreement so stipulates. This is a great advantage for foreigners in Thailand, as it means that a person with a domicile in Thailand would be able to live in and enjoy the house and any land around it for life.
The final decision to grant a usufruct is at the discretion of the Land Department official. Usufruct gives the foreign spouse the right to remain in the property upon the death of the Thai spouse.
It is possible for a company with non-Thai shareholders to buy property and land, provided that no more than 49% of the company’s shares are held by foreigners and that a numerical majority of the shareholders are Thai persons or companies.
It is illegal for a foreigner to establish a company using Thai nominees for the sole purpose of circumventing Thai law to buy property.
Foreign companies operating a business in Thailand can, during the time they are operating in Thailand, obtain special privileges and exemptions for land ownership through the Board of Investment. This exemption requires significant investment and is limited to the duration of their business.