Condominium Unit Ownership
and inheritance of foreign ownership
The main legal requirements and limitation of foreign ownership of condo units in the Kingdom of Siam can be found in section 19 of the Thailand condominium act, that is, (1) not more than 49% of the total floor area of all units in a condo licensed apartment building combined can be foreign owned (51% must be Thai owned), and (2) every foreigner buying a condo in Thailand must qualify for foreign ownership under section 19 paragraph 1 of the condo act.
Foreigners who qualify for foreign ownership of an apartment unit under section 19 obtain a personal non-transferable right of foreign ownership of the unit. Ownership of the unit is not freely transferable between foreigners and restricted by condominium laws. Also foreigners who inherit a condominium unit by succession must again personally qualify for foreign ownership under section 19 of the condominium act or they must dispose of the unit within one year of the date of acquisition.
The following foreign natural or juristic persons are eligible or qualified to register ownership of a condo unit within the foreign ownership quota of the condominium:
- foreigners permitted to have residence in the Kingdom under the Immigration law;
- foreigners permitted to enter into the Kingdom under the investment promotion law;
- Juristic persons as provided in Section 97 and 98 of the Land Code and registered as juristic persons under Thai law;
- Juristic persons which are foreign under the foreign business act and having obtained a foreign business license (section 4 foreign business act);
- foreigners or juristic persons regarded by law as aliens who have brought in foreign currency into the Kingdom or withdraw money from Thai baht account of the person who have residence outside the Kingdom or withdraw money from a foreign currency account.
If the foreigner qualifies and submitted proof, e.g. foreign currency exchange transaction documents, and the unit falls within the foreign ownership quota, registration of foreign ownership of the unit at the Land Department's branch or provincial office is a straightforward process.
Inheritance of foreign ownership in the condominium act
Under the above section 19 a foreigner obtains a personal non-transferable right of foreign ownership. Any foreign successor (by inheritance, sale, gift) of the condo must again personally qualify for foreign ownership. The mere fact of inheritance of a foreign owned condo does not qualify a foreign heir for registration of foreign ownership under Thai condo laws. Also a foreign heir who obtained a condo in Thailand by succession must qualify for ownership under section 19 of the condominium act or he must sell the unit within one year of the date of acquisition by inheritance.
Section 19 paragraph 8: The foreign natural or juristic person as provided in section 19 (qualified) shall dispose of apartment in the following cases:
'When the foreigner (alien) or juristic person stipulated in section 19 (a qualified foreign natural or juristic person) has acquired an apartment unit by legacy in the capacity of statutory heir or inheritor under will or by other means (e.g. gift from foreigner to foreigner) as the case may be, and when included the apartment already held by foreigners or juristic persons stipulated in section 19 exceeding the ratio prescribed in the first paragraph of section 19 bis.'
The above section simply refers to a situation where for example a Thai national leaves ownership of a condo to a foreigner who qualifies under section 19 for foreign ownership but the foreign ownership quota in the condominium is already filled up. In this case it is required by law that the unit shall be disposed by the foreigner within 1 year from the date of acquisition of such condominium unit. If the foreigner fails to do so, the Director-General of Land Department shall have power to sell the condominium unit on the foreigner's behalf (section 19 paragraph 4).
Section 19 paragraph 7 and foreign ownership
Section 19 paragraph 7 applies to foreign nationals who receive a condo unit but who do not qualify for foreign ownership under section 19 first paragraph.
'A foreigner (alien) or juristic person regarded by law as foreign, other than those specified in section 19, who acquires an apartment by inheritance as statutory heir or legatee or otherwise, as such case may be, shall notify in writing the Competent Official (land office) within a period of sixty days from the date of acquisition of ownership of apartment, and shall dispose of such apartment within a period of not exceeding one year from the date of acquisition of ownership of apartment. If disposition is not made within said period, the provisions of the fourth paragraph of section 19 quinque shall apply mutatis mutandis.'
The above situation applies to most foreigners who obtain a condo by inheritance in Thailand and they cannot register ownership and are required to sell the unit. If the foreigner fails to dispose of the condo the land the Director-General of the Land Department is authorized to dispose of the unit on behalf of the foreign heir and retain a fee of 5% of the sale price before any deductions or taxes.
In short: the Condominium Act section 19 refers to two kinds of foreigners who inherit or are entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit ownership of a condo unit in Thailand:
- qualified foreigners under section 19 first paragraph, and
- unqualified foreigners (for ownership registration he must become eligible and pay taxes upon transfer under section 19 or must sell the unit).