BOI : With significant investment of funds, foreigners may be allowed to own a limited amount of land under Thai property law. Some foreign companies seek and obtain the approval of the Board of Investment (BOI) to purchase land for a limited period. This option, however, is not available to the vast majority of non-Thai nationals seeking to obtain a second home, retirement home or investment in Thailand because of the legal restrictions involved. As a result, other options must be examined.
Lease : Thai property law allows a foreigner to lease land for a maximum of 30 years, with lease renewal options of 30 years. Many foreigners choose this method to secure land or property ownership. In comparison to setting up a company, land leasing is easier and requires less maintenance. (More information on land leasing in Thailand can be found here)
Coporation : A foreigner may use a Thailand-registered company to obtain property rights or land interest in Thailand. This "Thai" company must be at least 51% owned by Thai shareholders, while the remaining 49% or less may be held by foreigners. (Some law firms are still using the old law and recommending 39% foreign ownership.)
Marrying a Thai spouse : A recent revision of Thai law has provided the opportunity for a Thai with a foreign spouse to buy land or property in Thailand. Prior to registering the land parcel at the Land Department, the couple may be asked to sign declarations, declaring that the funds for the property came solely from the Thai spouse. This may, in effect, result in the non-Thai spouse waiving his/her rights on the land or property. Such declarations may become problematic in a divorce case as the non-Thai spouse may have difficulties proving that the land was marital property. To prepare for such an event, a skillfully-drafted prenuptial agreement may be useful.
This is one of the most popular methods employed by foreign investors who want to buy land or purchase property in Thailand. Although Thai law generally requires Thai nationals to own a majority interest in a company in order to legally purchase land or property, various legal documents and procedures can be used to provide greater protection for foreign minority shareholders.
Unfortunately, an Amity Treaty company only allows Americans to transact in certain types of businesses. Under the Treaty, Americans can own a majority share in a Thai company but they are not granted the right to buy or purchase land in Thailand.
The documents of the ownership of the land
There are mainly three types of title deeds for private land ownership in Thailand. The best title deed for land ownership is the Chanot (Nor Sor 4), which must be registered at the Land Department in the province in which the land is located. Although it is possible for a land parcel to be commonly held by several individuals, only the person whose name is indicated on a Chanot has all the legal rights to that land. The deed can act as evidence of ownership, and it can be used to engage in legal acts upon that land as allowed by the law.
The second and third best title deeds are the Nor Sor 3 Gor and the Nor Sor 3. For Nor Sor 3 title deeds, the Land Department does not utilize official markers to designate land boundaries. As a result, these title deeds have less specific land demarcation than the Chanot.
Foreigners who intend to buy land should also be aware of the problematic "possessory right". This land-ownership right is not substantiated by a title at the Land Department but it is shown using tax payments.