There have been many cases in Thailand in recent years under which foreign investors have faced issues relating to the ownership of their property:
Investigations into legality of land title
Investigations into use of Thai companies to acquire property interests
Termination of leases of 30 years when lease rental has been pre-paid, and when the leases contain multiple provisions purporting to ‘protect’ the lessees.
Part of the issues in these cases have been an abuse of power by private developers who are closer to the knowledge of what they can and cannot ‘get away with’ under Thai law than the average innocent investor.
Desmond was asked to contribute, in a quite limited word limit, his summary of leasehold and freehold in terms of issues as they stand today. This is a moving topic, and practice and the outcome of court cases continues to inform us all, and the market, of what risks foreign investors are really taking when they invest into property. There is no good substitute for being well informed, so any investor should expend efforts and monies on knowing what the limitations of title and security are when investing into real estate in Thailand.
The horror stories are far outweighed by the large number of investors living peacefully and securely in Thailand. However, nobody wants to be part of the minority of investors who can find themselves fighting for their rights of ownership simply due to an unfair enforcement of a ‘deemed’ breach of a lease. In the UK, the security of tenure rules introduced many many decades ago ensured unscrupulous landlords could not exploit lessees. No such rules apply in Thailand in relation to leases which are contested in the courts over minor lease violations.