Thailand is a civil law country. Therefore, although Thai Supreme Court opinions have a strong persuasive value, the source of all law in all areas, including real estate, is statutory.
Civil and Commercial Code
The Civil and Commercial Code (CCC) is perhaps the single most important law applicable to real estate in Thailand. Besides governing contracts, the CCC also creates ownership of immovable property and dictates how it may be transferred. It also creates and controls the various rights that may be registered over immovable property, such as mortgage, lease, superficies, usufruct, charge, and servitude.
The Land Act creates and controls the various titles of use and ownership of land.
The Condominium Act creates a licensed development in which condominium units may be owned on a freehold basis and regulates the relationships between the owners.
Land Allocation Act
The Land Allocation Act does the same with respect to land, or land with a house on it.
Land Use Laws
Thailand’s three main land use laws are:
Thailand’s Land and Structure Tax Act came into effect on 1 January 2020. It replaced two antiquated taxes on real estate and created the following four classes of property:
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the Thai economy, the 2021 annual tax has been reduced to 10% of the applicable amount.
The most significant recent deals have largely been in the public-private partnership sector, such as:
It should be noted that the volume and velocity of real estate transactions in Thailand has decreased substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as vaccines have started to be rolled out, the market has begun to show signs of optimism for 2021 and beyond.
Real estate investors, developers and lenders have not yet started to adapt to recent technological innovations such as blockchain, decentralised finance ("DeFi") and proptech, which have begun to have a disruptive effect in the real industry in some other locations. It is therefore unlikely that any such technologies will have any significant impact on the real estate market in Thailand over the next 12 months.
Due to the restrictions on foreign ownership of land in Thailand, foreign investors commonly acquire a long-term land lease. However, the maximum lease term in Thailand is currently only 30 years and although an option to renew the lease may be agreed with the lessor, such option is not enforceable against a new lessor should ownership of the land change hands during the original lease term. It is generally agreed that these limitations have inhibited foreign investment not only in real estate, but also in business ventures that require real estate to operate.
Accordingly, for many years now there have been calls, including formal white papers by the various chambers of commerce in Thailand, for the Thai government to amend its lease law to extend the maximum term to a duration close to 100 years, as found in many other international jurisdictions. At times the government has appeared receptive to these calls. However, at the moment there does not appear to be any indication that the government will extend the maximum lease term any time soon.
There are five main real estate titles. The chanote is one of only two true ownership titles in Thailand and is issued for land. The second is the Condominium Unit Title issued for a condominium unit.
There are also three possessory rights title documents for land and in order of preference they are: Nor Sor 3 Gor; Nor Sor 3; and Sor Kor 1. Property rights, including transfer of ownership, can only be registered on the chanote, the Condominium Unit Title, Nor Sor 3 Gor and Nor Sor 3 deeds, but a Sor Kor 1 can usually be upgraded to a chanote or Nor Sor 3 Gor.
Immovable property may be leased for up to 30 years under the CCC, whereas leases for industrial or commercial purposes are eligible for a lease term of up to 50 years in some circumstances.
A registered usufruct gives the grantee the right to possess and benefit from immovable property for up to 30 years.
A habitation may be registered and gives the holder the right of occupation of a structure for either up to 30 years or the life of the holder.
A superficies is the right to own a structure that is built on another party’s land for up to 30 years.
A servitude grants the owner of one property rights, eg, access, over another property owned by someone else. However, a servitude is not a personal right, it is registered in favour of one piece of real estate over another piece of real estate, and this remains the case regardless of who owns the properties. Thus, a servitude has no time limitation.
A charge is similar to a servitude, but it is a personal right that gives the holder rights over real estate owned by someone else, for either the holder’s life or up to 30 years.
The CCC applies to the transfer of real estate in Thailand. Special laws do not apply to a transfer of title for specific types of real estate, such as: residential, offices, retail, factories, or hotels. However, some of these, eg, factories and hotels, are regulated uses of the real estate that require a licence to operate. Thus, if a new owner purchases real estate that is being used as a factory or hotel, that new owner would need to obtain a licence to use the real estate for either of those purposes.
All real estate in Thailand is registered and held under various forms of title (see 2.1 Categories of Property Rights) as prescribed by the Land Code.
The CCC requires an agreement to sell and purchase real estate to be in writing and registered at the local land office where the property is located.
Title insurance is not common in Thailand, but it is available. Buyers who are “land banking” (ie, whose sole purpose for the investment is to hold the real estate for a period of time and then resell for an anticipated profit) or who hold land for commercial purposes, are most likely to purchase title insurance which generally insures the owner against any flaw in the title which would invalidate it.
Buyers typically engage a law firm to perform legal due diligence into the property. This typically includes searches at the: land office; local administrative office; forest resources and management office; natural resources and environment office; public works and town and city planning office; civil courts; bankruptcy courts; and the department of legal execution, where the land is located. Title searches are particularly important, as wrongfully issued titles are not unknown in Thailand. Even if the title is not clearly invalid, official real estate records are sometimes lost or destroyed, which may make it impossible to verify the title to the real estate.
Additionally, commercial real estate investors typically conduct economic and physical due diligence into the property. The former will usually include an assessment of the revenue generated by the property, eg, from rental tenants, while the latter will typically include one or more physical surveys, eg, topographical, hydrological, etc of the property.
Other than potential delays due to periodic national and regional lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the typical due diligence process.
The seller typically provides contractual representations and warranties of ownership and proof that no third-party rights, such as any mortgage or lease, encumber the property.
In the case of any defect in a property sold, of which the buyer was not, nor should have been expected to be, aware, this impairs either its value or fitness for ordinary purposes or for the purposes of the contract, and the seller is liable by statute regardless of whether or not the seller knew of the defect.
The seller is also liable by statute for the consequences of any disturbance caused to the buyer’s possession of, or eviction from, the property by any person having a right over the property at the time of sale, of which the buyer was unaware, or by the fault of the seller.
The law allows parties to contract out of these statutory warranties, thus the sale and purchase typically releases the seller from liability or disturbance. However, such a non-liability clause does not exempt the seller from repayment of the purchase price, unless the clause specifies otherwise. Thus, this release is also typically included. At the same time, a non-liability clause may not exempt a seller from the consequences of their own acts or facts which they knew and concealed.
Finally, if an immovable property is declared to be subject to a servitude (elsewhere often known as an “easement”) by law, the seller is not liable unless they have expressly guaranteed that the property was free of servitudes, or from that servitude. Thus, sellers often refuse to so warrant or explicitly represent otherwise.
The CCC which governs contracts, such as sale and purchase and lease agreements, as well as real estate rights, such as ownership, leaseholds and servitudes/easements, is a crucial area of law for all real estate investors. This is also true of Thailand’s three main land use laws (see 1.1 Main Sources of Law) which should be carefully evaluated by all buyers prior to investing. Depending on the type of property, the Land Act and the Condominium Act are also crucial areas of law as they determine the validity of title to land and condominiums.
Where the investor is a foreigner, laws that provide possible exemptions to Thailand’s restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate, such as the Investment Promotion Act and the Industrial Estate Authority Act, may also be relevant.
Under the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act, the owner or possessor of any property that is a source of contamination that causes physical harm to any person or damage to someone else’s property, is liable and must compensate the harmed party or parties. Furthermore, the owner or possessor must also compensate the government for all its costs in connection with cleaning up the contamination. The liability standard under the Act is strict – the owner or possessor need not have intended or been negligent with regard to the contamination from their property – and the very limited exemptions from this liability do not include the property having originally been contaminated by a prior owner or possessor. Thus, where there is any possibility of contamination, buyers typically require the seller to warrant that they have adhered to applicable environmental law and to indemnify the buyer against any liability arising from contamination from the property during the buyer’s ownership or possession thereof.
Thailand has three principal land use laws:
The Town and City Planning Act is applied by means of ministerial regulations issued under it that apply to specific regions. The BCA is applied by means of the royal decree issued under it that applies to specific geographic regions. The Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act is applied by means of the ministerial regulations issued under it that apply to specific geographic regions, or by announcements issued under it that apply to specific geographic regions for specified periods of time.
Other Applicable Laws
Some other laws may apply to land use in some areas such as the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act and the National Reserved Forest Act. Thus, it is important for a buyer to review all such laws applicable to the purchase property at the time.
There is no provision for a private party to apply for exemptions from applicable land use law in order to facilitate a development project. However, it is possible for local government offices to issue regulations that would allow for more permissive variations to land use restrictions in a specified location.
Land may be expropriated by the government for public purposes in accordance with the Immovable Property Expropriation Act. Once it is determined that a property is to be expropriated, the process is as follows:
The ownership transfer of immovable property in Thailand is subject to the following.
Most of these fees and taxes are the legal liability of the seller. However, it is not uncommon for the parties to agree to share these costs on a 50/50 basis.
In the case of a lease, a registration plus stamp duty fee in an amount equal to 1.1% of the total rent payable for the entire lease term being registered is applicable. The payment of this is subject to negotiation – however, the lessor will most commonly require the tenant to bear this cost.
Stamp Duty of 0.001% of the share value applies to share transfers. There is no additional tax triggered by any change of corporate ownership and control of a company.
The Land Code generally restricts foreign ownership of land unless otherwise permitted by law. Such exemptions are available under certain conditions if the foreign party intends to make a business investment of the type that the Thai government wishes to attract at that time, and in some cases, at a particular location under either the Investment Promotion Act or the Industrial Estate Authority Act.
There is no prohibition against foreign investors owning a building, nor against leasing land or a building.
Foreign investors may also own up to 49% of the titled floor space of a condominium project. However, the money to purchase a condominium must either be brought into Thailand as foreign currency or held by the foreigner in a Thai foreign currency account.
Although sometimes financed by private equity, commercial real estate transactions in Thailand are most commonly financed by loans made by banks. The terms of such bank loans vary depending on the property, the type of development project, the borrower’s history and reputation, any available guarantee (and in such case, the guarantor’s standing) and the lenders’ preferences. The loan may be made all at once or provided via a draw-down facility. Interest may be fixed or variable.
Thailand recently enacted a formal real estate investment trust (REIT) structure. Thailand’s REIT is similar to what is found under the same name elsewhere, eg, the United States. REITs in Thailand are listed on the stock exchange of Thailand and although they initially got off to a slow start, they are picking up momentum and are now providing a modernised financing vehicle for large-scale commercial real estate investments in Thailand.
Typical security provided by commercial real estate developers to their lenders includes one or more of the following: mortgage, pledge, business collateral, assignment, and guarantee.
A mortgage is a non-possessory security and may be registered over immovable property, eg, land or buildings, and some movable properties, eg, machinery that has been registered under the Machinery Registration Act.
A pledge is a possessory security where the lender takes possession of the security and it applies only to movable property such as machinery, whether registered or not, promissory notes, bills of exchange and, most commonly, shares of the borrower. A pledge is not registered but some types of pledged property may require additional steps to be legally valid, such as shares, which in addition to the share certificates being delivered to the creditor must have the pledge record in the share-issuing company’s share register book in order for the pledge to be enforceable.
Under the Business Collateral Act, essentially all of a borrower’s business assets, eg, immovable property, movables, receivables and intellectual property, may be registered as security.
A developer will also often assign its contractual rights, particularly those related to the project, eg, its contractual right to supply, construction, leasing, maintenance, insurance and bond.
Lenders typically also require a third-party guarantee which provides that if the borrower defaults, the guarantor will be obliged to satisfy the debt on behalf of the borrower.
There are no restrictions on granting security over real estate to foreign lenders. However, it is unclear whether a non-affiliated foreign lender would be considered to be conducting a service business under the Foreign Business Act. If so, the lender would first need to apply for and receive a foreign business licence under the Act prior to entering the loan agreement.
There are no restrictions on repayments being made to a foreign lender. However, other requirements, such as exchange controls, may be applicable.
The registration fee for a mortgage over immovable property is an amount equal to 1% of the loan, but not exceeding THB200,000. Mortgages over machinery attract a registration fee of 0.001% of the amount of the loan, but not exceeding THB120,000. The fee to register business collateral is an amount equal to 0.1% of the loan but not more than THB1,000 unless the collateral is immovable property, in which case, the fee is an amount equal to 1% of the loan. De minimis stamp duties apply to loan, mortgage, pledge and guarantee transactional documents.
Enforcement fees may include court and execution office fees, as well as fees in connection with the official auction and sale of any property, eg, mortgaged land or pledged assets.
Where the borrower is a Thai company limited, as long as the borrower has reason to believe that the authorised director is acting within the scope of their authority to provide security to the lender over the company’s property, there are no further legal rules or requirements, such as financial assistance or corporate benefit rules, that must be complied with before such an entity can give valid security over its assets. However, if the articles of association do not specifically provide for the right of the director to mortgage property, a shareholder resolution is required.
Where the security provided is a mortgage, the lender must notify the debtor in writing to settle the debt within a reasonable time to be fixed in the notice. If the debtor fails to comply with the notice, the lender may then file an enforcement action in the Thai civil court to have the property seized and sold by public auction.
Where the security provided is a pledge, the lender must also notify the debtor in writing to settle the debt within a reasonable time to be fixed in the notice and if the debtor fails to comply, the lender may sell the property but only by public auction, prior to which the lender must notify the debtor in writing of the place and time of the auction.
If the security is provided under the Business Collateral Act, then the lender must send a notice to the debtor to settle the debt within 15 days of receipt of the notice. A copy of this notice must also be sent to any preferential creditors registered under the Act. If the debtor fails to comply, the lender may then sell the property.
In general, registered security rights over immovable property rank in order of registration. However, if the security is given by way of mortgage or registration under the Business Collateral Act, and a later preferential right in the property is registered based on preservation of or work done on the property, then such later registered right may be exercised in preference to a mortgage or business collateral security interest.
A lender holding or enforcing security over real estate cannot be held liable under the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act for any pollution emanating from real estate that secures a loan, unless the lender actually caused the pollution.
Security interests created by a borrower in favour of a lender are not made void if the borrower becomes insolvent. However, insolvency is grounds for any relevant lender to force the debtor into bankruptcy. Under the Bankruptcy Act a secured creditor may enforce their security rights without need of permission from the bankruptcy court, but the lender must allow the property to be examined by the bankruptcy receiver. Furthermore, if the juristic act that created the security occurred within the three months prior to the bankruptcy petition and such act is found to have been done in order to intentionally advantage one creditor to the disadvantage of any other creditor, the act may be cancelled. If the advantaged creditor is an insider of the debtor, the three months will be extended to one year prior to the petition.
Given the anticipated end of the LIBOR index by the end of 2021, parties with legacy contracts that are tied to LIBOR should be contacting their counterparties to amend their agreements to provide a suitable substitute index.
Migration to alternative rates will present significant challenges to several processes involving long-dated instruments referencing LIBOR, and the transition will entail significant work and risk as parties must re-assess valuation methodologies, renegotiate existing contracts, and revisit their risk profile and hedging strategies.
The THBFIX is a transaction-based benchmark rate implied from the USD-THB exchange rate and thus it will also be affected by the end of LIBOR. This may cause the Bank of Thailand to revise its BIBOR rate process away from being a predominantly survey-based rate, to a more transparent and reliable basis. This would have a significant impact in Thailand, as the THBFIX is predominantly used as the reference rate in Thai loan agreements.
The Town and City Planning Act and the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act control land use and zoning in Thailand. However, the specific, detailed and varied application of these Acts is implemented by regulations or announcements, as the case may be, issued under the Acts that apply to specific geographic localities in Thailand.
The BCA controls construction, refurbishment and demolition of buildings. The standard provision of the Act applies to all such activity. However, under the Act, structures intended for a specific use, eg, hotels, condominiums and shopping malls, are considered “controlled structures” and more detailed and rigorous regulations issued under the Act and specific to each are applicable. Regulations may also be issued from time to time, applicable in specific localities, that prescribe particular design and appearance requirements for newly constructed or modified buildings.
The Town and City Planning Act, the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act and the BCA regulate the development and designated use of individual parcels of real estate throughout Thailand. However, the specific, detailed and varied application of these Acts is implemented by royal decrees, regulations and announcements, as the case may be, issued under the Acts that apply to specific geographic localities in Thailand. Local government administrations are responsible for the application and enforcement of the Acts and regulations issued thereunder.
In general, the right to develop any new project or complete a major refurbishment is provided by obtaining a construction permit issued under the BCA by the relevant local government administration. The local administration’s decision as to whether such permission will be granted must also take into account compliance with all other applicable land use law, such as the Town and City Planning Act and the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act, as well as other controls applicable to some types of construction. These include any requisite initial environmental examination or, for larger projects, any environmental impact assessment report, including analysis of a project’s expected effects on third parties.
A denial of construction permission under the BCA may be appealed to the relevant local government administration within 30 days of acknowledgement of such denial. The local government administration must then forward the appeal to the Appeal Consideration Committee which must rule on the appeal within 60 days thereafter. Should the appellant disagree with the ruling, the appellant may then file an action in the Administrative Court within 30 days. During the appeal process, both the appellant and local government administration are prohibited from doing anything to the construction except where it poses danger to persons or property.
Local government authorities are responsible for formally granting, denying and enforcing construction permission and thus, agreement with the local authorities regarding a construction project is required as a matter of course in Thailand. However, it is also not uncommon for permission to be conditional on the provision of some benefit to the locality such as new or upgraded public infrastructure.
All owners and possessors of real estate in Thailand have a right to access utilities. However, where utilities do not yet connect to the project property it may be necessary to negotiate with the relevant local utility authority to have utilities extended to the project property.
In the event of there being construction, alteration, demolition or removal of a building in violation of the BCA or regulation issued thereunder, the local government administration has the power to:
A party that fails to comply with a demolition order may be imprisoned for up to six months and fined up to THB100,000.
Where a construction requires permission for a specific use, the local government administration may order a party not to use the construction in that manner until such permission has been obtained. Any party that is using a structure without the requisite permission may be imprisoned for up to six months, fined up to THB60,000 and additionally fined up to THB10,000 for each day of such impermissible use.
Any juristic person, such as a registered partnership, limited partnership, private company limited or public company limited, is eligible to hold real estate assets. Of these, the preferred entities for investors are private and public company limited.
Furthermore, listed property funds and REITs are used for investment purposes.
Private Company Limited
A private company limited is required to maintain at least three shareholders at all times. The company must be managed by one or more directors, all of whom must be natural persons. The directors are not required to be shareholders of the company.
Public Company Limited
A public company limited is required to maintain at least 15 shareholders at all times. There is no minimum capital requirement. At least five directors must manage the company and at least 50% of such directors are required to reside in Thailand.
A limited partnership has two different kinds of partner subject to different liabilities:
In a registered partnership the individual partners are jointly and unlimitedly liable for the obligations of the partnership; the partnership is established through a contribution of money, other properties or service to the partnership by the partners; and the share of each partner in the profits and losses is determined by the amount of such contribution.
A property fund is established in the form of a juristic person listed on the stock exchange of Thailand. A property fund is established in order to collect funds from investors and use these funds to invest in real estate. The return of the fund’s investment is generally in the form of regular income through rent. The property fund is required to hold at least 75% of its net asset value in real estate or the leasehold rights of real estate, which must be located in Thailand and be at least 80% constructed.
A REIT takes the form of a trust and does not have juristic person status but is also listed on the stock exchange of Thailand. A REIT can also invest in real estate located abroad and can develop real estate projects.
The minimum registered capital for a private company limited is THB15.
There is no minimum capital requirement for a public company limited, limited partnership and registered ordinary partnership.
Property funds in Thailand are required to be closed-end funds with a minimum capital of THB500 million.
A REIT must also invest at least THB500 million in real estate assets.
The following governance requirements apply to each type of entity:
Accounting costs usually depend on the type of entity and the amount of the transaction.
A private company limited is required to prepare an audited balance sheet, file corporate income tax returns, as well as file its latest shareholder list yearly. Furthermore, it must maintain and update a register of shareholders.
A public company limited is required to hold an annual general meeting, prepare an audited balance sheet, file corporate income tax returns and file its latest shareholder list yearly. Furthermore, it must maintain and update a register of shareholders. It is also required to publish the balance sheet in a newspaper.
Limited partnerships and registered ordinary partnerships must prepare and submit annual financial statements.
Property funds and REITs must comply with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
The law recognises the following arrangements.
All leases are governed by the CCC as a specific contract.
Apart from standard lease provisions, the Hire of Immovable Property for Commerce and Industry Act introduces a specific form of commercial lease. The Act defines commercial purposes with regard to leasing commercial property. A lease that qualifies under the Act as “commercial” must be:
The commercial lease under such Act may have a term of up to 50 years. The maximum term for any other lease, whether residential or not qualifying under the conditions of the Act is merely 30 years. In addition, a lease under the Act may also be mortgaged as security for a loan. A commercial lease under the Act is automatically inheritable by the tenant’s heir. Finally, a commercial lease may be sublet or transferred without the lessor’s prior consent.
Registration requirements exist in relation to the lease term. Any lease term exceeding three years must be registered with the land department in order to be enforceable for the term exceeding three years.
Furthermore, any lease term cannot exceed 30 years (see 6.2 Types of Commercial Leases for exceptions).
Other terms are only freely negotiable if the lease is not considered a “residential property leasing business”, which means a business that leases five or more property units to individual lessees for residential proposes. A residential property leasing business is a controlled business and certain contract terms are required by law. Any violation is subject to a fine and/or imprisonment (see 6.14 Specific Regulations).
Impact of COVID-19
No specific legislation has been enacted in relation to leases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, lessees of state properties have received certain benefits in relation to their lease.
In support of owners of real estate, the government enacted a 90% reduction of property tax rates for 2021.
Typically, short-term leases do not exceed a three-year term, in order to avoid the registration requirement. Land leases are usually for a longer term.
Tenants have specific liabilities to the owner of a property and any relevant provisions of their rental contract.
The use of the property is restricted to ordinary purposes or those provided for in the rental contract. A tenant is required to take ordinary care of the property, which includes maintenance and petty repairs, as such care would dictate. If the tenant fails to do so, the tenant may be required by the lessor to comply with such requirements. In the case of non-compliance with such request, the lessor may terminate the lease contract.
The tenant is liable for any resulting damage where the tenant fails to advise the lessor of the following, of which the lessor is unaware:
The frequency of rent payments is dependent on the project. Payments are usually made monthly. It is also not uncommon for the full lease amount to be prepaid, which is usually the case with long-term land leases.
Force Majeure Clauses
With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, importantly the CCC includes a statutory definition of “force majeure”. Section 8 of the CCC outlines that “force majeure denotes any event the happening or pernicious results of which could not be prevented even though a person to whom it happened or threatened to happen were to take such appropriate care as might be expected from him in his situation". In order for the debtor to be relieved of the obligation, the performance must become impossible as a consequence of a circumstance, for which the debtor is not responsible, that occurred after the creation of the obligation. Taking into account that Thai court decisions on “force majeure” tend to follow a strict and narrow definition of the above-mentioned terms, it will be a challenging task for a tenant to invoke force majeure for the non-payment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, since the payment itself is not impossible. In order to avoid such future uncertainty, it is recommended to include “pandemic events” in specific force majeure clauses in rental agreements.
Variation in the rent will depend on the contractual arrangement between the parties.
Additionally, some leases shift the local property tax burden to the lessee. Any changes in the local tax would then affect the financial burden of the lessee.
If the initial lease agreement is silent on this point, the parties are free to negotiate the new lease term and amount.
Rental of immovable property is exempted from VAT. However, the lease of any movables, such as furniture, is subject to VAT.
The following are typically payable by a tenant at the start of a lease:
The total amount payable by a tenant is commonly split into a rental component and a service component. The service component covers the payment for the maintenance and repair of the shared area.
Utilities and telecoms are typically charged as follows.
It should be noted that the utility rate must reflect the actual rate paid by the owner if the lease falls under certain regulations issued in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act, which regulates residential structure leases (as further explained in 6.14 Specific Regulations).
The tenant is usually required to insure against public damages and might insure its own assets as well.
The landlord effects insurance of the landlord’s assets, such as the building, decoration and furniture. Events covered are typically physical loss caused by fire, lightning, explosion, smoke, water damage, hail, windstorms, earthquakes and floods.
The tenant must use the property for the contractually agreed purpose and refrain from using the property in any way that is not considered ordinary and usual. Further, the tenant has a duty to take care of the property as a person with ordinary prudence would do.
The tenant may not alter the property without the permission of the lessor. If a tenant fails to adhere to this, the tenant is required to return the property to its original condition and is further liable for any damage caused.
Leases are generally governed by the CCC. However, there are two specific laws that additionally govern certain leases:
A tenant’s insolvency would commonly trigger the termination provisions of the rental agreement where the tenant fails to perform its obligation, such as paying the agreed rental amount.
Bankruptcy proceedings cannot be initiated by the debtor. However, a debtor can, under certain circumstances, apply for reorganisation. If the property is essential for the operation of the debtor’s business, the owner may not exercise their right to reclaim the property.
A security deposit is usually held to protect the landlord should the tenant fail to meet its obligations. In addition, the landlord might require the tenant to provide a guarantor for the performance of the tenant’s obligations.
The tenant has no right to occupy the property once the lease has terminated/expired. However, if after expiration of the agreed period the tenant remains in possession of the property with the knowledge of the landlord and the landlord does not object, then it is considered a renewal of the contract for an indefinite period.
Any eviction of the tenant requires an eviction order of the court. Only a court-appointed execution officer is entitled to take possession of the premises.
An assignment or sub-lease is only possible with the approval of the landlord. An exception to this rule is a legally defined “commercial lease” (as described in 6.2 Types of Commercial Leases).
According to the CCC, termination of the lease by the landlord requires:
A tenant may terminate a lease in accordance with the CCC if:
Any lease term of more than three years must be registered with the land department that has jurisdiction over the relevant immovable property in order to be enforceable for a term exceeding three years.
The lease will be registered on the land title. The parties to the lease must provide the documents for the relevant transaction in accordance with the Licensing Facilitation Act, which requires that the land department specifies what document must be provided in advance for each transaction. A Thai translation of the lease agreement must further be provided for registration purposes.
To complete the relevant registration, the parties must pay a registration fee and stamp duty equal to 1.1% of the total rental amount of the registered lease term.
A tenant is legally required to leave the premises when the underlying right to possess such premises is extinguished, be it by termination or expiration.
However, the eviction of a tenant requires an eviction order from the court against such tenant. After having obtained such order, the landlord will request the appointment of an execution officer who will then have the power to take possession of the premises.
The length of the proceedings varies from case to case.
According to the Immovable Property Expropriation Act, the government has the right to compulsory purchase of real estate and under this, a lease can be terminated by the government. Such expropriation is a lengthy and formal process involving surveys and committees that first need to be established. The owner and tenant of any expropriated land and building will be compensated by the government.
The following are the most common structures used to price construction projects.
The liability for the design and build depends on the contractual arrangements of the parties. If the contractor in a design-build contractual relationship assumes the responsibility for the whole project, such contractor will be the sole responsible party. However, if the owner employs different entities in a design-tender approach, the design and construction will be performed by different parties. In that case, the responsibility of the parties is divided according to their respective contractual performance.
Indemnification is commonly used in construction contracts. Parties also usually agree to limit their liability to a fixed amount or in the form of a waiver of consequential damages.
Thai law implements consumer protection provisions in relation to agreements for the construction of residential houses. Such contracts cannot include any exclusion or limitation of liability for breach of contract by the contractor. Furthermore, warranty periods are specified and are not freely negotiable: liability for defects, such as five years for structure and one year for component parts and equipment, must be included in a consumer-related construction agreement.
Parties typically manage schedule-related risks by implementing milestone payments. Such payments are connected to penalty payments in the case of delay, but also include incentives for early completion. Furthermore, early termination clauses are commonly agreed.
Thai law provides for automatic penalty provisions (ie, regardless of whether these are included in the contract between the parties) in certain commercial projects such as condominium buildings and consumer-related construction agreements. In both cases, any delay in completion of the project is subject to a daily penalty of 0.01% of the total contractual amount, limited to 10% of the contractual amount.
One or more of the following securities is typically provided:
By law, a contractor obtains a preferential right on the immovable property for work done on such immovable property. Such preferential right allows the creditor to receive performance of the obligation out of such immovable property in preference to other creditors. Since the preferential right is an ancillary right to the obligation, it will be extinguished by the performance of the obligation.
Certain “use-controlled buildings” are required to receive “use certification” after completion of construction. Such buildings are hotels, condominiums, warehouses, hospitals, hazardous goods storage rooms, dormitories or common residential buildings (eg, apartment blocks) which are classified as a “large building” under the law; convention halls or office buildings having a total floor area of 300 square metres or more; any building used for any commercial purpose and having a total floor area of 300 square metres or more; or any building used for any industrial or educational purpose is a building subject to control over its use.
Inspection and Use Certification
On completion of the construction of the use-controlled building, notification must be given to the local government administration to inspect the structure. After the inspection, if the local government administration determines that the construction was completed in accordance with its building permit, permission to use the building will be granted and use certification for the purpose applied for in the building permit will be issued. If, however, the local administrative office does not inspect the building within 30 days of the notification of completion, the owner or possessor of the building may go ahead and use, or allow others to use, the building for the purpose stated in the building permit.
VAT is not applicable to the sale and purchase of real estate. However, Specific Business Tax (SBT) of 3.3% applies to the sale of immovable property by juristic persons. Exemptions to the SBT requirement may apply to a sale by a natural person. Where SBT is not applicable, stamp duty at a rate of 0.5% applies.
If the real estate asset to be transferred is the only or main asset of the selling entity, an entire business transfer might be beneficial. The transfer of the real estate asset that is part of an entire business transfer is not subject to SBT. However, in order to take advantage of the tax benefits, the selling entity must be dissolved within the same accounting period as the business transfer takes place.
Municipal taxes do not apply specifically to business premises. However, real estate is subject to property tax, which is a local tax.
Withholding taxes apply to the rental and sale of immovable property.
A “tax resident” of Thailand is any person staying in Thailand for a period or periods aggregating 180 days or more per year. However, it is important to note that the duty to pay tax on rental income in Thailand does not depend on being a tax resident of Thailand or whether the income is received in Thailand. Rental income is considered taxable income regardless of Thai tax residency under the Thai Revenue Code. The relevant law states that a taxpayer (ie, “anyone”) who in the previous tax year derived assessable income from a property situated in Thailand must pay tax, whether such income is paid within or outside Thailand. Thus, anyone, tax resident or not, who earns rental income from a property in Thailand, must pay tax on that income, no matter whether the rental income is paid on-shore or off-shore.
It is the duty of the payer of the rent to deduct withholding tax from the rental payment and submit it to the local revenue department. However, both the lessee and the lessor are jointly liable for the payment of this withholding tax.
The amount of withholding tax depends on whether the lessor is a tax resident of Thailand and also whether the lessee is a juristic person or an individual. If the lessor is not a tax resident of Thailand the withholding tax rate is 15%. The legal status of the lessee does not matter if the owner is not a tax resident of Thailand. If the lessor is a tax resident of Thailand and the lessee is a juristic person, the withholding tax rate is 5%. If the lessor is a tax resident of Thailand and the lessee is a natural person, there is no withholding tax applicable.
The taxation of a “capital gain” on the sale of real estate in Thailand depends on whether the seller is a natural or juristic person.
Juristic Person or Company
When a corporate entity sells an immovable property, withholding tax at the rate of 1% of the sale price is required to be deducted from the sale price and paid to the authorities on transfer. This is a prepayment of the corporate seller’s income tax for that tax year, and it will be credited against any tax owed for that year. However, both parties – the seller and any buyer – jointly bear the legal duty to withhold and pay this tax. A surcharge on any late or inadequate payment of the withholding tax at a rate of 1.5% per month of the late amount is applicable.
Any gain realised on the sale of immovable property must be declared by the selling company in the accounting period when the sale took place. Section 65 of the Revenue Code defines “net profit” as the result of income from business or arising out of business in one accounting year, less certain expenses. In other words, the net profit of the whole accounting year is the basis of taxation and not a single taxable event, such as the sale of immovable property.
Natural Person or Individual
When an individual sells an immovable property, the withholding tax is generally calculated based on the official appraised value of such property, less certain deductions. The deductions depend on the duration of ownership of the property to be transferred. The calculation is done using a specific formula created by the legislature which takes into account how long the property has been owned and the progressive tax rates applicable to individuals, but may be calculated without including any of the seller’s other annual taxable income. It should be noted that even if the transfer of immovable property is without consideration (ie, a gift) by an individual, it will be deemed a sale subject to personal income tax.
The following maximum depreciation rates apply:
Land does not depreciate.
Deductions on rental income are applicable and actual expenses may be deducted in the case of houses, buildings or other constructions. If the property is let by the owner, a standard deduction of 30% is allowed as expenses. Rental income tax recipients have the option to define the taxable income by sufficiently documenting their actual rental income-related expenses. If these expenses are higher than the standard 30% deduction, are reasonable and sufficiently documented, then such deduction can be effected.
Real estate development on land in Thailand may be for commercial, industrial or residential purposes, and there are restrictions and regulations relating to such development. In general, the use of land may be subject to certain restrictions under the laws of town planning, building control or environmental conservation. Specific developments and operations are closely regulated, such as factories, hotels, condominiums, superstores and housing estates, and investors need to check all relevant criteria and requirements carefully.
Foreign investment in freehold land is generally prohibited, but land ownership by foreigners is officially permitted in a number of limited circumstances. Given the restrictions on the outright ownership of land, foreigners sometimes employ alternative forms of land or building tenure. The law allows forms of possessory rights, such as leases.
Thailand currently offers an alternative investment for foreigners who are interested in investing in real estate: the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). Under REIT regulations, REITs shall mainly invest in certain real properties. Foreigners can invest in REITs by purchasing units of REITs listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, provided that the foreign restrictions are also applicable to REITs investing in freehold real property in Thailand.
The COVID-19 outbreak has obviously posed a big challenge for Thailand’s real estate market, resulting in a slowdown in normal M&A activity across the region, with many investors and business operators postponing investment decisions and shifting into "wait-and-see" mode.
Conversations have shifted away from assessing the initial impact of COVID-19 on portfolios, towards a more forward-looking approach to sourcing fresh opportunities and new transactions. Despite the current COVID-19 circumstances, there is still ample capital in the region seeking medium to long-term real estate investment opportunities. The sellers that were launching sales are waiting for the financial performance of their portfolios to recover, while the buyers are still taking advantage of the better pricing.
Assets providing steady income streams will be the focus, while interest in logistics and warehouse assets will strengthen alongside solid e-commerce industry growth. Demand for retail and hotel assets will suffer due to falling rental income and a slowdown in regional tourism arrivals, respectively.
Key Recent Regulatory Updates
Property tax: 90% reduction in land and building tax for 2021
The Royal Decree Reducing Tax for Certain Types of Land and Buildings No. 2, B.E. 2564 (2021) (the Royal Decree) was published in the Government Gazette on 31 January 2021, and became effective as of 1 February 2021.
Aimed at relieving the continued economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and similar to the reduction implemented in 2020, the Royal Decree reduces the land and building tax for 2021 by 90% of the amount calculated in accordance with the Land and Building Act, B.E. 2562 (2019) (the Land Tax Act). In other words, the local authority will first calculate the land and building tax on each property by determining its official appraisal value, and then deduct eligible tax base exemptions and apply the applicable tax rate depending on the category of the land and buildings under the Land Tax Act. After this, a 90% discount will be applied to the amount and property owners will only have to pay 10% of the actual tax amount.
REITs buy-back – alternative for business operators to manage cash flow
In an effort to help real estate businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the Notification of the Capital Market Supervisory Board No. Tor Jor. 3/2564 re: Issuance and Offer for Sale of Units of Real Estate Investment Trusts (No. 18) (the Notification) was issued on 12 January 2021, introducing new categories of REIT that come with either a buy-back "obligation" or an "option" under which a property owner can repurchase their property during a specified period and for a specified value. The Notification came into effect on 1 February 2021.
In the first category, a repurchase agreement with the property owner must be reached, requiring the owner to have the "obligation" to repurchase the property at the agreed price, and the property owner must have a credit rating. The REIT buy-back in this category may offer its trust units for sale to the public or general investors.
In the other category, the owner is not obliged but is given first "option" to buy back its property. The trust units of the REIT under this category can be offered to "institutional investors" or "ultra-high net worth" investors only, given the uncertainty and higher risks associated with the option to buy-back arrangement.
It can be assumed from the Notification that the property to be invested in via new REITs must come with the owner's buy-back obligation or option, meaning that the new REITs must be established separately from traditional REITs, for which an owner's buy-back obligation or option is not permitted. It remains to be seen whether this new buy-back scheme will address the needs of business operators in the current situation.
Other key changes in the Notification include the provision to allow REITs (whether new or traditional) to "temporarily" operate businesses that usually require a licence, such as hotels or hospitals, in the absence of a master lessee. To do so, the REIT manager must come up with interim measures to be carried out during the absence of the master lessee, and must comply with the reporting requirements set out in the Notification.
In a nutshell, the new REITs buy-back paves the way for property owners and business operators to overcome economic obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, at least for the time being. It will be interesting to see if the government comes up with any additional measures to help property owners and business operators who are interested in selling property to REITs, such as a special tax reduction scheme to help reduce transaction costs.
New property-based right: Sub Ing Sitthi
Sub Ing Sitthi is a new right introduced by the Property-Based Right Act, B.E. 2562 (2019) on 30 April 2019. The Act allows registered owners of land with title deeds (whether it is vacant or has buildings situated there) or of condominium units to grant a right to use the property in accordance with specific conditions and timeframes (not exceeding 30 years), and then have a transferable and mortgageable instrument issued for such right. However, this right has not been utilised or explored per its purposes due to the pending regulations.
On 18 November 2020, the Ministry of Interior published the ministerial regulation under the Property-Based Right Act, B.E. 2562 (2019) (the Procedure Regulation) in the Royal Gazette. The Procedure Regulation prescribes the procedures and criteria for creating and cancelling a property-based right (commonly referred to in Thai as Sub Ing Sitthi), engaging in transactions relating to Sub Ing Sitthi, and issuing or revoking a Sub Ing Sitthi Certificate (including a replacement thereof). On the same date, the Ministry also published another ministerial regulation to set the rates of official fees and expenses for the application, registration and arrangements thereof.
The Procedure Regulation specifies the steps and mechanisms for implementing the principles stated in the Property-Based Right Act, B.E. 2562 (2019). In particular, it sets out the documents required for an application to create or cancel Sub Ing Sitthi,the processes for registering a transfer (including by inheritance) or mortgage of Sub Ing Sitthi, and the steps for seizing or revoking a Sub Ing Sitthi Certificate.
The Procedure Regulation also points out that local land offices may issue documents relating to Sub Ing Sitthi (eg, a Sub Ing Sitthi Certificate, and notices to property owners or holders of Sub Ing Sitthi) in an electronic format. The authority is expected to announce further details about these electronic documents in due course.
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