It is commonly thought that potential buyers of property in Thailand must have to form a company in Thailand in order own freehold property. This was true until the Condominium Act of 1979 was passed. So in other words this has not been true for over 3 decades now! For over 30 years it has been possible for foreigners to purchase condominiums in their own names and on a freehold basis. The Condominium Act in Thailand (B. E. 2522) has been amended in 2008 to allow additional protection for owners and flexibility.  You can buy a condo in Thailand in your own name, your retirement fund’s name, a company name or a joint-venture.   Since we are now considering the legalities associated with the purchasing of property in Thailand, it is hugely beneficial and important that know precisely what a ‘condominium’ is defined as.

There are those who incorrectly use this term interchangeably with the phrase ‘apartment building’. There are however notable differences between the two. Current Thai defines a 
‘condominium’ as 
“…an estate in real property consisting of [1] an undivided interest in common in a portion of a parcel or real property, together with [2] a separate interest in space (such as an apartment, a store, an office) in a residential, industrial or commercial building.”

What this means is that when you purchase a condominium in Thailand you are also buying the rights to two lots of property. One is the area inside the four standing walls holding up your apartment which belongs only to you. Two is a share in the ownership of all the common areas in the building and its grounds for e.g. the terrace on the roof, any gardens, hallways, swimming pools, tennis courts and sitting areas. This in turn means that owners can be members of the Owner’s Association and are able to provide their input with regards to the running of the building. A notable example is the owner has a vote in deciding who will be the ‘Juristic Person’ charged with the responsibility of running the condominium on a daily basis. The owner will also have a say in the total amount to be paid with regards to yearly maintenance fees, future facilities the building may offer, the painting of communal walls, the implementing of tables and chairs in common areas and who is contracted to keep the gardens and communal areas clean and tidy. On the other hand there is the apartment building owned by one or more people, which in most cases is the original developer. Owners of units inside this kind of building have no legal rights when it comes to the daily running of the building. That said there are rare occasions when residents may be able to provide some kind of input however the owner still has the final say.

The joint ownership situation that comes with being a condominium owner is therefore a major benefit when compared to buying other kinds of property. Whilst the Condominium Act ensures a democratic process for co-owners to make decisions regarding the operations that is commensurate with their percentage or share they own, the reality of the situation is sometimes very different. This is because in practice it is not always simple to make significant changes given a vote is needed at a General Meeting and these are not scheduled every week. Furthermore some condominiums have thousands of different owners many of whom may only be using their apartment for months, weeks or even days of the year. There are many challenges with regards to getting a major number of co-owners together in order to undertake a kind of populist or shareholder revolution.

Another major positive of purchasing a condominium as opposed to buying another kind of property is that the laws regulating the constructing, selling and managing of condominium projects are far more detailed when compared to other kinds of property. That is not to say there are no restrictions. A notable restriction worth being aware of and remembering is that developers of the condominiums are only able to sell a total of 49% of the units to foreigners meaning 51% must remain in the hands of Thai nationals. When making a decision to purchase it is therefore important to ensure that the 49% allocation has not already be reached.  For example, if a development has 1000 units then foreigners can buy 490 of those. This explains why large developers dominate the market.  If it has, and you are still keen to buy that specific condominium then there are different approaches you can adopt. For example you could form a Thai company with a maximum personal shareholding of 49% with the remained being held by Thai citizens acting as nominee shareholders.  The law says that a foreigner can purchase a condominium unit must remit foreign currency into Thailand in an amount of the condo’s purchase price. Proof of the remittance must be shown to the Land Department at the time the transfer of ownership of the condominium unit is registered and most developers arrange this for free as part of service.