Covering Your Ass(ets)
Reading this statement in “A Rant” by Anonymous has prompted me into describing my own adventures in owning property in Thailand.
“A lot of people may think that this is just a tempest in a teapot in that a foreigner can just simply put the property in the name of his Thai wife girlfriend etc this also is against the law, even though there has never been a crackdown and enforcement is lax at best.”
This statement is incorrect, because you can do this legally with any Thai citizen while protecting yourself.
Part of this was mentioned in an e-mail on a recent Stickman Weekly, but here is the entire story now that all the paperwork is complete. Also, thistook place in Chiang Mai. Laws might be interpreted differently in other parts of Thailand.
My wife is Thai, and our marriage is registered at the Amphur. We spent some time looking for a house and land, found something we liked, negotiated the price and were ready to buy.
I had heard enough horror stories about losing property, and wanted the best way to protect myself in case the relationship went sour, or if something happened to my wife. A friend recommended a good lawyer, and off we went.
Several friends had suggested different options – such as forming a bogus company, holding the mortgage on the property, or creating a long-term lease. The lawyer came up with a different option.
There is a legal contract called an “USUFRUCT”. Yes, it is a strange word, but a quick search will tell you that it is an agreement that gives you the right to use someone else’s property. These are recognized in Thailand. They can be written for any term from 1 year to life, and any fees from zero on up.
Ours gives me the legal right to use the property for the rest of my life,for no fees. It is also legally binding on my wife’s heirs if something happens to her. After my lifetime, who cares?
Transferring the property was simple. Our lawyer came with us to the land office. We paid the seller for the land, paid the land office the transfer fees and my wife was listed on the property chanote as the owner. Then, we signed the usufruct that the lawyer had prepared. We then paid the land office an additional fee of 55 baht, and my name was listed on the chanote as the registered user of the property. Now the land cannot be transferred unless I sign the papers.
After doing this, we decided to go all the way, and get my name listed in the Tabian Baan – the house book. This was a typically Thai bureaucratic process, done at the local Amphur. Below is the gist of the information they gave us during the process.
Amphur – “Yes, this can be done. You need to fill out this form, and provide us with 3 photos and a Residence Certificate from the Immigration Office. You also have to get 2 witnesses to sign these other forms, and give us copies of their ID cards”
Thai Immigration issues these Residency Certificates only for use at other government offices. The certificate will state the purpose that you are using it for. You will need the usual passport and visa copies, 2 photos, and proof that it is a legal address. The certificates are supposed to be free – but some offices will want some tea money.
For witnesses, we got a friend of my wife and an officer at our bank to sign the forms. Back to the Amphur we go.
Amphur – “OK, everything is here. We are busy now – come back in one week”
One week later, back to the Amphur we go.
Amphur – “Oh, these witnesses are no good. We forgot to tell you that the witnesses have to live in the city of Chiang Mai. We also forgot to tell you that you have to bring the witnesses here to the Amphur to sign the forms”
We find two new witnesses, and take them to the Amphur.
Amphur – “OK, everything is here. Come back in 2 days.”
Lo and behold – 2 days later it was done. BUT, I was not listed in my wife’sblue house book. I was given a bright yellow house book of my very own!!Same size, printing and information as hers, just the cover was a different color. The official fee was 25 baht for the process – probably the cost of the book.
Now, I will be able to confuse the hell out of all the clerks at Thai government offices – vehicle registration, drivers license, etc. Most of them have no idea that a foreigner can even get a house book, let alone ever having seen one.
I really hope people follow your excellent advice.