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IF you are thinking of buying land in a Thai company, or individual's name, or leasing it in your own name, a knowledge of title deeds and land ownership laws are fundamental if you are to understand what is being offered to you. Here, we go through the most common land papers you may be presented with as a buyer / lessee. If no kind of paper at all is forthcoming, you can take this as a sure sign you are being ripped off. Once you have a copy of the paper, you can proceed following our suggestions below.
Land titles 101: understanding land papers in KrabiLAND is usually titled according to its survey status. Thailand has not yet completed a national land survey and so most pieces of land cannot accurately be mapped in relation to the neighbouring plots - which can obviously cause disputes when they are changing hands for the vast sums of money now seen in Krabi.
True title deeds, which prove that an individual owns a specific piece of land, are indeed quite hard to come by in this part of Thailand. This is because Chanote Tee Din (as these deeds are called in Thai) can only be issued once the land has been accurately surveyed and plotted out against the national land survey grid.
The Provincial Land Office in Krabi is slowly working its way through the province and many densely populated areas in town and around Ao Nang have already been done. The existence of numbered marker posts in the ground are a sure sign of Chanote land. Unsurprisingly, this land is also the most expensive on the market.
Once out in the countryside, however, it is unlikely land will yet have a Chanote title. In these cases, other official documents proving land use and possession do exist. There are several levels of these titles, but you must be aware that all but one will not have been surveyed and thus the boundaries of the land may be contested.
Nor Sor Sam documents, one step below Chanote Tee Din, are registered with the Land Office and prove that the land in question has been exploited by the possessor and thus he or she has a confirmed right to use the land. These titles can be transferred, leased or sold, but they do not provide the same clear-cut ownership rights as Chanote Tee Din. Thus, before any legal act concerning the land takes place, public notice must be posted for 30 days so that anyone can contest it.
The newer, Nor Sor Sam Gor papers, that have been issued since 1978, are slightly more accurate and the land has usually been marked out against the national survey, or at the very least a scaled aerial photograph. This means that for this newer type of Nor Sor Sam paper, no public notice needs to be posted before a change in status can be made. It is also possible (as with Chanote land) to subdivide and resell smaller plots of Nor Sor Sam Gor land.
Nor Sor Sam are probably the highest type of paper you will find in rural areas and can usually be bought or leased in confidence (provided you follow the procedure for checking ownership, as detailed below), as most of the requirements for the issuance of a Chanote title deed have been met and it is only a question of time (possibly several years) before the paper gets upgraded to a Chanote Tee Din.
Below these type of papers are a whole host of others, mainly issued for agricultural land and none of which give a right to build - or even apply for planning permission to build - any permanent structure. Any houses or other buildings you see on the land are illegal - and what is okay for local Thai people is not the same for 'wealthy' foreigners, so don't expect to be able to get away with it because they can.
Sor Gor Neung is the most basic recorded right to a piece of land. This document does not entitle its owner to lease or sell the land in question (again, not accurately surveyed). If you have Sor Gor Neung land already (say, in your wife's family), it can, however, like the Nor Sor Sam and Nor Sor Sam Gor papers, be relatively easily 'upgraded' to Chanote titles, once the land has been surveyed by the provincial Land Office.
If you come across such things as the Por Bor Tor Ha and the Por Bor Tor Hok, these are little more than tax receipts from the Land Office, held by people who have paid tax to use the land for farming or grazing etc. They can be considered the same as squatter or settler claims. Again, it is not possible to build on this land, nor use it as collateral for a loan or mortgage, nor register its sale or lease.
Under certain circumstances (i.e. when the 'owner' has friends in the right places), this type of paper can also be upgraded to a Nor Sor Sam Gor or Chanote Tee Din title, but for a foreigner to go down this route and invest money, even egged on by promises of a Chanote at the end, would be risky to say the least.
The final type of paper is the Sor Bor Kor, equivalent to the Chanote Tee Din, in that the land will have been accuratetely surveyed and plotted and the paper confers full rights of ownership and right to develop the land within the law. They are, however, only issued to those who have a historical claim to usually wooded areas, often near National Parks - on the strict condition that they may not be leased or sold. They are transferrable only to heirs through the last will and testament of the owner.
Got the paper? What next?All types of land papers and titles are registered with the provincial Land Office in Krabi Town (Samosorn Rd). To check ownership - an essential part of the buying / leasing process - you, or your lawyer, will have to go there with copies of front and back of the title deed plus a copy of the owner's ID card and house registration. Officials will then be able to check if the paper is correctly registered in the claimed owner's name.
Make sure that the numbered markers on the Chanote title deed correspond with those physically in the ground, or you may end up buying a different piece of land from that which you viewed! If in doubt, for a small fee you can arrange for officials from the land office to come to the site to remeasure and confirm the boundaries - this is especially useful if you will be buying or leasing a plot to be subdivided.
Foreigners are able to lease land for a maximum of 30 years with an option to renew. Any lease of more than three years must be registered with the Land Office, which ensures that the land cannot then be sold unless the lease is cancelled. If it is not, the lease effectively becomes void after 3 years.
A recent story we heard leads us to make the final point: it may be worth asking the land 'owner' to bring the original of any title deed to the meeting to sign a sales contract, so it can be checked by the lawyer. Because of the recent influx of foreigners buying land in Thai people's names, the name registered on the title deed may not be in fact be the de facto owner. To make a transaction you need both the de jure registered 'owner' AND the original title deed - one or the other will not suffice. Should the original turn out to be in the hands of the foreigner (who perhaps knows nothing about this attempt to sell his land), you may have to fight to get back any deposit money already handed over.
Above: An authentic Chanote title deed paper
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