An increase in foreign investment, partly motivated by property laws becoming more friendly to foreigners, was a major factor in the construction of major projects such as Gold Tower 42). When it is completed investors will rely heavily on demand from foreign parties. Photo by: PHA LINA
Peter Mewes is an English solicitor and legal advisor with HBS Law Firm and Consultants in Phnom Penh. For information about legal services for corporate, commercial and private clients he can be contacted at [email protected].
AS foreign property ownership laws are set to change it is essential for potential investors in Cambodia’s property market to understand the legal requirements and the advantages and pitfalls you may encounter while purchasing property.
Although it is difficult to predict if future legislative changes will improve the current financial or tax system, the government seems likely to continue to enact “foreigner-friendly” legislation to encourage increased confidence and economic growth.
The climate for foreign investors, ranging from major developers and real estate agents to individuals, is becoming friendlier, but it is still highly important to be aware of the workings of Cambodian property law before you invest.
Although the LandLaw of 2001 and Investment Lawof 2003 prevent foreigners from owning land in the Kingdom, there are many options available to foreigners to invest in property in Cambodia.
- Foreigners may use a Cambodian land-holding company to purchase freehold property, with the Cambodian partner required to own at least 51% of the shares.
- Foreigners can sign long-term leases more than 15 years long.
- Foreigners can buy a freehold unit above ground level in a shared building, with some limits placed on the percentage of space that can be foreign owned.
There is, however, one very important point to note: although the problem exists mostly in rural areas, anyone buying property should make sure that the person on the selling side can prove legal ownership of the property.
It is vital that any buyer makes sure that the current owner can verify his title to the property.If he is able to do that (and the title documents are authentic) then you are likely to avoid future problems like fraud or overlapping titles.
Currently, there are no restrictions on the eligibility of foreigners to take loans in Cambodia. In practice, an individual - foreign or Cambodian - may be granted a long-term loan of up to 10 years or more at the bank’s discretion to buy freehold residential property. Generally, Cambodian banks provide loans of up to 60% of the market value of the property with an interest rate of 10% to 12% per year.
Also, using immovable property as security is recognised by Cambodian law and usually enforceable in Cambodian courts. Most banks in Cambodia now accept the land titles owned by the borrowers as security for both short-term and long-term loans.
In conclusion: potential property owners may well wish to take advantage of an improving climate for foreign investment, but they must realize that improved policy does not immediately lead to improved practice and it is still important to proceed with caution in a property market. Consequently, it is advisable get legal advice to ensure that your assets are fully protected.