Many foreigners who come to Laos are interested in living in the area and in having a home, be it an apartment, a condominium or a house to live in. Because home ownership is so common in other countries, many want to buy their own home or otherwise control the property.
Being new to Laos, whether coming here with your family or coming here to invest in business yourself, one of the first questions you may have is whether you can buy property to live in or as part of your business plans.
Land ownership, and the rights of foreigners over land, is a complicated issue here. Foreigners are not able to own land here, but they can have long term leases over land. Confusingly, foreigners can own buildings.
• Lao citizens can have what is called ‘land use rights’ over land, which is roughly equivalent to ‘land ownership’ or ‘estate in fee simple’ that may be familiar to you from your home country.
• Lao citizens’ ‘land use rights’ are different to ‘land ownership’ in that the Lao citizen owner has those land use rights subject to the underlying ownership of the land by the Lao state.
• Foreigners may take out long term leases over land ‘owned’ by Lao citizens or the State.
• Foreigners may own buildings but not the land they are built on.
• There have been some recent legislative changes potentially allowing foreigners to own land, under very narrow circumstances, but the exact extent of these changes is not clear yet and information about these changes should be treated with a great deal of caution.
This article has been provided by Arion Legal, an Australian law firm, with an office in Vientiane that has been offering international standard legal advice and documentation for foreign investors operating in, or looking to invest in, Laos since 2008.