Step Forward for Foreign Property Ownership

A sub-decree allowing legal ownership of individual apartments is expected to be approved by the Council of Ministers today, paving the way for a law allowing foreign ownership of some property, officials said Thursday.

The new co-ownership regulations, which are similar to “strata” laws for condominium ownership in some Western countries, will make it possible to own units within a larger building without having title to the land it sits on.

“The sub-decree will provide benefits and confidence to the buyers,” Nun Theany, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Land Management, said Thursday.

The legislation is considered to be a necessary precondition for the anticipated foreign title law, which is expected to allow non-Cam­bod­ians to purchase real estate above the ground floor of a building.

Ms Theany said that a draft of the foreign title law has been ap­proved by her ministry and the Ministry of Justice, and will soon be presented to members of the private sector for approval.

“We will send the draft law to the Council of Ministers soon,” she added.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Thursday that the co-ownership regulation will clarify ownership of the current crop of skyscrapers under construction in Phnom Penh, and ad­dress how units within them can be sold and inherited.

“This is the first step to facilitate ownership,” he said.

David Colman, a property adviser at Cambodia Angkor Real Es­tate, said Thursday that the new co-ownership regulation is a step in the right direction if it means speedier passage of the foreign ownership law.

“It’s a start,” he said. “Existing ownership laws aren’t particularly attractive for investors…. The hoops that a foreigner has to jump through to buy in Cambodia are a major disincentive.”

Matthew Rendall, a partner at the Sciaroni and Associates law firm and a member of a government-private sector working group on real estate, said Thursday that the regulation will mean that the co-owners of a building will have joint ownership of the land below

“The land itself becomes common property,” he explained.

Although he had not seen a final copy of the sub-decree, Mr Rendall said, “The overall concept is something that everyone was on the same page on.”

He added that he hopes to see a draft of the foreign ownership law in the coming weeks at the next working group meeting. At the last session, about a month ago, Mr Rendall said a draft was presented to the private sector members, who had a few problems with it.

“We just want clarification that it’s only the ground floor that’s out of the question for foreign ownership,” he said. “We also want to remove the current [draft] provision that foreigners can only own 49 percent of the building.”

The previous draft also restricted foreign ownership along international borders, Mr Rendall said. “We want to be sure that this doesn’t apply to beachfront property.”


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