Tag Archives: property

VIETNAM- MARRIAGE AND PROPERTY/REAL ESTATE

Foreigners are better off if they do NOT marry Vietnamese nationals – what you must know:
By: Dr. Oliver Massmann and Pham Ngoc Ha

In Vietnam, there is no private ownership of land. Land is owned by the people and administered exclusively by the State. The State grants land use rights to land users being domestic organizations, domestic family households/individuals, communities of Vietnamese citizens, religious establishments, foreign organizations with diplomatic functions, Vietnamese residing overseas, foreign invested enterprises. Land users are entitled to obtain the title certificate for land use rights, so called Certificate of Land Use Rights and Ownership of Houses and Other Assets Attached to Land (LURC) or Sổ Đỏ in Vietnamese. Foreign individuals are not allowed to have land use rights, i.e., no LURC.

Whether a foreign individual married to a Vietnamese citizen can own land use rights
Given such strict prohibition in the Land Law, foreign individuals who want to have their own land plots in Vietnam, especially in Da Nang or Nha Trang with beautiful beaches, would think that marriage to Vietnamese could solve the problems.

It is a common understanding that every married couple, regardless of any nationalities, would like to make their investments, particularly in real estates, in such a manner that both spouses can be legally recognized as co-owners of the property. Vietnam Family Law has the same approach. It is provided in the law that: Common property of husband and wife includes property created by a spouse, incomes generated from labor, production and business activities, yields and profits arising from separate property and other lawful incomes in the marriage period. The land use rights obtained by a spouse after marriage shall be common property of husband and wife, unless they are separately inherited by, or given to a spouse or are obtained through transactions made with separate property. For a common property which is required by law to be registered for ownership or use, both spouses shall be named in the title certificate, unless otherwise agreed by the couple (Articles 33 and 34 of the Family Law).

One could figure that if he/she marries a Vietnamese, they could together purchase land and hence, jointly own the land. This is well backed-up by the above Family Law provision. However, there’s no such ideal scenario in Vietnam.

Family Law vs. Land Law
When the married couple finally found a perfect land plot, they would likely need to enter into a land use right transfer agreement/sale and purchase agreement and such agreement would need to be notarized to be complied with the law and ultimately for the issuance of an LURC. Here comes the issue: the Land Law will prevail the Family Law.

Even though it is provided that the land use rights obtained after marriage will be common property, it is not right in the case of marriage between a foreigner and a Vietnamese. No matter how much you contribute to buy the land, even you agree not to be a party to the transfer agreement, not to be named in the LURC, you risk losing all your money invested to buy the land.

How so?
The Land Registration Office would explain that Land Law applies in this case. Since foreign individuals are not allowed to have land use rights in Vietnam, the land purchased by the married couple could only be recognized as property of the Vietnamese spouse. In order to name only the Vietnamese spouse on the LURC, it must be the separate property.

“Separate property” in Vietnam is, among other things, property formed by the husband or wife’s separate funds. The Land Registration Office will then require a so called “Acknowledgement of Separate Property” (i.e., a Waiver of Rights) from the non-Vietnamese spouse, which generally says that the non-Vietnamese spouse acknowledges that this is his/her Vietnamese spouse’s own property which was obtained by his/her Vietnamese spouse separate funds and that the non-Vietnamese spouse will waive all rights whatsoever to such property. If you don’t agree to this Waiver, you and your Vietnamese spouse cannot get the LURC. It’s the worst case if you have paid all or most of the purchase price to the land transferor already! Take it or leave it. If you don’t agree, you will lose all; if you agree, you will lose your money but at least your Vietnamese spouse still can get the LURC. In any case, your money invested in the land is totally lost because you don’t get any consideration, legally!

Lessons Learnt
Foreign individuals should not marry Vietnamese with the main purpose to have land use rights. Do NOT marry to secure real estate – It works the other way: it’s better if you are NOT married to protect your money and rights to real estate in Vietnam. Or go the simple way: buy a condominium because foreigners can own condominiums in Vietnam on their name if they have a tourist visa. That is the golden simple way!

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC
THANK YOU!

Vietnam – Top Five Issues Affecting Real Estate Market

According to recent statistics, the property sector was behind the manufacturing and processing industry, which has so far attracted a total of USD12.84 billion, equaling 72.9 per cent of the total foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow to Vietnam.1

Laws governing real estate sector, including the Law on Real Estate Business 2014 (LREB) and the Law on Residential Housing 2014 (LRH) coming into effect on 1 July 2015. There are also other documents, for example, Decree No. 01/2017/ND-C P in effect on 3 March 2017 guiding the Land Law 2013 (Land Law). These new legislations set a legal framework for real estate industry. They have introduced breakthrough improvements by reducing investment barriers and expanding the scope of real estate business. Nevertheless, there are some remaining issues as analyzed below.

  1. Delay in issuing land use right certificate (LURC) for foreigners

Under Decree 99/2015, foreigners are not allowed to own houses in national defense and security areas indicated by the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Public Security. Based on such list of areas, the provincial People’s Committee will direct local Departments of Construction to publish a list of commercial housing projects where foreign entities are not permitted to own houses (Foreign Ownership Prohibited Projects List). To date, such list has not been issued. Therefore, the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment has delayed the issuance of LURCs. This serious issue has caused confusion for buyers. Indeed, while the Government seems to have made a positive move in allowing foreigners to own a house in Vietnam, the lack of important guidance has shed doubts among foreigners who want to get in Vietnam’s real estate market.

  1. Uncertainties in the required approvals for residential developments

It is not clear in what circumstances a transfer of land is covered by allocation and lease by the State. In accordance with Article 32 of the Law on Investment (LOI), the in-principle investment decision (IDD) applies to projects which the State allocates or leases out land without auction, tendering or transfer. In contrast, the Land Law specifies that the only way an investment project receives land be by allocation or lease. It is uncertain under which circumstances a project can receive land by way of transfer. The absence of detailed guidelines continues to affect the normal business operations.

  1. Lengthy investment approval processes

A foreign invested company engaging in residential developments is required to obtain an IID or an in-principle investment approval (IIA) as well as an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC). If an IID is required, the IRC will be issued within 5 working days from the issuance of the IID. As the contents of both the IDD and IRC are related, the IRC requirement, in this case, is not relevant. On the other hand, for projects which require the IIA, the investor shall first obtain the IRC, set up a company and then apply for the IIA. There are circumstances where the investor has already set up the company but still not managed to get the IIA. This makes the investor unable to develop the project. In addition, the application process is complex, onerous in a sense that it takes at least 153 days. In particular, after the IRC is issued, the next step is to obtain an enterprise registration certificate, then a decision on selection of developer, the 1/500 planning approval and finally the IIA. Since the issuance of the IIA and IRC is based on the 1/500 planning approval, the requirement of an IRC it is unnecessary in case an IIA is already required.

  1. Restrictions on sources of capital

Under Article 69 of the LRH, developers of residential housing can only raise capital from sources such as loans granted by credit institutions, or financial institutions running business in Vietnam, capital contribution, investment cooperation, business cooperation, joint business, and association of organizations or individuals. It means that developers are no longer allowed to obtain capital from offshore credit and non-credit institutions. We think that there is no reason to limit the scope of residential investors to raise capital from legitimate sources. This issue, if remains existing, will affect the competitiveness of investors and their investment plan.

  1. The absence of detailed explanation of “foreign invested enterprise (FIE)”

There is inconsistency in the interpretation of an FIE among main laws governing real estate sector. The Land Law stipulates that FIEs are joint venture enterprises, 100% foreign invested enterprises, and domestic enterprises in which the foreign investor has invested via share purchase, merger, or acquisition. This regulation does not provide any ownership percentage. Meanwhile, the LOI states that, an economic organization with a foreign investment capital means an economic organization with a foreign investor being a member or shareholder, and enterprises with a foreign ownership of less than 51% will be treated the same as local ones. Different from the LOI and the Land Law, the LREB does not define a foreign invested enterprise. This inconsistency and lack of guidance result in confusion about which threshold defines a foreign invested enterprise in the LREB and create unnecessary obstacles for foreign projects.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies in the laws, which have caused confusion for buyers. In addition, the enforcement of current laws has been challenging due to the lack of specific guidelines. In fact, the restrictions provided in the legislations have limited the rights of investors and created barriers to foreign investment in the sector. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt consistent guidelines to avoid any delays. Vietnam should also continue to take steps to reduce administrative burdens, remove onerous requirements, and simplify complex processes. This is to ensure a bright future for Vietnam’s real estate industry.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

VIETNAM – REAL ESTATE – LAND USE RIGHTS LIMITATIONS FOR FOREIGNERS – OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

 

The real estate market in Vietnam has constantly been growing since the Law on Real Estate Business 2014 (LREB) and the Law on Residential Housing (LRH) were adopted. Initial barriers for foreign investors were partially removed with the new legislations and Decree No. 76/2015/ND-CP guiding the LREB dated 10 September 2015 and Decree No. 99/2015/ND-CP guiding the LRH dated 20 October 2015.

Nevertheless, enterprises’ expectations concerning access to properties and business development are not entirely satisfied.

Restriction on sources of capital

For residential housing projects, only the sources of capital enumerated in Article 69 of the LRH or Article 19 of Decree 99 are considered legitimate such as loans from Social Policy Bank, credit institutions and financial institutions currently operating in Vietnam or capital contribution, cooperation in investment, business cooperation, joint-venture and affiliation of organizations. As there is no mention of overseas capital except for the capital owned by the developer, raising capital then appears to be more complicated for real estate developers. Therefore, as there is no need to limit the developers’ ability to raise capital for legitimate sources, the Government adopt restrictive measures for illegitimate sources only and control the legitimacy of sources. Opening capital to off-shore credit institutions and non-credit institutions would greatly improve access to the real estate market.

An uncertainty remains as to define foreign invested enterprises (FIEs). Indeed, neither in the LREB nor in Decree 76 do we find a provision explaining the notion of FIEs. But the Law on Land (Land Law) 2013 states that FIEs are joint venture enterprises and enterprises wholly or partly owned by a foreign company without detailing ownership percentage. Under the Law on Investment 2014, the status of economic organization with foreign capital implies a foreign ownership of 51% or more. Therefore some details must be given as whether enterprises with less than 51% of foreign ownership are regarded as local investors or not.

Considering the lack of details, we can understand that any percentage of foreign ownership prevents enterprises to be local ones. This issue is of great importance for foreign investment transactions in the real estate market and must be clarified promptly.

The difference of treatment between foreign and Vietnamese real estate developers can be found in several aspects. First of all, Article 11 of the LREB does not permit foreign developers to transfer their land use right into creating plots for sale whereas Vietnamese developers are permitted. Article 57 of the same law limits FIEs to collect a maximum of 50% of the value of sale and purchase contracts while Vietnamese companies are entitled to 70% of the value. Finally, Article 10 of the LREB prohibits foreign developers to sell, lease or offer a lease-purchase and only opens the possibility of sub-leasing. This form of business is, however, open to Vietnamese developers.

Those differences between local and foreign developers should be removed as they create unfair competition and restrain the real estate sector in Vietnam.

Restrictions on land use right of foreign organizations and individuals

The LREB authorizes organizations and individuals to lease properties for use and to purchase or lease-purchase residential houses in accordance with the LRH. Article 160 of the LRH repeats the authorization but adds a few conditions. Organizations who want to own residential houses, must establish and maintain their presence in Vietnam although foreign individuals only need to have a valid passport affixed with entry stamp. The stricter requirement for foreign organizations should be up-lifted as it is unnecessary to fix conditions to own residential houses to organizations and not to individuals.

A very concerning contradiction must be solved as it deals with notarization of sale and purchase contracts. Article 93.3(b) of the LRH allows contracts for residential housing signed with a real estate business enterprise not to be notarized. However, Article 122 of the LRH stipulates that all contracts in relation to sale and purchase of residential houses must be certified or notarized.  We could then understand that sale and purchase contracts for residential housing signed with real estate business should be notarized. However, Article 17.2 of the LREB states that real estate business contracts do not have to be notarized except contracts signed between two individuals/households.

A clearer provision should establish that notarization is not required in case a real estate business enterprise is a party to the sale and purchase contracts.

Limitation on foreigners’ purchase and ownership of real estate

Foreign individual and organizations are allowed to own a maximum of 250 individual residential houses in a ward according to Article 161.2(a) of the LRH. However, Article 76.4 of Decree 99 guiding the LRH, limits foreign individuals or organizations to possess maximum 10% of individual housing in each residential housing project. The Decree provision is then not consistent with the LRH.

In addition, pursuant to Article 159.2(b) of the LRH, foreign individuals and organizations are only prohibited from purchasing houses in national defense and security area. But pursuant to Article 75 of Decree 99, the prohibition is extended to all areas where foreigners are restricted from residing or travelling as provided under the Law on Residence and Travel. Once again, the Decree is restricting the conditions under the LRH.

In addition, Articles 77.1(b) and 77.2(b) provide additional restriction when granting the possibility of one-time expansion of residential houses owned by foreigners. Such restriction can have a serious impact on business development of developers and in the meantime on Vietnam’s competitiveness. Unlimited extensions should be granted with the exception of national defense and security areas only.

Another issue which causes many difficulties for developers concerns capital reserve. Indeed, Article 108.1(b) of the LREB requires that developers contribute 2% of apartment’s value for unsold apartments at the time of commissioning. Value is calculated based on the highest selling price of an apartment in the building regardless of the differences between the apartment of reference and the commissioned one. The requirement is not practical and should therefore be amended to refer to an apartment of the same category. Furthermore, establishing a mechanism to deal with such payments when apartments are sold at a later stage is necessary for the efficiency of the requirement.

Outlook on the EVFTA

Signed on December 2nd 2015 and expected to enter into force by 2017, the EVFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam. Not only Vietnam will foster more foreign investors but also welcome more enterprises in order to develop the European-Vietnamese Cooperation.

The Vietnamese Government has already started to amend the legislation with the Law on Enterprise 2015 and the Law on Investment 2014. Yet some further changes must still be made and we can expect the influence of the EU on opening the real estate market to facilitate enterprises’ establishment.

Most important issues

–       Requirements of sources of capital are too restricted and prevent real estate developers from easily raising capital. In addition, the definition of foreign invested enterprise is not clear enough to determine the sources and the nature of transactions in the sector.

–       Vietnamese and foreign developers are treated differently which creates unfair competition and restrains the real estate sector.

–       The contradiction that sale and purchase contracts signed with real estate business enterprise have to be authorized must be up-lifted.

–       Restrictions on foreigners’ purchase and ownership rights regarding the percentage of possession, the restricted areas and the possibility of extension are not consistent in the whole Vietnamese legislation and should be standardized.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you!

 

 

 

Foreign ownership of houses and condominium in Vietnam is now possible

Vietnam – You are a foreigner and want to buy a House or Condominium ?
Come to us! We help you to succeed

Since 1st July 2015 two new laws are in place, the Law on Real Estate Business and the Law on Residential Housing. Those laws allow foreigners to purchase Real Estate, Houses and Condos. On 10 September 2015, the Decree implementing the Law on Real Estate Business is adopted, shedding light on provisions of the related law. The guidance will start taking effect from 01 November 2015. For other provisions that have not received any implementation guidance yet, the Ministry of Construction instructed the authorities to follow the new law and until the new implementation rules are available, the new law should be implemented according to the old implementation guidelines as long as it does not breach the new law. Details will be explained below.

1. The right to own property

The Law on Residential Housing provides that foreign individuals who are permitted to enter the country are allowed to own property in Vietnam. They should also not belong to the category who are entitled to preferential treatment rights, or diplomatic or consulate immunities in accordance to law. The Government will issue a detailed guidance on how foreign individuals could provide its eligibility to own property in Vietnam. This guidance is, unfortunately, not in place yet.

Foreign investors and organizations are allowed to purchase real estate with an investment purpose. The investor or organization will need an Investment Certificate (or Investment Registration Certificate under the new Investment Law). From a general perspective, domestic investors or foreign investors who already have existing projects in Vietnam can easily meet easily this requirement. However, it could be problematic for investors who make first time investment in Vietnam with the investment project being the transferred one.

In general, there are two different possibilities to become owner of property in Vietnam. The first option is to make investment in construction projects of residential housing in Vietnam. The second option is to purchase the house or condo after its completion of construction.

The Law on Residential Housing is granting even more rights to foreign individuals who are married to a Vietnamese citizen, whereas they have the same rights as Vietnamese citizens and have the opportunity to purchase property on a long-term basis.

2. Restrictions

It must be noted that foreigners can only own houses for a duration of 50 years. The Government puts an exemption in place and can decide itself after application if and for how long it will extend the ownership duration.

Under Article 161.2(a) of the Law on Residential Housing, foreign individuals and foreign invested enterprises are able to purchase multiple properties in a residential development project including buildings and separate landed villas/townhouses. The maximum quantity allowed to purchase is 30% of the total units in a building and 250 houses in a local area. However, Article 68.4 of the fourth Draft Decree of the Law on Residential Housing limits that foreign organizations/ individuals may only own maximum 10% of the total number of individual housing in each residential housing project. This could be a restriction not in compliance with the Law on Residential Housing.

Another restriction in the fourth Draft Decree of the Law on Residential Housing is also introduced. While Article 159.2(b) of the Law on Residential Housing only prohibits foreign individuals and organizations from buying houses in national defense and security area, Article 67 of the fourth Draft Decree of the Law on Residential Housing does not allow them to own residential houses in areas where foreigners are prohibited or restricted from residing or traveling as stipulated under the Law on Residence and Travel.

The development of this regulation needs to be awaited.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com; if you wish to take the opportunity and purchase property or if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Real Estate Foreign Ownership Possible Now

With the adoption of the new Law on Real Estate Business 2014 (“LREB”) and the Law on Residential Housing 2014 (“LRH”), Vietnam’s real estate industry will see a higher demand in property and more investments are expected in short term because foreigners are allowed to own now for the first time. Although the LREB and the LRH are greatly welcome, there are still certain provisions that may restrict the competitiveness of enterprises in real estate industry. We will discuss below the main issues with suggested solutions.
1. Legal capital requirement
The third Draft Decree guiding the LREB requires a minimum legal capital of VND50 billion for real estate projects which must obtain in-principle approval of the authorities. However, it seems to be inconsistent with the general required legal capital (i.e., VND20 billion) for enterprises doing business in real estate in the same Draft Decree.
Moreover, VND20 billion is a bit too much for small scale projects. This requirement will then discourage investment in such real estate projects, thus negatively impact real estate sector. Considering this, it is recommended that the government should not increase the required legal capital to a fixed amount VND50 billion but a certain percentage of the total investment capital. Such requirement would ensure that only companies with sufficient financial resources can undertake large scale projects and not discourage small real estate developers. In addition, the minimum legal capital requirement should not apply to all real estate business sectors. In fact, certain real estate businesses such as office leasing or subleasing does not require high investment capital while it is certainly a prerequisite condition to carry out the businesses of real estate construction or project development. Thus, it would be reasonable to apply the legal capital requirement only on selected real estate activities after careful examination of their nature.
2. Tight deadline for capital contribution
According to Articles 48.2 and 74.2 of the 2014 Law on Enterprises, within 90 days from the issuance of the enterprise registration certificate, members of the limited liability company must contribute the capital in full. There is no exception to this requirement, either in case the investment capital amount is huge or the project is implemented within an extended period of time. Large scale real estate projects then face significant problems. On the one hand, the investment capital is too large to be contributed within such a short time limit. On the other hand, it may be unrealistic to contribute such a high amount right at the beginning of the project. Inefficient use of capital and low business competitiveness are predictable outcomes. The Government is then recommended to allow capital contribution based on project implementation period and project size.
3. Lack of transitional provisions
The new LREB does not provide a solution on how to deal with agreements signed under the old LREB but still in effect. Although the fourth Draft Decree guiding the LRH provides a transitional clause for contracts signed before 01 July, it does not address all types of contracts but only focuses on method of calculation and record of the residential housing area, warranty period of residential housing and parking plot. The question remains whether other types of contracts signed before 01 July 2015 must be amended to comply with the LREB and the LRH. However, for convenience and not to create troubles for enterprises, it is proposed that the existing agreements signed before 01 July continue to be in effect according to the old laws and no changes should be required.
4. Foreigners now have right to purchase property in Vietnam
Under Article 161.2(a) of the LRH, foreign individuals and foreign invested enterprises are able to purchase multiple properties in a residential development project including buildings and separate landed villas/townhouses. The maximum quantity allowed to purchase is 30% of the total units in a building and 250 houses in a local area. However, Article 68.4 of the fourth Draft Decree of the LRH limits that foreign organizations/ individuals may only own maximum 10% of the total number of individual housing in each residential housing project. This could be a restriction not in compliance with the LRH.
Another restriction in the fourth Draft Decree of the LRH is also introduced. While Article 159.2(b) of the LRH only prohibits foreign individuals and organizations from buying houses in national defence and security area, Article 67 of the fourth Draft Decree of the LRH does not allow them to own residential houses in areas where foreigners are prohibited or restricted from residing or traveling as stipulated under the Law on Residence and Travel.
It is then recommended that these restrictions in the draft decree be removed to ensure competitiveness of the real estate market in Vietnam with that of other countries.
5. First time foreign investors – Current draft restrictions on the right to receive a project
According to Article 15.1(d) of the Draft Decree of the LREB, an application dossier by a project transferee must include an enterprise registration certificate. From a general perspective, domestic investors or foreign investors who already have existing projects in Vietnam could easily meet this requirement. However, it could be a problem for investors who make first time investment in Vietnam with the investment project being the transferred one. We would then recommend the government to place an exception for first time investment by foreign investors to the mentioned requirement.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU!