Uncertainty on Foreign Ownership Starting to Arise

The uncertainty surrounding the legitimacy of foreign ownership of apartments on soft titles in Cambodia was highlighted again this week as yet another Sangkat office in Phnom Penh refused to transfer a property title into foreigner owner’s name.

While it has long been known that foreigners with soft titles in their name isn’t a legal form of ownership, it is often overlooked by both local Sangkats and foreigners with many of the latter believing the title they hold is legally valid. This may be a trend that will continue as recent changes in Cambodian property law which allow for foreign ownership of newly constructed condos do not apply to pre-existing properties, thus creating an uncertainty over which titles are valid and which are not.

This confusion over the new law stems from initial interpretation that any Cambodian property above the ground floor can be owned by foreigners, when in fact only condo’s offering the newly created “strata” title can be legally owned. Now, the question that everyone is asking is: if a foreigner already owns a property in their name, how will any future sale be affected, as their title of ownership is technically legally invalid, and how will this affect transferring the title?

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