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Foreigners challenged by apartment ownership in Ho Chi Minh City

Thursday, April 20, 2017, 16:11 GMT+7

The current regulations on land for national defense have posed quite a challenge for foreigners wishing to legitimately own apartments in Ho Chi Minh City.

The municipal Land Registration Office has stopped issuing ownership certificates to foreigners who purchased residences after December 10, 2015.

The situation has become an aching problem for those foreign citizens attempting to settle in a stable home in the southern Vietnamese metropolis.

In January 2016, K. Elias, an American citizen, bought an apartment previously owned by a Vietnamese in the New Saigon apartment complex in Nha Be District.

After making all necessary payments, Elias is still struggling to register for official ownership of his new home.

Similar to Elias, C.Y.O., a Malaysian national, purchased a unit in an apartment building in District 7 three years ago.

According to the developer, all Vietnamese citizens living in the complex have been given their ownership certificate, leaving C. as the only person still unable to obtain the paperwork due to his foreign nationality.

Project developers throughout Ho Chi Minh City have complained that the Land Registration Office’s refusal to grant documents to foreigners is having negative impacts on their contracts.

“This affects the image and reputation of Vietnamese real estate companies as well as the country’s general investment environment,” a company director stated.

To deal with the problem, some businesses are suggesting that their foreign clients allow a Vietnamese spouse to sign as the legal property owner.

After being granted the ownership certificate, the couple can perform a procedure to change the property into a mutual asset.

“This is a temporary solution with hidden risks and few clients agree to follow such a plan,” a developer in Phu Nhuan District said.

Pending directions

According to a decree explaining the implementation of Vietnam’s housing laws, foreigners are only permitted to own up to 30 percent of the apartments in a project and are restricted from purchasing property built in areas preserved for the protection of national defense and security.

Whether or not a piece of land is used for such function is determined by the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Public Security.

Based on these restrictions, the department of construction in each locality is supposed to publicly announce a list of housing projects available to foreign buyers.

However, the Ho Chi Minh City construction department has confirmed that the list has yet to be concluded by the two ministries.

As a result, the Land Registration Office has received no guidelines to decide whether certain housing projects are available for foreigners to buy.

As the decree took effect on December 10, 2015, foreign customers who bought their homes after the date are subjected to the regulation.

The municipal Department of Construction has reported the situation to the city’s administration and asked the two relevant ministries to finalize their land classification.

An official from the city’s land office asserted that competent authorities must solve this problem as soon as possible to remove property purchasing obstacles for foreign buyers and improve the investment environment.

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