Foreign buyers in a bind over Ho Chi Minh City homes

Vietnamese city no longer issues ownership papers to foreigners who buy property there

HO CHI MINH CITY • The municipal land registration office in Ho Chi Minh City has stopped issuing ownership certificates to foreigners who bought homes after Dec 10, 2015, reported the Tuoi Tre News website.

This restriction, apparently due to national defence regulations, poses a challenge to those wishing to own apartments legitimately in the south Vietnamese city, the news site reported on Thursday.

According to a decree on Vietnam's housing laws, foreigners can own up to 30 per cent of the apartments in a project and are barred from buying property built in areas reserved for the protection of national defence and security. Whether or not a piece of land is so reserved is determined by the Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of Public Security.

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 issued 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.

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

After making all the necessary payments, Mr Elias is still struggling to officially register ownership of his new home.

Another buyer interviewed by the news website, a Malaysian who gave only his initials C.Y.O., purchased a unit in an apartment building in District 7 three years ago.

According to the apartment developer, all Vietnamese citizens living in the complex have been given their ownership certificate, except for Mr C. It is believed that he is unable to obtain the necessary paperwork because he is a foreigner.

Property developers throughout Ho Chi Minh City have complained that the land registration office's refusal to grant documents to foreigners is having a negative impact 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.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline Foreign buyers in a bind over Ho Chi Minh City homes. Subscribe