What is the process if a foreigner wants to buy a ground-floor apartment or land in Cambodia?
“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime (1975-79), the Khmer Rouge abolished ownership of property and destroyed all existing official property records in Cambodia. At that time, all property belonged to the State and there were no private owners. After the Khmer Rouge fell, and for the next ten years, the right to own property was still not recognized and all property was owned by the government. In 1989 a Land Law was issued which established a framework for the recognition of property and property rights throughout Cambodia. In 2001 the Land Law was updated in an attempt to further clarify property ownership.
Under the Land Law property can be registered in two ways, systematic registration and sporadic registration. In the systematic system, the government targets plots of land to measure, register and title, this will continue until the whole country is complete. In the sporadic system, the owner initiates the title registration through the central Cadastral Office. There are currently two types of titles legally recognized in Cambodia, soft titles and hard titles.
The majority of property in Cambodia is legally held under a soft title. Property held under a soft title is registered at the local sangkat (council) or district level but not at the national level. soft title documentation can take a variety of forms, such as a letter of transfer from the previous possessor stamped by the sangkat or district office, a possession status certificate from the local sangkat or district office, or a building application. Buyers wanting to purchase a soft title property should conduct their own due diligence, at the sangkat or district office to confirm whom holds the soft title to the property. Similar enquiries should be made with the property’s neighbours. The property boundaries should also be carefully checked, as borders are often not properly demarcated and overlaps can exist. Often a soft title is prefered due to the taxes, fees and the processes involved in obtaining a hard title. However, the option to convert from soft title into a hard title is a right, either when systematic registration occurs or via sporadic registration.
A hard title is an ownership certificate which is issued by the Cadastral Office and recognized at the national ministerial level as well as at the sangkat and district level. A hard title is the most secure form of ownership, its registration should be the only evidence required of an indefeasible title.
There are pros and cons to both hard and soft titles. The most recent numbers accounting for title types in Phnom Penh found that currently only 10% of properties have hard titles, whilst 82% have soft titles, and 8% have no title at all. That being said, it is obviously much easier to find properties with a soft title, processing is faster, goverment fees are excluded, and it can later be converted to a hard title. hard titles on the other hand, though they include fees and take longer, offer you indisputable ownership, the history of the property, and leverage for bank financing.”
Source: Move to Cambodia