Important information on land ownership

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Today, I learned something very important. It is also very good news from my perspective.

We have talked a number of times on this blog about the (in)ability of foreigners to own land in the Philippines. It has always been my understanding that under no circumstances can a foreigner own land in the Philippines. The only exception I knew of was if the land was owned by a corporation, which could be up to 40% owned by the foreigner. I found out today that there is indeed a way that a foreigner could have absolute ownership of a piece of land. First, let me say that the land can be a maximum of 1,000 square meters, no more.

How is it possible? Well, at one point, when we were discussing this, Pete made a comment saying that it is possible to have the title or the bill of sale read “Maria P. Martin, married to Robert Martin” or something of the sort. However, even Pete said that such wording offered you no ability to own it anyway, and was just words on paper (Pete, that is my interpretation from memory, correct me if I am wrong). But, today I learned that having that language on the deed can make it possible for the foreigner to gain absolute ownership of the land in the long run. If you have that wording on the title or deed for the land, and tell the recording body that the land is conjugal property, if the wife were preceed the husband in death, it is possible for the husband to inherit and keep the land in his name permanently. There is one small catch, though – the husband (the foreigner) must have a permanent resident visa in the Philippines. In other words, if the husband holds a 13 series visa (I have a 13g Visa), he can hold ownership of up to 1,000 square meters of land!

I was shocked to hear this, but the information came to me from a source that I would consider quite reliable. It is from a woman who works at the Bureau of Immigration, and also through an attorney who handles immigration law. Because of the quality of the sources, I believe now that this information is absolutely true.

In addition to the ownership question, if the land is titled in the way that I outlined, in the event of a marriage annulment, the land would also have to be split 50/50 between the husband and the wife. But again, only if the husband has a permanent resident visa.
So, to reiterate, to protect yourself, you need to:

  1. Obtain a permanent resident visa in the Philippines, and keep it current.
  2. When buying land, keep your purchase to less than 1,000 square meters.
  3. When having the title recorded, have it recorded as – “your wife’s name”, married to “your name”, and tell the person doing the recording that the land is conjugal property.
Post Author: MindanaoBob (956 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.


Comments

  1. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob
    I did hear that as well. The land or house on it would be inherited by the husband on the death of his partner. I also heard that the land or property must be sold to a Filipino citizen within a certain time frame. Are you sure this is not the case?
    All the best
    Malcolm

  2. rmada says

    Bob,
    My wife inherited a property in Manila last year and since both of us are naturalized american citizens, we were told to have one of us get dual citizenships to prevent any legal issues in the future and which she did.
    The deed now reads as "my wife's name and "married to"….

  3. says

    Hi Bob, I first saw your posting today courtesy of my Nokia E61 surfing the net just outside Brighton jewel of the South Coast in the UK, I happened to be stopping off at a comfort area as you would call it, they had an open WLAN hotspot, I connected in seconds, and had your website down in about 5 seconds, read the story, checked my mail, and nearly called you hahahaha, back to the good news, well for me it is ! if this is true, and Im sure it is, it means that I will have 50 per cent ownership in my house provided that I am a permanent resident, wow, so thinks are looking up for the foreighener investor, without property rights.

    This is good news, and very welcome, at least if my wife passes away before me, I will be able to retain my home, well done Bob for bringing it to our attention.

  4. Phil says

    Hello everyone,
    I may be asking a ridiculous question but if for example a foreigners wife owns say 3000 square metres, could the foreigner only own, or part own a maximum of 1000 square metres of that plot or could the 3000square metre plot be divided into 3 plots of 1000 square metres. I am just asking in case I win the lotto! maybe I could buy 5 plots of 1000 square metres each, that just happened to be next to each other!

    Take care all
    Phil

  5. angel says

    But remember the husband has to sign the affidavit of waiver that he is no part of the land as a conjugal property. My Husband and I we bought a parcel land in Davao for less than 1,000 sq. m and he have to signed that waiver since that is one of the requirement with a foreign spouse.

  6. says

    Hi Malcolm – what you are saying is what I believed before. But the new info I got yesterday would mean that you don't ever have to sell the property!

    rmada – from what you said, I don't think you hold a resident visa here? Do you? If you don't have one, you would not be qualified to hold land. You have two choices as I see it – get a resident visa or have your wife claim her dual citizenship.

    Hi Pete – I had you in mind when I heard this, because you are already in the situation of owning a house (through Gina). Now, just get your residency here and you are in business!

    Hi Phil – You can only own up to 1,000 square meters. Not more. So, your idea would not work, because you would own three parcels of 1,000 square meters each and that is not allowed. Good thinking, though!

    Hi Angel – this affidavit was never mentioned. On the face of it, it seems wrong, because he is indeed a part of the conjugal property. I'll have to check into this. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. brian says

    Arroyo is pushing for some reform on the immigration / retirement laws.
    The powers to be have grown envious of the retirement dollars other asian countrys are getting thanks to thier pro-retirement stance. Hopefully easily getting permenant visas and land rights will be in the near future.

  8. says

    Hi Brian – Yes, I do believe that the eyes of the Philippine government are starting to open and they are seeing that they have potential as a retirement haven, and also a place where medical tourism can be a big earner. I mean, people can travel here from all over the world for medical treatment, and recuperate in the country for a small percentage of what the procedure would cost back home. It's the wave of the future, but the Philippine government needs to make a few updates to it's laws to make it all happen.

  9. Laurence says

    Bob,

    Looking at the Corporate angle, if I own 40% of XYZ Property Inc (a family company) does that mean I can own 40% of as much land as the company could afford to buy ?

  10. says

    Hi Laurence – If you own 40% of the corporation, and the corporation owns 100% of the land – by extension you would then own 40% of the land in question. No problems on that. The problem is that 40% doesn't give you any rights!

  11. razielle says

    This bit of information might help:

    "As exception to the general rule, alien acquisition of real estate in the Philippines is allowed in the following cases:

    a.. Acquisition before the 1935 Constitution;
    b.. Acquisition thru hereditary succession. If foreign acquiree is a legal heir;

    This simply means that when the non-Filipino is married to a Filipino citizen and the spouse dies, the non-Filipino as the natural heir will become the legal owner of the property. The same is true for the children. Every natural child (legitimate or illegitimate) can inherit the property of his/her Filipino father/mother even if he/she does not have any Filipino citizenship.

    c.. Purchase of not more than 40% interest in a condominium project;
    d.. Purchase by a former natural-born Filipino citizen subject to the limitations prescribed by Law (Batas Pambansa 185 and R.A. 8179) "

    from: http://www.islandsproperties.com/resources/reales

  12. says

    Razielle – Thanks for sharing your information, it's nice to get more info. I believe that the key to what I am talking about, though, is the 13 series resident visa.

  13. says

    Hi Bob, Thanks for sharing the info on property ownership. I am American in Hawaii & have been to the Philippines many times, & am divorced from a filipina. I am planning on remarrying another filipina someday & want to buy a house & live there, not the US, mainly so the marriage will have a greater chance of lasting, & she will not become 'westernized. ' But, being naturally wary of another possible annulment / divorce situation, I want to protect my interests, as I am not a wealthy guy. As I see it, the laws in PI are all set up in favor of the filipina, except, perhaps , in the instance you mentioned. as the property must be in her name. I have also read that PRE-MARITAL ( pre-nup ) agreements are beginning to be used there, as is common here. It seems this could be a way, in the event of a separation / annulment / divorce, to protect one's interests by stipulating the sale of the property & fair division of the proceeds, as specifically agreed upon beforehand. Then, for me, it wouldn't be such an issue of whose name is on the title, if the pre-nup would be legally enforced. Any insights into this ?

  14. a white rabbit says

    Razielle, thanks i was looking for that, the same act it goes on to mention "gift" as a way of property "aquisition"..

    ..dunno but it seems an urban myth that foreigners can't own land in PH…what they can't do is PURCHASE land

  15. Chuck says

    That islandsproperties website I'd be a little suspicious of…their motive is selling property and allaying concerns. I have heard from too many sources including senior brokers (and including one that I'm related to), that a foreignor can 'inherit' land but must dispose of it within a reasonable time…generally interpreted to mean three years. After that it is 'game on' with the relatives for ownership and the foreignor will definitely lose…I am aware that there has been some sustained effort to get foreign ownership liberalized and wouldn't be surprised to see that happen in the next few years. A lot of brokers have been hammering Manila on this issue. Definitely an issue of growing importance if the country wants to take advantage of the retirement boom. I personally know well-heeled Western retirees that have lost interest in the Philippines after being told of these ridiculous restrictions.

  16. says

    Hi Chuck – I am also a little suspicious of the info on that site. I do believe, however, that a foreigner can retain land that is inherited over the long term, provided that he has a resident visa.

  17. Wendell says

    Bob, if I enter the Phils on a Balikbayan visa, will the authorities require me to have a return ticket?

  18. Fritz says

    Bob

    Hoping you are in a position to ask someone about CA 473. I can find no reference saying it is repealed & it is referenced by Supreme Court decisions, but BI makes no mention of it's provisions for awarding citizenship to Permanent Resident Aliens. The full text of the Act is available at both LawPhils & Chan Robles.

    If this Act is still valid then this would allow an alien to eventually own land also :)

  19. Jeff R. says

    Bob,

    Does the deed need to specifically state “conjugal property” or is “wife’s name” married to “husband’s name” sufficient?

    • says

      Hi Jeff – The property will never be conjugal property. Having your name on the title only gives you a way to inherit, if you meet the requirements. But, don’t fool yourself, it is not and never will be conjugal property under Philippine law.

      • Jeff R. says

        Understood. The reason I ask is because my wife holds deeds to two properties. The deeds are worded as “wife’s name” married to “husband’s name”. There is no mention of conjugal property. It sounds as if it would mean nothing even if it were there. Cool. Anyway I know I have no legal claim to the property as of now but I was curious about the disposition of the property in the highly unlikely event my wife should precede me in death. It sounds as if there is a possibility of inheritance but vague. Honestly it is fine with me if I can’t inherit it but I would at least like to see the property end up with her family given the fact they occupy these properties. Any thoughts? Thank you.

        • says

          If you get both of your names on the title, you can inherit the land at the time of your wife’s death IF:

          1. You have been living in the Philippines for at least 5 years
          2. You have a legal resident visa here and have held it for at least 5 years at the time your wife passes.

          If you do not meet those requirements, you cannot inherit the land. Her family will inherit it, or your children if have have children.

  20. Steven Hark says

    The plot thickens. Recently I struck up a conversation with a European passport holder who is married to a Filipina but who does not have a 13 series visa (nobody had told him of such a visa!). He informed me that it is possible for a foreigner to own land if he/she is retired and can prove he/she is retired – he received that information from the Philippines Retirement Authority in Davao City,
    email [email protected]
    website http://www.pra.gov.ph
    Has anybody else heard of this?

    • says

      Funny, Seven.. the Constitution of the Philippines specifically says that foreigners cannot own land. I would put more stock in the Constitution of the country than a European passport holder! :lol: No, you cannot own land.

  21. Freddie Mercury says

    The 40% rule is more flexible than in many countries. There is no requirement for other partnerships to retain actual control over the asset, only that it remain 60% held by Filipino interests. There is also no requirement for an AGM or to allow for block voting. This means if you can find some silent partners, they don’t even have to have met, you can hold a controlling interest.

    Angels’ story about having to sign something about understanding that there is no ‘conjugal ownership’ sounds like some nonsense baked up to suit someone’s interests, not law. I have known many guys who have their names listed as the spouse of the title holder, never has any had to sign any such document.

    Another slightly off topic is that in most instances a married couple is treated as an individual under Philippines tax and business law. Even on a tourist visa only it is possible to do business in the country if your spouse is Filipina.

  22. Piet says

    hi,
    if your Pinay dies;

    In the absence of a will, Philippine law designates intestate heirs.

    The order of hereditary or intestate succession, if the deceased was a legitimate child, is as follows:

    1. Legitimate children or descendants;
    2. Legitimate parents or ascendants;
    3. Illegitimate children or descendants;
    4. Surviving spouse;
    5. Brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces;
    6. Other collateral relatives within the fifth degree; and,
    7. The State.

    http://www.dumagueteinfo.com/board/expat-section/property-ownership-sticky-question-3039-3.html

  23. Bill R. says

    Bob – I had heard rumors years ago about a way to inherit property from your Filipina spouse if passed away. Sounds like you confirmed it. Now something else I heard, not sure if it’s true. The surviving spouse only gets what is called in the USA a “Life Estate”, if they have any children that are citizens of the Philippines. In other words, they can’t sell it without the children’s written permission/approval.

    • says

      Hi Bill – I suspect that what you say is true, because under Philippine laws of inheritance, the children would own part of the house upon the death of their mother.

  24. Francisco San Giorgio says

    From a recent supreme court case; “……..If the property were to be declared conjugal property, this would accord the alien husband a not insubstantial interest and right over land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to the transfer or disposition. This is a right the Constitution does not permit him to have.”

  25. Sam says

    Hi Bob, I have purchased several properties in the Philippines with my wife. I have
    found nothing in Philippine law prohibiting a foreigner from holding a mortgage on
    properties. I purchase the properties then have a mortgage agreement prepared in
    the amount of my investment payable to me as my separate property. In the event of
    my death or a divorce, any sale of property will require repayment of the mortgage. My
    children are the beneficiaries on the mortgages.
    Do you have any information on mortgages that is different?
    We have a real estate attorney prepare our documents. We also apply for title on all
    properties.

    • says

      Hi Sam – If it works for you… to be honest, I really don’t know anything about this, so I would have to say to go with what your attorney advises.

  26. Mack P. Macalanggann says

    The inability of a foreigner to own land in the Philippines is indeed part of our fundamental law. But if a foreigner is married to a Filipino citizen and in the course of their matrimonial relationship they acquired properties regardless of its kind, such property becomes conjugal property and even such spouse is a foreigner has its equal right of ownership that it should be equally divided it times of their separation or divorce. The concept of prohibiting foreigner to own land in our country is that why we should dispose our land to a foreign national who has no business in the country nor has no intention of embracing our culture economically and politically. But if such foreigner has already shown his/her intention to adopt such culture by marrying our citizen. No law is prohibiting him/her to be equally afforded with the right of ownership of the properties they acquired with his/her spouse. Article 91 of the Family Code states that a conjugal property is owned by husband and wife and both spouses have their equal rights of disposal when their marriage become invalid.

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