Legal Update on Real Estate Law in Quarter 1 of 2017

Change in Land Rental in Economic Zones

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The Government has recently issued Decree No. 35/2017/NĐ-CP dated 3 April 2017 providing regulations on collection of land use fee, rental of land surface and water surface in economic zones and hi-tech parks (Decree 35).

As from 20 June 2017, the collection of land use fee and land rental in economic zones shall be no longer governed by Decree No.45/2014/ND-CP providing regulations on collection of land use fee (Decree 45) and Decree No. 46/2014/ND-CP providing regulations on collection of rental of land surface and water surface (Decree 46) but in accordance with Decree 35 with the highlighted points for the investors as follows:

  • The percentage for calculating land rent unit price in case of annual payment shall be from 0.5% to 3% subject to specific area or route corresponding to the investment and publicly announced annually.
  • The land rental is determined with land price adjustment coefficients. Subject to the specific area, route and location of the land corresponding to the land use purpose, the Provincial People’s Committee shall issue the land price adjustment coefficients annually with the minimum rate at 1.0 applicable from 1 January each year.
  • The land use for development of social housing for employees in accordance with approved projects shall be subject to land use fee exemption. The developer must conduct the administrative procedure for the exemption in this regard.

Land price adjustment coefficients applicable from 1st January 2017 in Ho Chi Minh City

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On 23 March 2017, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City has just issued Decision No. 19/2017/QD-UBND providing the land price correction coefficient applied in 2017 in Ho Chi Minh City (Decision 19). The outstanding application for determining the land use fee or land rental in Ho Chi Minh City from 1 January 2017 shall be subject to the regulations of Decision 19.

The coefficients are applied for determining (i) the annual land rental for the first period; (ii) the adjustment to unit price of annual land rental for the following period and (iii) the unit price for annual land rental in case of acquiring the assets attached to land shall be from 1.0 to 2.0. In which, the land used for development of residential housing for leasing shall be subject to the maximum coefficient of 2.0 corresponding to the location of the project.

The coefficients applied for determining (i) the land use fee without land use right auction or in case of conversion of land use purpose, (ii) the one-off payment of land rental without land use right auction and (iii) the unit price of land rental in case of changing from leasing with annual rental to leasing with one-off payment for land rental shall be from 1.2 to 2.0 subject to the location of the project.

The land price adjustment coefficients mentioned above can be higher subject to the location with more than two (02) road fronts and the land use ratio.

The Ministry of Construction requesting the issuance of regulations on the condotel and officetel

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“Condotel” and “Officetel” have been new types of real estate development in Ho Chi Minh City since 2008.  In recent years, these kinds of real estate developments become more popular in the real estate market, particularly condotel type is more applied in coastal and tourist cities like Nha Trang, Da Nang, or Vung Tau. However, despite its popularity and more transactions on the properties, regulations or guidance from the competent authorities on the investment and management of the condotel and officetel are still unclear and confusing, and therefore potentially risky to the buyers as well.

For example, the concept of “officetel” describes apartments in residential buildings which may be used for both residential and office purpose. However, the Law on Residential Housing as well as guidance from the Ministry of Construction prohibits using residential apartments for office use. Furthermore, the guidance from the Ministry of Planning and Investment does not allow using residential apartments for business registration either.  Another legal issue to these kinds of properties is how to properly recognize the ownership to the properties because, in the Land Law, land use right duration for commercial purpose is 50 years and indefinite term for residential purpose.

Recently, the Ministry of Construction has given instructions and responses that (i) the regulations on condominiums are applied for the condotel/officetel with function as residential housing and (ii) the regulations on hotel are applied for the condotel/officetel without function as residential housing. This is actually confusing to the owners as well.

Therefore, the Ministry of Construction (MoC) recently had Dispatch No.381/BXD-QLN dated 28 April 2017 for report and proposal of the issues in relation to the management of condotel, officetel, or  resort projects to the competent Deputy Prime Minister for decision.

In which, MoC proposed (i) the amendment to law on land with respect to the classification and the usage of mixed use land (for both residential and commercial purposes) and issuance of the certificate of land use right, ownership of residential housing and other assets attached to land in this regard and (ii) clarification of the financial obligation for such mixed use land and (iii) the regulations on the management of the condotel and officetel.

The issuance of regulations in respect of condotel and officetel mentioned above will provide detailed legal framework for the development and management of condotel and officetel projects. Accordingly, (i) the investors will have firm legal basis for development and management of condotel and offictel and (ii) the buyers will have basis for considering their investment in the business model of condotel and officetel.

New model real estate business – Hometel

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Besides the officetel and office which become popular in real estate market, “hometel” is a new concept of tourism real estate just launched in the beginning of 2017. Hometel is the combination of “home” and “hotel” function.  Similar to condotel, hometel is fitted out and operated with the luxury standards as hotel under the management of a hotel operator.

However, hometel has some features different from condotel, typically (i) the homebuyers shall have an indefinite-term ownership of hometel with the certificate of land use right, ownership of residential housing and other assets attached to land and (ii) the homebuyers can decide the leasing program of the hometel without sharing profit with the developer, it means that the homebuyers will directly deal with the hotel operator for the operation and maintenance of standard of the hometel as hotel.

From legal perspective, (i) hometel must be constructed on residential land for the indefinite-term ownership; (ii) the development of hometel project must be in accordance with Law on Residential Housing because hometel is classified as residential housing and (iii) the construction of hometel must be in accordance with regulations on construction of residential housing under Law on Construction.

The management and operation of hometel is not clear to be treated as a condominium or not. As a residential housing, the hometel should be managed as a condominium with the organization of the Management Committee as required by laws.

However, the hometel must be operated and maintained with hotel standard which must be managed by a hotel operator. In case the management of hometel must be in accordance with regulations on management of condominium, the Management Committee must deal with the hotel operator for ensuring the standards applied to the hometel buiding as a hotel.

In addition, there should be amendments to Law on Land in relation to the classification of the land on which the hometel project located. Similar to the land used for developing condotel project, the land in this regard should be residential land without establishment of residential area.

As such, due to lack of legal grounds for such properties, the owners’ use right and ownership rights over these properties may be potentially restricted (for example, in terms of use duration or use functions).  This cannot be resolved in near future since amendments to several laws are required as well.

Disclaimer: This legal update does not constitute and should not be taken as a legal advice for a matter. For more information and clarification, please contact Mr. Tran Thai Binh, Partner of LNT & Partners, Head of Real Estate Practice Group via email: binh.tran@LNTpartners.com or his cell phone: 84-913629191.

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