To whom it may concern:
This is an incredible story, containing a warning to all
With a Thai citizen as a business partner, I undertook to
purchase a house in Chiang Mai, which was to be my residence here. The
partner would be the owner of the house, and I the tenant. I was to put up
all the funds for purchase, which would serve as the rent for so long as I
occupied the place.
I hired a lawyer to look after my interests. She agreed
to make a title search, write the contracts for purchase of the property and
for the rental, and to counsel me on all legal matters surrounding the
transaction. I followed her advice to the letter on every respect.
Upon signing the purchase contract, I paid the owners (a
mother and her children), in cash, 100,000 baht as the down payment. The
contract provided that I would have early occupancy, one month before
closing, for repairs and upgrading the 40-year-old teak house, at a cost to
me of several hundred thousand baht. On the first day of occupancy, I and
two workers took out several non-functional windows, removing old wiring,
repairing an internal wall containing a huge plywood-covered hole, etc.
At the end of this day, in marched a gentleman, bursting
with anger, who declared himself to be the owner of the property, and
charging us with criminal trespass. He called the police, imprisoning us on
the property until they arrived, and had us taken to the Chang Phuek police
station where he attempted to have me charged as a criminal.
I called my lawyer, who uncharacteristically had not
turned off her mobile phone promptly at 5 p.m. She convinced the police that
I should not be imprisoned, and I was released only after signing a police
report chronicling the event.
It now appears that the gentleman is, in fact, an owner
of the property; he is the youngest son of the mother, whose identity was
not revealed before the day of the my arrest, and who apparently was not
included by the mother and her eldest son in the sharing of the 100,000 baht
I paid as down payment.
I lay most of the blame for this unfortunate turn of
events at the foot of the lawyer, who failed to do a proper title search,
who assured me all along that the down payment was recoverable in event of
default of the owners, and who advised me to make the payment in cash. When
I asked her to proceed with recovery of my down payment, she stated that she
could (or would) not do so, said that she resigned as of that moment, and
told me that I should seek other counsel, which I promptly did.
Not only did she resign, but she has refused to refund
any of her fee, which I paid in advance, but also has refused to turn over
my file (or even a copy) to the new lawyer unless I first sign a document
relieving her of any obligation to me. Inasmuch as she had not completed the
work for which I paid her in advance (such as doing a proper title search,
preparing the rental agreement, and attempting to enforce the purchase
agreement which calls for a refund of down payment in the event of default),
I refused to sign the document.
At this point, recovery of my down payment and of my fee
to this lawyer is doubtful.
I am writing this to serve as a warning to any foreigner
who might think of leasing property in Thailand, and particularly of hiring
this particular lawyer for counsel. Her conduct would be certain cause for
disbarment in almost any Western country, but is apparently within the laws
and customs of Thailand.
If any reader wishes to see a copy of the purchase
agreement or the police report, or to have the name of this lawyer revealed,
I will furnish privately upon request to me at my email address: [email protected]
Frank T. Wheby