Foreign investment rules for residential real estate

Real EstateFrom December 1, stricter penalties for violations of laws governing ownership of residential real estate by non-resident foreign nationals will come into effect.

However, despite tougher penalties being put in place, foreign investment isn’t the beast that it’s made out to be, and can actually provide many benefits for Australian communities.

The Government doesn’t want to entirely discourage foreign investment, but channel it into activity that directly increases the supply of new housing, i.e. new developments of house and land, home units and townhouses. This type of activity brings benefits to the local building industry and its suppliers and helps create new homes for local communities.

The FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) states that residential real estate applications are considered in light of this overarching principle.

There are some acquisitions of residential real estate that do not require notification or approval.

Foreign nationals should seek their own legal advice when determining what laws apply to them, however the below information may be informative.

You do not need Government approval to buy residential real estate if you are:

  • an Australian citizen (living at home or overseas) or you are ordinarily resident in Australia;
  • a New Zealand citizen;
  • a foreign national who holds an Australian permanent resident visa; or
  • a foreign national buying a property as joint tenants with their Australian citizen spouse.

Regardless of your citizenship or residency, you do not need Government approval for:

  • new dwellings bought from a developer that has pre-approval to sell them to foreign persons;
  • an interest in a time share scheme that allows you (and any associates) to use it for up to four weeks per year;
  • certain residential real estate in Integrated Tourism Resorts;
  • an interest acquired by will or devolution by operation of law; or
  • an interest acquired from a Government in Australia (Commonwealth, State or Territory, or local) or a statutory corporation formed for a public purpose.

Other exemptions may apply if you are:

  • a company, trust or managed investment scheme, including an Australian corporation or trust that is only owned by or for the benefit of individuals who are exempt; or
  • buying shares or units in an Australian urban land corporation or trust.

If you’re confused about foreign ownership laws and rights to property then you can find further information at  www.firb.gov.au.

It is also worth noting that overseas owners, who suspect they are in breach of Australian laws, are at present liable for reduced penalties if they report themselves to the government by November 30.