Have You Heard the Thai Saying about Landlords in Thailand? “Thai landlords will suck blood from a turd”. Pungent and, as I learned last week, to the point.

A dear friend (not a client) who labored long and hard to make his Thai restaurant a success (#1 on TripAdvisor – hard to pull off) was recently approached by his Thai landlord’s  son. He had noticed that the restaurant was constantly sold out. He deduced that my friend had cheated his mother when she signed the 5-year lease – though the restaurant building had been abandoned for years before my friend leased it.

The son demanded that my friend sign a new lease, more than doubling the rent and that, if my friend refused, he would ’cause trouble’ in the restaurant. The son holds the double advantage of sharing his mother’s high social standing and of being known to hang out with thugs.

So my friend decided to move his restaurant elsewhere.

If the son is true to form he will now start a restaurant in the same location and wonder why it fails within 6 months. That is part of Thai commercial landlords’ pattern, too. It’s not just restaurants that are in danger of this. 3 years ago another expat friend started a very hip coffee shop-bookstore and the place was jammed from 10 am to midnight on the first day. The next morning the landlord arrived with a new lease.

And yes, the landlord did start a coffee-shop bookstore after my friend vacated. And it failed in 4 months.

If you intend to enter into an agreement with a commercial Thai landlord, please contact me first. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go into such deals that has nothing to do with what’s written on the lease document. This is the kind of minefield that we routinely navigate for our Concierge clients. That’s the point of having a concierge, after all: to help you through the local scene in comfort and safety.

Update: two years later, my friend’s new restaurant in town is booming. His previous location is still empty. Landlords in Thailand remain as much a mystery as ever!

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