The Myanmar Real Estate Services Association wants the government to crack down on the illegal sale of farmland for residential development.
U Than Oo, vice chair of the MRESA, said the government should put an end to the trade, which puts buyers at risk of being stripped of their homes when the true status of the land is uncovered.
Myanmar law divides land into several categories. Areas designated as farmland can only be used for growing paddy, and growing any other kind of crop requires permission from the authorities. Although farmland can be sold, leased or gifted this requires approval from the authorities and the purpose of the land remains unchanged.
Despite these clear restrictions, however, U Than Oo said people are selling farmland without fear of repercussion. Owners of farmland in townships outside downtown Yangon have been illegally selling their plots to people looking for somewhere to build a house, he said.
As part of the well–established practice, farmland owners built streets on their land and are often able to obtain an illegal supply of electricity. They then sell individual plots at prices far lower than the in the legal real estate market.
Plots of farmland between 450 and 800 square feet in townships with good transportation links are being sold for anywhere from K1.5 million to K5 million, typically through a social media network, U Than Oo said.
U Maung Oo has been living on a plot of illegally purchased farmland in Thanlyin township for almost two years.
“I bought a 20 feet by 400 feet chunk of farmland for K2 million in early 2015,” he said.
U Maung Oo said the owner built an eight-foot-wide path through the land, which now has 50 separate plots that sell for much more than he had paid.
“Now a plot on this land goes for more than K4 million,” he said.
A farmland landlord typically signs a contract with the buyer, and provides them with copies of his farmland ownership permit. None of this would prevent the government taking action if it discovered houses being built on farmland, however.
The most serious penalties for violating the rules governing farmland are a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine a not less than K1 million in addition to confiscation of the land. These penalties apply to those that have received permission to use farmland and abused their ownership.
For U Maung Oo, even if the government was to move him off his illegally purchased plot tomorrow, he says his decision still made financial sense.
“I’ve lived here for two years, so I save money compared to what I would have paid to rent,” he said.
The Yangon real estate market has been cool for the last two years, which has helped prompt farm land owners to simply sell smaller chunks of their land rather than the whole, said real estate agents.
“Farmland landlords are eagerly telling agents to sell their lands, and tell buyers that they can apply for a grant [to change the status of the land] once they have bought,” said Ko Win Htein, an owner of Aye Yeik San real estate agency in North Dagon Myo Thit said, but added that he has never heard of someone buying farmland illegally successful in receiving a grant.
“The real victims are the ones that buy the land,” he said. “When the government addresses the issue and handles things in accordance with the law they will face losing [their homes].
The Yangon Region government could not be reached for comment.
Quoted from mmtimes.