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Why you should not buy property in Bali using a local nominee

Since foreign nationals (or even local companies) cannot acquire Hak Milik (land ownership, also called freehold), many foreign investors believe they have to use local nominees.

Hopefully, we have managed to prove that it’s not necessary as you can acquire Hak Guna Bangunan and Hak Pakai through your own PT PMA company which is the safest way to invest in property in Bali.

Sometimes foreign nationals believe that they have found a local person that they can 100% trust and that it’s better or easier to buy land under that person’s name.

While you might have all the trust and the local person can have the best intentions, it’s still an investment on shaky ground as you will have no legal rights to control the property.

Human relations can take wrong turns, or something might happen with your trustee. Divorce, marriage, death – all these scenarios involve external parties who may not have the same intentions with your property as your potential trustee.

So, unless you are ready to accept that in the worst-case scenario you will lose your entire investment, don’t go for the trustee option. In fact, trusting an unreliable individual nominee is one of the top mistakes foreign investors make in Indonesia.

Examples of foreigners getting in trouble with their property investment in Bali

Susi’s Nightmare with the Mafia

A story published by Sydney Morning Herald (2015) uncovered a couple whose land ‘ownership’ was documented illegally by an Indonesian nominee.

After the death of her husband, Susi Johnston discovered that her agreement documentation over their villa near Canggu, Bali, was not legal and not a single one of her signed papers had any legal legitimacy.

Her nominee fell into serious debt with criminals. As a result, the mafia took over her house as collateral.

Susi’s nightmare in paradise has caught the attention of many expats across Bali. With her story, Johnston is cautioning foreigners about the dark side of nominee ownership.

The Author’s Hell in Heaven

The author of Bali: Heaven and Hell, Phil Jarratt, claimed the so-called “nominee ownership crisis” taking over Bali is not new anymore. Phil had a 25-year leasehold that was ripped up on a “dodgy technicality” a couple of years into it in the early 1990s.

In Swellnet (2015), Jarratt also mentioned: “in recent years aging baby boomer hippies and surfers have been thrown onto the streets as their nominees die and the next generation claims the property or demands double the money.”

As you read the stories thoroughly, you will understand why setting up a PMA is the only safe way to invest property in Bali as a foreigner since it will provide you with legal rights over your assets.

Interested in buying property in Bali?

The purpose of this article is to show you the right way of buying property in Bali as a foreigner.

The only way foreigners can safely invest in property or buy land in Bali is by owning an Indonesian legal entity - PT PMA. Property owned by a foreigner may not be freehold ownership, but the Right to Build and Right to Use titles give you clear legal grounding.

By setting up a PT PMA, you will protect your investment, and you will have plenty of time to either enjoy the property yourself or resell it. Contact us by using the form below or send us an email at


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