BANGKOK — New protections for tenants will soon come into effect that include limits on what landlords can charge and a way out of long-term leases.

Practices such as demanding multiple months of rent in advance and locking tenants out will become illegal May 1st 2018 under new safeguards in the Consumer Protection Act passed last month to more tightly regulate landlords and boost the rights of renters.

The changes apply to property owners that lease five or more residential units, whether in one or multiple buildings.

“These new laws are done to protect tenants,” said Wirot Poonsuwan, a lawyer with a background in land rights. “On the other hand, landlords will now have their work cut out for them.”

One major change is that long-term leases can be terminated with 30-days notice provided tenants are current on their rent and give “reasonable” cause.

“Of course, a reasonable reason needs to be given,” said real estate consultant Sopon Pornchokchai. “For foreigners, that might be the need to move back to their country, and for Thais it might be the need to move due to a government position transfer. You can’t just up and leave whenever you want.”

Allowing renters to terminate their contracts will be a “big shock to the market,” he added. “Everyone’s going all, what are we gonna do? And now people will be getting lawyers and solicitors to check their contracts and everything, even if they never did before.”

Sophon said the news has largely gone unnoticed by the public but has been a big concern to big companies, including foreign ones, that rent land.

“The higher-ups all know about this,” Sopon said.  “Apartment owners are having a huge headache right now,” Sopon said. “Before, it was sabai sabai. Now it will be strict.”

The new regulations also prevent property owners from adding extra charges for things like water, electricity and Wi-Fi. Instead, they must charge only what is actually on the bill.

Tenants can also not be charged more than one month’s rent in advance, nor can their rent be increased before contract terms expire. Upon entering a lease, tenants cannot be charged more than one month in advance and a security deposit.

That means significantly lower move in costs, as most landowners presently charge two months rent and the equivalent of a third month as security deposit.

The de facto practice of punishing tenants who miss their rent by locking their doors or moving their stuff out will also be illegal.

The new regulations literally address the “fine print,” stipulating that contracts cannot contain type smaller than two millimeters.

Landlords who make illegal demands face up to a year in jail and 100,000-baht fine per lease violation. That means offending owners with five rentals could be jailed up to five years and fined up to 500,000 baht, Wirot said.

Instead of getting up to 60 days to return security deposits, landlords now must return them within seven days.

Landlords must also pay for routine maintenance and upkeep rather than charging tenants for repairing broken toilets, leaking roofs and broken door knobs.

Under the new law, unhappy tenants in multi-family housing may band together in the dozens or hundreds to file a joint complaint rather multiple individual complaints.

Those renting property therefore have under two months now to rewrite their contracts to comply with the new law or draw up new ones entirely.

Tenants may contact the Consumer Protection Board about their landlords by calling 02-141-3437. Property owners can contact the same Board’s Contracts Committee at 02-143-9767 to get help reviewing their contracts to verify they are legally compliant.