An initiative to restrict the construction of second homes recently came into effect. It will have a major impact on the property sector, as in communities where at least 20% of housing is already used as second homes, permission will not be granted for the construction of further second homes. Since the adoption of the initiative, a dispute has arisen as to how this clause should be interpreted and implemented.
The revised Civil Code recently came into force, introducing a register-based mortgage note and launching an integrated clearing system for the settlement of real estate transactions. With a register-based mortgage note, the creditor will be registered in the Land Register, which enhances transparency. The handling of real property transactions will be facilitated by the 'Terravis' electronic platform.
The Swiss Code of Civil Procedure has taken effect, replacing 26 cantonal Codes of Civil Procedure. The new code upgrades the role of the conciliation authority in landlord-tenant disputes by giving the authority greater competency. The parties can now agree to enter in mediation at any time during court proceedings, giving more weight to alternative dispute resolution.
Although triple-net lease agreements are still not often implemented in Switzerland, as a consequence of the entry of foreign investors into the Swiss commercial real estate market, recently such leases have become an increasingly common topic of discussion among real estate professionals, in particular in relation to sale and leaseback transactions and lease agreements for new single-tenant commercial buildings.
The federal Parliament has decided to revise aspects of the Swiss Civil Code on real estate. At the core of the revision is the introduction of a register-based mortgage note and an electronic real estate information system through which interested persons can obtain reliable and up-to-date information on real property online. The changes will facilitate real estate financing and transactions.
Switzerland will be one of the first countries in the world to establish a cadastre in which a significant proportion of property restrictions under public law are documented and published. Thus, legal certainty will be strengthened and the acquisition of information simplified. It will save the private sector time and money, as the relevant information regarding real estate will be more readily available.
Third state nationals entering the Schengen Area must hold a travel document valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay. As part of the Schengen Area, Switzerland must ensure that travel documents are in line with this regulation on work permit applications or visa matters.
The Free Movement of Persons Agreement has been extended to include Croatia since it officially joined the European Union. The opening of the Swiss market to Croatia will be performed on a progressive basis. Switzerland will be able to restrict unilaterally the immigration of Croatian workers to Switzerland. Rules regarding restricted movement rights for Croatian nationals are intended to enter into force in early 2014.
The Federal Council recently invoked the safeguard clause contained in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between the European Union and Switzerland. This clause allows Switzerland to implement unilaterally a quota system for one year, under certain conditions. Consequently, there is currently a quota system in place for the issuance of five-year residence permits for EU-8 and EU-17 nationals.
Planned revisions to the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals will affect integration, among other things. Under the proposed amendments, foreign nationals will be granted a settlement permit only if they are integrated in Switzerland. An essential requirement for integration is a strong knowledge of a national language and, therefore, a concept for language advancement has been developed.
The Federal Council has announced that the total number of work permits for 2013 will remain at 12,000 – the same number as in 2012. Within the overall quota, B-permits for long-term assignments will be capped at 4,000 and L-permits for initial stays of up to one year at 8,000. The council has also stated that it will place more emphasis on training and qualifications in upcoming years.
Switzerland's admission system for foreign workers is complicated. Non-EU and non-European Free Trade Association nationals are often confronted with the problem of whether an existing work permit can be extended or converted to a different permit category, or what kind of cooling-off period between the two work permits must be observed.