Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law


Pestalozzi is an independent multicultural and multilingual Swiss law firm founded in 1911, focusing on Swiss commercial law and international work. It is one of the country’s most established law firms, with 27 partners and some 70 other fee earners in Zurich and Geneva. Pestalozzi lawyers are capable of handling complex transactions and are team players within interdisciplinary project groups. The firm is part of the Lex Mundi international network and can draw on an extensive international network of lawyers in other jurisdictions, with whom they work seamlessly in multi-jurisdictional matters. Pestalozzi predominantly represents and advises enterprises as well as associations, public institutions, foundations, and private individuals in economic and legal affairs with a connection to Switzerland. About half of the clients are located in Switzerland while the other half is located all over the world and includes top-ranked enterprises, as well as medium-sized and smaller companies from a broad range of sectors.


Environment & Climate Change

Latest environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline – 2021 overview
Switzerland | 22 March 2021

This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect recently or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. These include efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the decision to revert to the original scale system for energy labels, the modification of Annex 1 of the Prior Informed Consent Ordinance and the introduction of new regulations for the export of certain hazardous plant protection products which may endanger human health or the environment.

Voters reject popular initiative to tighten responsibilities of Swiss-based companies
Switzerland | 07 December 2020

Swiss voters recently rejected a popular initiative that aimed to tighten the responsibilities of Swiss-based companies with respect to their global activities. One key element of the initiative was the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards. Both the federal government and Parliament considered the initiative to be too far reaching. Therefore, Parliament has presented a counter-proposal that will enter into force if no referendum is held.

Recent emissions trading developments
Switzerland | 02 November 2020

The Swiss emissions trading system (ETS) is an important market-based instrument for climate protection. It serves to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases produced by Swiss companies with particularly high emissions. Since 21 September 2020, Switzerland and the European Union have enabled emissions allowance transactions between the Swiss ETS and the EU ETS.

Switzerland to extend certain climate protection measures until 2021
Switzerland | 01 June 2020

The Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication recently launched the consultation process for a partial revision of the CO2 Ordinance. Amendments to the ordinance are necessary to extend certain climate protection measures until the end of 2021, as recently decided by Parliament.

Latest environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline – 2020 overview
Switzerland | 10 February 2020

This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area concern, among other things, CO2 emissions, waste and recycling, contaminated site and soil protection, genetic engineering and new statutory limitation periods.

Environmental responsibility of Swiss-based companies and related popular initiative
Switzerland | 25 November 2019

In 2016 the so-called 'Responsible Business Initiative' was submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery. A key element of the initiative is the introduction of a legal obligation on Swiss-based multinationals to respect international environmental standards in all of their business activities worldwide. As the popular vote on the initiative is expected to take place in February 2020, Swiss-based companies should analyse whether they may be affected and, if so, determine appropriate implementation measures.

Latest environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 17 June 2019

This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area affect, among other things, plant and water protection, chemicals, non-ionising radiation, energy and CO2 reduction.

Revised CO2 Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars
Switzerland | 28 January 2019

While the Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act) has had some success in reducing CO2 emissions, the average CO2 emissions of passenger cars have increased in recent years. As the existing law cannot sufficiently meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Convention, Parliament should agree on a revised CO2 Act that can provide for appropriate instruments to reach these goals.

Federal Supreme Court rules on allocation of clean-up costs for contaminated sites
Switzerland | 15 October 2018

The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the allocation of clean-up costs where certain polluters are exempt from liability. For the first time, the court discussed the question of whether a contaminated site owner's exemption from liability leads to a corresponding additional burden on the polluter which, through its own conduct, caused the clean-up measures or whether the additional burden passes to the canton and the municipality.

Latest environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 28 May 2018

Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances have recently entered into effect or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. These new measures include certain amendments to the Energy Act, the Water Protection Ordinance, the Ordinance on the Prevention and the Disposal of Waste and the Ordinance on Protection against Major Accidents.

Revision of Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions
Switzerland | 18 December 2017

The Federal Council recently published its dispatch regarding the total revision of the Federal Act on the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions for 2021 to 2030. The parliamentary debate on the revision of the act will start in 2018. This will define the development and course of Swiss climate policy for upcoming years. Switzerland aims to tighten the act and reinforce its contribution to the limitation of global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Major steps taken towards linking Swiss and EU emissions trading systems
Switzerland | 09 October 2017

Contrary to the EU emissions trading system (ETS), thus far the Swiss ETS does not incorporate aviation emissions. In order to align and link the Swiss and EU ETS, the Swiss system must include these emissions. As such, the Federal Council recently adopted the Ordinance on the Acquisition and Reporting of Tonne-Kilometre Data relating to Distances Covered by Aircraft.

Environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 01 May 2017

Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances came into effect in 2016 or will come into effect in 2017. These new measures include certain amendments to the adjustments to the Ordinance on Movements of Waste, a revision of the Ordinance on the Protection against Non-ionising Radiation and amendments to the Federal Act on Forests and the Ordinance on Forests.

Federal Supreme Court decision on building in noise-affected areas
Switzerland | 19 December 2016

Swiss environmental laws provide for certain requirements to allow new building zones and new buildings in areas that are affected by noise. To assess compliance with these requirements, noise measurements are required. In a recent decision, the Federal Supreme Court decided that a widely used method of measurement – so-called 'ventilation-window practice' – is not compatible with legal requirements.

Federal Supreme Court decision on 'polluter pays' principle and heirs' liability
Switzerland | 25 July 2016

The Federal Supreme Court recently decided on the environmental liability of owners that make their property available to landfill operators in return for financial compensation. The court also held that the cost-bearing duty of the initial property owner did not transfer to the heirs and so they must therefore be released from any cost-bearing duty.

Key environmental legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 21 March 2016

Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances came into effect in 2015 or will come into effect in 2016. These new measures include certain amendments to the Ordinance on Air Pollution Control to reflect technical improvements and amendments to the Ordinance on the Reduction of Risks Relating to the Use of Certain Particularly Dangerous Substances, Preparations and Articles to align Swiss laws with international regulations.

Recent jurisprudence on construction activities in aquatic areas
Switzerland | 07 December 2015

The Federal Supreme Court recently decided three cases concerning the undertaking of construction activities in aquatic areas, which is limited by federal water protection laws and allowed only in exceptional cases. While only fixed installations that serve the public interest may be built in such areas, the authorities may authorise exceptions in certain circumstances.

Federal Supreme Court decision on subsidies to remediate polluted sites
Switzerland | 03 August 2015

The Federal Supreme Court recently decided on whether a canton is entitled to federal subsidies for remediation measures in connection with a project on a site that, without the building project, would not be in need of remediation. The court held that there is no legal ground obliging the confederation to subsidise remediation on sites that do not generally need it and that require remediation due only to a particular construction project.

Key legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 09 February 2015

The Federal Council recently enacted amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, the Waters Protection Act and the Gene Technology Act. The amendments relate to the ratification of the Aarhus Convention. Amendments to the Carbon Dioxide Ordinance and the Energy Ordinance have also entered into force, with amendments expected to the Ordinance on the Remediation of Polluted Sites and the Major Accident Ordinance.

Regulations on genetic engineering
Switzerland | 08 December 2014

Swiss agriculture is free of genetic engineering, with a moratorium banning genetically modified plants and seeds and banning animals from being imported and placed on the Swiss market. The main rules on genetic engineering concern agricultural products, foodstuffs, industrial activities and research and international commerce.

Polluted sites – federal Environmental Protection Act amended
Switzerland | 11 August 2014

Pursuant to a recent amendment to the federal Environmental Protection Act, polluters may be required to provide appropriate security for the costs of cleaning up a contaminated site. The new approval requirement for the sale or parcelling of a contaminated site can considerably delay a transaction. It is therefore advisable to check the Register of Contaminated Sites and to involve the competent authority in good time.

Key legislation in effect and in the pipeline
Switzerland | 10 March 2014

Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances came into effect in 2013 or will come into effect in 2014. These new measures include stipulations that the sale or parcelling of land listed in the register of contaminated sites will be subject to approval by the responsible authority, as well as amendments which aim to reframe energy politics and facilitate the installation of small power-generating systems.

Government announces support for Minamata Convention on Mercury
Switzerland | 16 December 2013

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The convention will lead to amendments of the exceptions from the general prohibition to place on the market mercury-containing preparations or articles in Switzerland. The Swiss government has announced its intention to support the convention financially.

Case law on light pollution
Switzerland | 19 August 2013

Federal case law on light emissions focuses on the legal provisions governing such emissions and the assessment of their harmful effects. Since no explicit provisions govern the maximum permitted amount of light emissions, the Environmental Protection Act provisions on the maximum emission values for air pollution and the act's general provisions on emissions apply.

Federal Supreme Court confirms scope of 'polluter pays' principle
Switzerland | 08 April 2013

The Federal Supreme Court recently confirmed the scope of the 'polluter pays' principle. The possessor of a contaminated site at the time of its clean-up is always a polluter for environmental law purposes and the persons that caused the pollution must bear the costs of the clean-up. The court specified that a cost share of between 10% and 30% might be inappropriate if the persons concerned are not responsible for the pollution.

Overview (January 2013)
Switzerland | 04 February 2013

Including: Brownfield sites; Chemicals; VOC emissions; Carbon emissions; Vehicles; Pipelines; Air pollution; Noise protection; Electronic waste.

'Polluter pays' principle applies to litter disposal costs
Switzerland | 26 November 2012

The Supreme Court has ruled that litter falls into the category of domestic waste and the 'polluter pays' principle applies to litter disposal costs. Each waste holder is not required to cover the exact disposal costs for its own waste; rather, it is sufficient that all waste producers cover the full disposal costs. This decision follows a complaint by retailers charged a fee to cover the costs of removing litter from public areas.

Clean-up of polluted sites: relative and absolute time limitation
Switzerland | 13 August 2012

The 'polluter pays' principle states that anyone who causes measures to be taken under the Environmental Protection Law must bear the related costs. However, with regard to sites that were polluted a long time ago, the issue arises of how long the polluter is exposed to potential liability for clean-up costs.

Federal court decisions on traffic noise
Switzerland | 30 April 2012

Two key principles apply when the courts are asked to consider noise from traffic sources such as roads, railways and aircraft. The precautionary principle provides that noise emissions should primarily be reduced at source, while the principle of proportionality states that remediation is required only if it is technically and operationally feasible and economically acceptable.

Improving the sustainability of real estate
Switzerland | 26 September 2011

A broad range of federal, cantonal and voluntary private measures are promoting enhanced real estate sustainability in Switzerland. The involvement of private enterprises, foundations and associations leads to a well-balanced and flexible system. The carbon dioxide tax, in particular, makes fossil fuels more expensive and provides a direct incentive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Energy Act revised: new instruments for energy-efficient buildings
Switzerland | 23 May 2011

The revised Energy Act has come into force. The revision focuses on energy-related measures for buildings, since buildings have high energy-saving potential; they use about 45% of the nation's energy (heat and electricity) and generate about 50% of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, the measures aim to save energy while ensuring that buildings are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Asbestos-contaminated buildings: clean-up and disposal
Switzerland | 21 February 2011

There is no general obligation under Swiss law to clean up real properties which contain asbestos. However, if the renovation or demolition of such a property is planned, then certain safety precautions must be taken. The legal basis for these precautions is found in the the International Labour Organisation Asbestos Convention, the Federal Act on Accident Insurance and the Federal Ordinance on Accident Prevention.

Supreme Court decides on asbestos-contaminated buildings
Switzerland | 13 December 2010

Article 32c of the Federal Act on the Protection of the Environment requires the cantons to ensure that contaminated sites are cleaned up. This obligation refers only to landfills and other sites that are contaminated with 'waste', as defined by the act. The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on a cantonal authority's power to allocate decontamination costs when a buyer of a real property finds asbestos during renovation works.

Legislation on industrial waste management and trade
Switzerland | 20 September 2010

As a party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Cross-Border Movements of Hazardous Waste and its Disposal, Switzerland must ensure that the management of hazardous waste is consistent with the protection of human health and the environment. The legislature has now created a legal framework for industrial waste management and waste disposal.

Legal framework of the Swiss market for sustainable biofuels
Switzerland | 10 May 2010

Despite the recent liberalization of the market for sustainable biofuels, bioethanol has not yet successfully penetrated the market. The Federal Council has decided to remove certain legal obstacles with respect to bioethanol by amending the applicable statutes and procedures. This update outlines the statutes and administrative procedures that apply to all biofuel producers, importers and sellers on the Swiss market.

Implementing the Kyoto Protocol: Carbon Dioxide Tax and Emissions Trading
Switzerland | 20 July 2009

Climate change is increasingly considered a serious and controversial issue for global society. Thus, in 1997, industrialized countries signed the Kyoto Protocol in order to cope with the severe problems associated with climate change by enacting national legal provisions based on international and democratic rules and the principles of the free market economy. This update considers the steps taken in Switzerland.

Jurisdiction on Parking Charges
Switzerland | 26 May 2009

The Federal Court recently ruled on parking fees in connection with the construction of an exhibition and trade centre in the Canton of Zurich. The decision highlights the fact that different kinds of facility require different handling with regard to parking fees and the effective reduction of emissions.

Jurisdiction under the Federal Water Protection Statute
Switzerland | 02 March 2009

The Swiss Federal Court recently issued two decisions regarding jurisdiction under the Federal Water Protection Statute. In the first, the court ruled on whether rainwater draining off the large copper-covered roof of the Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre was considered to be polluted; in the second, the court considered the assessment of fees for connecting to the canal system.

Supreme Court Settles Dispute on Allocation of Clean-Up Costs
Switzerland | 22 December 2008

In a recent case regarding contamination at Zurich airport, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the Zurich Office for Waste, Water, Energy and Air Quality, and not the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, was to be considered the competent authority to allocate clean-up costs under the Environmental Protection Law.

Noise Nuisance Resulting from the Operation of a Major Airport
Switzerland | 06 October 2008

Hundreds of noise nuisance actions are pending at first instance against the operator of Kloten airport, which has been privatized since 2001. Recent Supreme Court decisions provide guidance in dealing with the relevant jurisdiction of the courts, and with the evaluation and the amount of compensatory damages for excessive aircraft noise.

Federal Act on the Protection of the Environment Revised
Switzerland | 23 June 2008

The Federal Act on the Protection of the Environment came into force on January 1 1985. Article 9 provides a legal basis for environmental impact assessments. Since 1985 various minor revisions to the act have been made. The most recent became effective on July 1 2007. Since then, minor issues have arisen, particularly concerning the right of particular organizations to appeal against certain projects.

Legal Measures Against Smog
Switzerland | 10 March 2008

In many parts of Switzerland smog is a common occurrence. Smog is the overload of the atmosphere with particulate matter during the winter months and with ozone during the summer months, respectively. The Swiss Conference of the Head Officials of Construction, Planning and Environmental Matters has resolved on short-term measures on air pollution control.

Federal Supreme Court Decisions on Recurring Issues
Switzerland | 03 December 2007

The Federal Supreme Court regularly decides cases about the installation of antennae for mobile communications, noises emanating from public facilities such as restaurants and odour nuisances caused by factory plants. Recent decisions have addressed common questions on these recurring issues.

Federal Court Decision on Noise Control of Open-Air Sports Facilities
Switzerland | 03 September 2007

The Federal Supreme Court recently decided a case regarding the permitted hours of use of an open-air sports facility which has recently been expanded. The lower instance court had allowed restrictive hours on the basis of a German regulation, but the Supreme Court revoked the decision and requested the cantonal court to render a new judgment in line with its considerations.

Distribution of Costs for Noise Abatement Measures
Switzerland | 02 July 2007

According to the 'polluter pays' principle, the originator of pollution bears the costs for the avoidance and clean-up of pollution. A recent judgment of the Federal Court clarifies that the principle is also valid with regard to noise pollution. Furthermore, the principle applies to the state that is the originator of a motorway.

Balancing Property Owners' Rights and Environmental Protection
Switzerland | 12 March 2007

In recent years the Federal Supreme Court has rendered several decisions illustrating the need to achieve a proper balance between conflicting interests of landowners on the one hand and nature on the other. In each case a property owner requested the court to order that a neighbour fell trees which had grown in such a way that they were assumed to have become an intolerable nuisance.

Sustainable Development in Federal and Cantonal Law
Switzerland | 04 December 2006

Swiss constitutional law provides a basis for the implementation of sustainable development. In addition, sustainability assessments, such as those established for road projects by the Federal Road office, allow the relevant authorities to assess whether particular projects take sustainable development issues into account.

New Provisions on Clean-up of Contaminated Sites
Switzerland | 31 July 2006

Under new provisions on the clean-up of contaminated sites, if a building is located on a polluted site and the clean-up of that site becomes necessary only upon demolition of the building, then two-thirds of the additional costs of examination and disposal of the contaminated material will be allocated to the original contaminator and to the former owners of the site, respectively.

Legislative Update
Switzerland | 15 May 2006

Recently, substantial amendments have been made to important areas of Swiss law concerning the protection of the environment and of people's health and safety. The amended laws regulate climate protection, the management of waste (in particular hazardous waste) and the handling of chemical products.

New Initiatives to Tackle Air Pollution
Switzerland | 23 January 2006

To find a remedy to the problem of air pollution, Swiss public authorities have developed a number of approaches to improve air quality by controlling the volume of individual traffic. These approaches focus on shopping malls, large sports facilities and similar places which frequently attract high numbers of visitors, causing heavy individual traffic as in many cases public transport is insufficient.

When Environmental Issues Affect Construction Plans
Switzerland | 09 August 2004

In Switzerland, the construction of new buildings and the modification of existing buildings are subject to approval. At the application stage, issues beyond the construction site itself must be considered, such as traffic development and parking opportunities. Unusually, however, construction plans must also take account of nature conservation issues.

Opinion Issued on Liability for Costs of Remediation
Switzerland | 22 September 2003

There has been some uncertainty in Switzerland as to how to apportion liability for clean-up costs in cases where a range of persons may be held liable because of their involvement with a contaminated site. When identifying the various persons implicated, subjective elements are not taken into account, so fault is not a prerequisite.

The Thorny Issue of Mobile Phone Masts
Switzerland | 17 February 2003

Many Swiss residents have complained about the construction mobile phone masts, due to concerns over the radiation they emit. A body of case law now provides a catalogue of answers to the objections most commonly raised. As a result, the legal positions of residents, constructors and operators have been clarified considerably.

Agricultural Development Depends on Environmental Commitment
Switzerland | 11 November 2002

While the Swiss public authorities are not inclined to grant additional funding to agriculture, environmentally friendly farming activities will continue to be remunerated on a cost basis. Farmers and environmentalists must thus put aside their differences, as agricultural development is dependent on constructive political discussion between these two spheres of influence.

Contaminated Sites - Who Bears the Clean-Up Costs?
Switzerland | 04 March 2002

Swiss cantons must register all sites containing existing or presumed neglected toxic waste deposits. As the landowner must usually bear the costs of any investigation into whether a clean-up is necessary, registration of a site often gives interested buyers an opportunity to negotiate a price reduction.

Insolvency & Restructuring

Foreign liquidators' powers to collect assets located in Switzerland – first experiences under new legislation
Switzerland | 04 December 2020

In 2019 the Private International Law Act was revised with the aim of improving and facilitating the recognition and enforcement of foreign bankruptcy rulings. Foreign liquidators can now forgo the previously mandatory ancillary bankruptcy proceedings by filing a petition with the Swiss courts. Recent experiences have shown that the Swiss courts will normally grant such leave if they are satisfied that no privileged or secured creditors in Switzerland exist.

Opening bankruptcy proceedings during COVID-19 pandemic
Switzerland | 11 September 2020

Company boards of directors have a duty to continuously monitor the company's financial situation and take certain measures if it gets into financial difficulties. Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has temporarily suspended their duty to notify the bankruptcy court in the event of imminent overindebtedness where there is a possibility that this situation can be remedied after the crisis.

Moratoria during COVID-19 pandemic – an overview
Switzerland | 19 June 2020

Originally, unlike in other jurisdictions, the purpose of a moratorium in Switzerland was not necessarily to continue doing business, but rather to find a better way to liquidate a company; however, this has changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. There is now another type of moratorium under Swiss law (although probably only until 20 October 2020), which is intended to promote restructuring.

Obtaining attachment on cryptocurrencies in Switzerland
Switzerland | 13 March 2020

The general view in Switzerland is that cryptocurrencies are intangible assets sui generis and as such can be subject to regular debt enforcement and insolvency proceedings in Switzerland (provided that these cryptocurrencies have a financial value). This article highlights the particularities to be considered when cryptocurrencies are the target of an attachment procedure (ie, a freezing order) in Switzerland.

Legal qualification of cryptocurrencies under Swiss insolvency law
Switzerland | 01 November 2019

The recent insolvency of German-Swiss cryptocurrency mining venture Envion AG inevitably begs the question of how cryptocurrencies should be treated in debt enforcement and insolvency proceedings. Further, the fact that cryptocurrencies have a number of particularities which distinguish them from other asset categories raises numerous questions relating to (for example) the seizure, attachment and liquidation of cryptocurrencies from a Swiss insolvency law perspective.

New rules for reorganising financially distressed companies
Switzerland | 12 April 2019

In June 2018 the House of Representatives narrowly voted to support a bill which proposes additional protection from claw-back actions for creditors which grant loans that are pre‑approved by an insolvency administrator. While the next steps in the legislative process are unclear, the House of Representatives will likely reopen the debate on this bill in its next session in Summer 2019.

Debt enforcement and bankruptcy law revisions enter into force
Switzerland | 18 January 2019

A number of revisions to the Private International Law Act and the Debt Enforcement Bankruptcy Act recently entered into force. The revisions aim to improve and facilitate the recognition and enforcement of foreign bankruptcy rulings and enhance protection against unjustified debt enforcement proceedings. Significantly, Swiss law now recognises foreign bankruptcies opened at the bankrupt's seat, registered office or centre of main interest.

Real Estate

New attempt to tighten rules on foreign real property investments fails in Parliament
Switzerland | 26 March 2021

In February 2021 the Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee of the National Council surprisingly decided to include the initiative to temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad in the revised urgent COVID-19 Act instead of amending the Lex Koller through the ordinary legislative process. However, the Council of States and the National Council recently rejected the proposal. Despite this pleasing result, the topic remains on the agenda.

New attempt to tighten rules on foreign real property investments
Switzerland | 05 March 2021

The Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council recently submitted an initiative that would temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad. The proposal claims that it will mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis by preventing foreign investors from acquiring financially distressed Swiss companies at low prices. However, as foreign investors improve the sales conditions for such companies by fostering demand, the amendment would actually be counterproductive.

Federal act on rent reductions during COVID-19 lockdown fails in Parliament
Switzerland | 11 December 2020

The proposed COVID-19 Business Rental Act has failed in Parliament and is thus off the table on a national level. The main arguments for the dismissal included the retroactive intervention in private law contracts and the legal uncertainty with regard to the question of whether the proposed act had a sufficient constitutional basis. However, the topic of COVID-19 rent reductions will likely lead to court decisions in the future.

Proposed federal act on rent payments during COVID-19 lockdown
Switzerland | 24 July 2020

The Federal Council recently submitted to Parliament a preliminary draft federal act on rent payments during the COVID-19 lockdown and opened the consultation procedure with the cantons, political parties and interested organisations. The act is a political decision and its constitutional basis is questionable. Further, a number of the suggested provisions leave room for improvement.

Legal uncertainty over rent reductions due to COVID-19 remains
Switzerland | 29 May 2020

Numerous shops, restaurants and other facilities throughout Switzerland have had to close their businesses due to emergency regulations issued to combat COVID-19. This has led to the question of whether the tenants of such premises are still obliged to pay rent or whether they are entitled to a full or partial rent reduction. Despite many opinions having been expressed in the legal community and by politicians, this question remains as unanswered as it was at the beginning of the lockdown.

E-governance for building permits
Switzerland | 27 March 2020

In response to growing market needs, several cantons have introduced an electronic procedure for building permit requests. The improved applications and increased transparency with regard to the documentation and the status of building permit procedures enable planners to carry out projects more efficiently. This is a major advantage, especially for institutional investors and project developers.

Easier access to land register information
Switzerland | 20 December 2019

As of 1 July 2020, new provisions will apply to electronic access to land register data. Whereas current access to electronic land register data is highly restricted, the new legal provisions of the Federal Ordinance on the Land Register extend access to electronic land register data for specified parties. While the ordinance provides the basis for this extended access to land registers, it is up to the cantons to decide whether they wish to introduce it.

Impact of lakefront public footpaths on landowners' rights
Switzerland | 02 August 2019

According to federal planning principles, the cantons and municipalities must guarantee free public access to lakesides and riverbanks. However, some cantons have not yet implemented the required legislation, not least because of objections from private landowners. This article outlines the applicable federal legal framework and highlights examples of its implementation by two cantons.

Brexit: changes for UK citizens on Swiss property market
Switzerland | 15 March 2019

While it remains unclear when and on what terms Brexit will happen, the United Kingdom and Switzerland recently signed an agreement on citizens' rights which covers the purchase and retention of real estate by UK citizens in Switzerland and vice versa. After Brexit, UK citizens with a legal and actual Swiss residence will require a permanent Swiss residence permit (C permit). Otherwise, they will be considered persons abroad and will be subject to the Lex Koller restrictions.

Swiss voters reject plan to freeze building zones
Switzerland | 22 February 2019

Swiss voters recently rejected an initiative that aimed to stop urban sprawl by freezing the overall size of building zones and strictly limiting exceptions that allow building activities outside building zones. While supporters of the initiative considered the current legal regime to be insufficient, opponents argued that the proposed initiative was overly strict, unable to accommodate cantonal and regional differences and inadequate to address population and economic growth.

Federal Supreme Court decision on compensation due to limitation of secondary homes
Switzerland | 16 November 2018

The Federal Supreme Court recently addressed for the first time whether the prohibition to build secondary homes on private property entitles landowners to compensation. The court ruled on the consequences of the withdrawal of a previously established right through an amendment of the law and clarified that the concept of private property is not a fixed notion inaccessible to change. There is no entitlement to a permanent definition of the concept of private property.

Federal government drops plan to tighten rules on foreign real property investments
Switzerland | 29 June 2018

In March 2017 the federal government submitted to public consultation several proposals to amend the legal regime governing foreign investments in Swiss real property. The vast majority of the comments received rejected the proposed amendments. While the government subsequently dropped its plan to amend the Lex Koller and a related ordinance, certain pending parliamentary motions may impact the Lex Koller regime in the medium term.

Levy on added value of land resulting from planning measures
Switzerland | 27 April 2018

Swiss legislation provides for adequate compensation for considerable advantages and disadvantages resulting from spatial planning measures. In particular, land that is newly allocated to a building zone substantially increases in value. Owners of such land will benefit from spatial planning activities without any contribution on their part. For reasons of fairness, these benefits are subject to a levy which is supposed to 'skim off' part of the added value.

Legislative developments in land-use planning
Switzerland | 24 November 2017

The proposed second part of the Spatial Planning Act revision will give the cantons more flexibility with regard to construction activities outside building zones so that they can consider their individual needs more appropriately. An initiative to stop uncontrolled urban sprawl will oblige the federation, cantons and communities to freeze the present size of building zones and ensure that the zones grow no further.

Federal Supreme Court stops property sale between foreigners
Switzerland | 14 July 2017

Foreign investments in Swiss real estate are governed by a federal law known as the 'Lex Koller' and additional cantonal rules. The law restricts the acquisition of residential real property by non-Swiss residents. In a recent decision, the Federal Supreme Court decided for the first time that the sale of a vacation home between two non-Swiss residents is allowed only in designated communities. The decision stops a long-standing practice of the cantonal authorities.

Swiss inventories of second homes published
Switzerland | 05 May 2017

An initiative adopted in 2012 led to a constitutional amendment limiting the total number of second homes in any municipality to 20% of the total number of residential units existing in the concerned municipality. Each municipality is obliged to keep an inventory of all homes and to update it by the end of each calendar year. The Federal Office for Spatial Development recently published the inventories of second homes for the first time.

Stricter rules for foreign investments in Swiss real property?
Switzerland | 07 April 2017

Even though the federal Parliament recently rejected two motions to tighten the legal regime governing foreign investments in Swiss real estate, the federal government has now submitted a number of proposals that head in the same direction. Under the guise of closing loopholes and improving law enforcement, a substantial tightening of the legal regime governing foreign investments is under discussion.

Federal Supreme Court decision on building in noise-affected areas
Switzerland | 16 December 2016

Swiss environmental laws provide for certain requirements to allow new building zones and new buildings in areas that are affected by noise. To assess compliance with these requirements, noise measurements are required. In a recent decision, the Federal Supreme Court decided that a widely used method of measurement – so-called 'ventilation-window practice' – is not compatible with legal requirements.

New register of public law restrictions on land ownership
Switzerland | 04 November 2016

The cadastre of public law restrictions on land ownership (PLR cadastre) is being developed by the federal government and the cantons. It is one of the three cornerstones of the Swiss cadastral system, besides the land register and cadastral surveying. Whereas information on private law restrictions can be obtained from the land register, the PLR cadastre provides information about the most important public law restrictions on land ownership.

Brexit vote: time to buy Swiss real estate?
Switzerland | 01 July 2016

Following the United Kingdom's EU referendum, the legal situation of UK citizens – particularly those living in Switzerland – is likely to change in relation to Swiss real estate. Until Brexit takes legal effect, UK citizens with legal and actual Swiss residence may be treated as Swiss residents and thus may acquire Swiss residential properties without restriction. However, this should change once Brexit takes legal effect.

Access to land register information
Switzerland | 03 June 2016

The Civil Code and the Federal Ordinance on the Land Register govern formal and substantive land register matters, including land register management, access to register information and the legal effect of register entries. Even though land register matters are mainly governed by federal laws, the registers are kept by cantonal authorities. Thus, land register information should be requested from the cantonal authority at the place of the concerned property.

Non-Swiss residents can own several holiday homes in exceptional cases
Switzerland | 13 November 2015

A non-Swiss resident inherited one Swiss holiday home and already owned another. The question arose of whether he had to sell one of the properties due to restrictions on the acquisition of Swiss real estate by non-Swiss residents. The Federal Supreme Court confirmed that the rule that non-Swiss residents may acquire only one holiday home does not apply to legal heirs.

Parliament adopts new federal rules on second homes
Switzerland | 24 July 2015

In March 2015 Parliament adopted the Federal Act on Second Homes, which is expected to enter into force in early 2016 and will govern the final implementation of the new rule restricting second homes. The relevant constitutional provision states that no more than 20% of the total number of residential units and of the gross residential floor area in any municipality may be used as second homes.

Federal Supreme Court decision on standing to challenge lease termination
Switzerland | 17 April 2015

The Federal Supreme Court recently considered whether a co-tenant had standing to challenge wrongful termination of a lease contract on her own. It stated that a lease contract cannot be terminated for one co-tenant only; therefore, all parties concerned must participate in an action challenging the lease termination. However, this does not mean that all co-tenants must be on the same side of the bar.

Federal Supreme Court decision on lease termination during blocking period
Switzerland | 10 April 2015

The Federal Supreme Court recently had to decide for the first time whether challenging the termination of a lease during conciliation or court proceedings requires the landlord's knowledge of the pending proceedings. It concluded that protection against untimely termination applies from the start of the proceedings until a final decision is rendered, irrespective of when the landlord becomes aware of proceedings.

Federal Supreme Court decision on lease termination for late payments
Switzerland | 02 April 2015

The Code of Obligations provides that where a tenant is in arrears with rent or charges, the landlord may set a time limit for payment and notify the tenant that in the event of non-payment, it will terminate the lease. The Federal Supreme Court recently confirmed that this provision must be applied strictly, as its purpose is to ensure that landlords are paid on time and leases are terminated in case of late payment.

Federal Supreme Court decision on non-use of official form for new leases
Switzerland | 27 March 2015

In the event of a housing shortage, the cantons may make it obligatory for a landlord to use an official cantonal form when contracting a new lease which indicates the rent paid by the previous tenant. The Federal Supreme Court recently confirmed that failure to use the form does not lead to the nullity of a lease contract as a whole, but only to the nullity of the rent fixed in the lease.

Federal Supreme Court decision on rural land rights
Switzerland | 28 November 2014

Certain restrictions and approval requirements apply to agricultural businesses and agricultural land, and the sale of such businesses or land requires approval. The Federal Supreme Court recently held that a leaseholder's pre-emptive right is subject to the main asset test and requires that a majority of shares be transferred.

Latest developments in foreign real property investments
Switzerland | 11 July 2014

Foreign investment in Swiss real estate is governed by a federal law known as the 'Lex Koller'. The government recently announced a revision of the Lex Koller in order to address certain enforcement problems and loopholes. A popular initiative may follow to tighten the regime, but it would take several years before such changes to the law were legally effective.

Transfer of lease regarding commercial premises – effects on sublease contract
Switzerland | 28 March 2014

The Federal Supreme Court recently confirmed that the contract for the transfer of a lease is a contract between the former tenant and the new tenant, and that the landlord's written consent is a condition precedent for the validity of such a contract. In case of a transfer of a main lease, and without any reservation under the transfer contract, a sublease for the same lease object ends with the main lease.