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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.