To date, there have been three COVID-19-related lockdowns in Austria. During each of these periods, the customer area of shops had to be closed to the public, except for certain essential retail stores. Restaurants could offer takeaway and delivery services only and hotels were shut subject to certain exceptions. This situation has created significant uncertainty regarding tenants' right to claim a COVID-19-related rent reduction. The Austrian courts recently issued two new decisions on this matter.
Two lower court decisions have confirmed tenants' right to claim a COVID-19-related rent reduction in general. However, both decisions must be read carefully and leave many questions unanswered, particularly in cases where shops made or could have made limited use of their premises during the national lockdowns by offering online delivery or click and collect services. In addition, state aid may affect rent reductions. This uncertainty has led to many mutual agreements in the market.
In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the government has ordered all shops and service providers, except those providing certain vital services, to close to customers from 17 March 2020 until 13 April 2020. The closure of shops may entitle tenants to reduced rent and ancillary costs. However, it does not entitle tenants to terminate their lease for cause. This article sets out guidance for affected tenants and landlords.
In early 2019 the Supreme Court passed three decisions confirming and clarifying its 2017 decision which had limited landlords' right to request a location surcharge for rent-controlled apartments in desirable neighbourhoods. Based on the court's judgment, approximately 100,000 apartments no longer qualify for the location surcharge. However, the court's vague criteria for determining whether a neighbourhood is considered above or below average leave scope to include additional indicators.
A new provision in the Vienna Building Code recently entered into force, rendering short-term letting – including through rental services such as Airbnb – illegal in large areas of Vienna. Further, under the new provision, all parts of residential zone buildings that were being used for residential purposes when the provision entered into force – or were built thereafter – may be used only for residential purposes. That said, the new provision may be unconstitutional.
The Homeowners Protection Act was designed to provide meaningful protection to homeowners by ensuring a true and proper discourse between borrowers and financial institutions and will likely become the epicentre of the mortgage market. However, the act has failed to achieve the balance that it sought to accomplish and is in dire need of reform.
The prime minister recently announced a Real Property Tax Forgiveness Programme which will provide waivers to Bahamian and non-Bahamian property owners in The Bahamas who are in arrears. The programme is aimed at collecting outstanding property taxes in order to bring persons into compliance and increase government revenue. It will also assist in easing the financial burden on property owners which has been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential economic downturn.
In December 2019 Parliament passed a package of environmental bills geared towards developing, reinforcing and strengthening the laws which promote and support the management, protection, enhancement and proper use of the Bahamian environment. This article provides an overview of the new legislation, including the Environmental Planning and Protection Act, which is one of the most notable new laws with respect to Bahamian real estate and development.
A second home in The Bahamas has been a highly sought-after commodity for international buyers from time immemorial. The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation of 700 islands and cays, with each island providing its own charm and unique Bahamian culture. As the value of real property in the jurisdiction tends to hold or gradually appreciate over time, the purchase of real property remains a viable and attainable wealth-creating mechanism.
Bahamian real property is commonly held by a company which is incorporated in The Bahamas or another jurisdiction whose shares may be held by an individual or their nominee. A 'beneficial owner' is any person who is beneficially interested in the real property, including a beneficiary under a trust. This article considers the tax consequences of transferring Bahamian real property held by a company for estate planning purposes.
In late 2018 the Stamp Duty Law (Revised) was amended in order to eliminate the growing practice of reducing stamp duty due to the government by means of linked property transactions (LPTs). Essentially, the reason for introducing the LPT provisions was to ensure that stamp duty is calculated on the total value of the raw land and the dwelling constructed on that land in the case of an LPT where a development scheme links the purchase of the raw land with the subsequent construction of a dwelling.
The Supreme Court recently rejected a first-instance rejection of a property owner's request for the return of land that had been compulsorily acquired by the state in 1977. The applicant claimed that the land was not being used for one of the acquisition's original purposes. However, the court found that as the applicant had taken no measures against the initial acquisition, he could not call it into question after 35 years by relying on the broadness of the stated purposes.
The Supreme Court recently issued its decision on the appeal of a district court interim decision concerning an application to present oral evidence as part of an application against a decision by the director of the Land Registry. The applicants had filed their application against the director's decision to grant a right of way to the respondent to the detriment of their immovable property.
The courts have yet to resolve some legal issues concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether tenants can reduce or even suspend their rent payments due to widespread government-ordered shutdowns. More than 20 court decisions have been handed down on this subject, and the opinions expressed vary widely. Even the German law that entered into effect on 31 December 2020 via an expedited legislative procedure does not provide final, generally applicable clarity on this issue.
Tenants in Germany are generally well protected against rent increases in existing tenancies and high rent increases are uncommon; however, a major exception is when flats or houses are modernised. New legislation aims to offer tenants improved protection against abusive practices when modernisation work is announced and carried out and prevent them from being disproportionately burdened by rent hikes due to modernisation.