Independent building authorities
The new Building Act introduces a unified system of state building authorities headed by the supreme building authority, independent of the local municipal authorities. This is a systemic change that resolves a fundamental problem of systemic bias, i.e. the risk of local governments interfering in decisions on zoning and building permits. Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether the supreme building authority will be created, as the new right-wing coalition is talking about revoking it.
Speeding up the construction process
The new Building Act introduces single joint building plan proceedings instead of the current two proceedings (zoning and building). This is also related to the integration of some previously separate permits and binding opinions of different authorities into a single decisive building plan permit. In addition, the appeal (superior) building authority will no longer be entitled to revoke and return a decision issued at first instance but will always have to make a final decision, which will significantly speed up the construction process.
A positive novelty will be the introduction of an electronic file, which will be kept according to uniform rules and will be accessible to the participants in the proceedings. According to the new right-wing coalition, however, it will not be possible to implement digitalisation by the effective date of the new Building Act and it will have to be postponed.
The new Building Act contains a detailed regulation of planning contracts, which provides municipalities and investors with greater legal certainty about their mutual obligations in the area of future land use, especially in the construction of public infrastructure. In the contract, the municipality may undertake to take steps to change the zoning plan or, conversely, not to change it for a certain period. Investors may be obliged, for example, to participate in the construction of public infrastructure or other structures caused by their plan.
"The new Building Act contains a detailed regulation of planning contracts, which provides municipalities and investors with greater legal certainty about their mutual obligations in the area of future land use, especially in the construction of public infrastructure."
End of illegal buildings
The current legal regulation allows a practically unlimited additional building permit, which builders carried out illegally, even knowingly, without the relevant permit. Under the new Building Act, this will in principle no longer be possible.
Under the current legislation, if an action against a decision of a building authority is filed, for example, by a neighbour, the defendant is the appeal (superior) building authority. The builder is only a person involved in the proceedings, if they apply for this position. According to the new regulation, the builder will be a participant of such proceedings with all related procedural rights.
To speed up the construction process, it is newly stipulated that the administrative court may in certain cases make a final decision instead of returning the case to the building authority for further proceedings.
Other significant changes
Other positive novelties are the re-inclusion of environmental associations as participants in building plan proceedings and improved protection of public interests in the fields of health, environment, safety, energy efficiency and the sustainable use of natural resources.
The new Building Act is expected to expedite the zoning and building proceedings (which was the main goal of the recodification), to increase their transparency and to strengthen investors' legal certainty. That being said, the new right-wing coalition will in our opinion only make partial changes, such as revoking the supreme building authority, and in the end partially postpone its effect (e.g. of parts related to digitalisation). Hopefully it will stick with most of the positive changes that are keenly awaited by both the professional and the general public.
"To speed up the construction process, it is newly stipulated that the administrative court may in certain cases make a final decision instead of returning the case to the building authority for further proceedings."