Posted: 12 Jan. 2022 5 min. read

Building Law Update: Vienna Building Code Amendment in Force

The amendment to the Building Code of Vienna (Bauordnung für Wien – Wr. BO) entered into force on 13 December 2021. The amendments essentially concern the building category I (Bauklasse I), which is intended to maintain the typical Viennese city- and landscape and to prevent the construction of oversized apartment buildings in residential and suburban areas. Also, the range of fines has increased up to EUR 300,000.

Overview

All in all, the amendment to the Building Code aims to further promote intelligent urban and suburban development and to ensure the preservation of Vienna's traditional city- and landscape. In particular, the amendment contains changes to legal provisions that are intended to ensure the preservation of the character of residential areas classified as building category I. It also includes the addition of an explicit reference to the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to the objectives of urban planning, as well as a tightening of sanctions for administrative violations through the introduction of a fine of up to EUR 300,000. In addition, special regulations were enacted for the operation of Seveso facilities. Furthermore, the law now provides for the possibility to place containers on the occasion of special events, such as pandemics, without any permit. This applies especially to the currently common COVID-19 test containers. Regulations on climate protection and sustainability are sought in vain in the amendment, although there would be great potential in building legislation to promote climate policy goals.

An overview of the main innovations of the amendment follows below:

Reduction of the maximum built-up area

The amendment is intended to prevent over-sized buildings that change the image of typical Viennese suburban areas, and thus buildings must be smaller in size. What remains unchanged is that the scale of the built-up area may not exceed one third of the building lot. What is new is that the maximum built-up area of buildings in building category I has been reduced from the previous maximum of 470 sqm to 350 sqm. By reducing the achievable usable area of the lot, the construction of large-scale multi-houses and the associated increase in ground sealing should be prevented.

Reduction of ridge height and gable area

In order to prevent oversized roof constructions and to ensure the preservation of proportions, the maximum permitted ridge height - ie the distance between the roof gutter and the ridge - was reduced from 7.5 meters to 4.5 meters in building category I Furthermore, the design options of gable areas and the roof volume were reduced. The permitted gable area was also reduced in building class I. This results in a reduction of the design of gable areas to only 25 sqm per gable area or 50 sqm per building.

New restrictions on distances to neighboring property

The amendment also brought new rules regarding the distances to be maintained from neighbors in building category I. Newly constructed buildings may now approach the property border up to a maximum of half the building height of the front facing the respective neighboring property. However, a minimum distance of three meters must always be adhered to. This creates more air space or green area between the buildings and means that the higher the building, the more distance between the neighboring houses.

Increase in the range of penalties for illegal building demolition

In addition to the restriction of the construction potential in building class I, the amendment also entails harsher penalties. For illegal building demolition, ie if a building erected before 1 January1945 is demolished without the building permit required under sec 60 para 1 (d) Wr. BO, a maximum fine of up to EUR 300,000 is now imposed. In the case of an intentional violation, the minimum fine is EUR 30,000. Alternatively, or in the event that the fine cannot be collected, a (substitute) prison sentence of up to 6 weeks may be imposed. If the convicted person is a professional tradesman (Gewerbetreibender), the authority must also forward the conviction to the trade authority in order to enable a review of the reliability required for the trade permit.

Exception for already pending building permit procedures

For all proceedings already pending at the time of the entry into force of this amendment on13 December 2021, the new regulations are not to be considered for the building permit and the former provisions still apply.

Conclusion

The amendment focuses primarily on preserving the traditional character of Vienna's suburbs, such as one-family houses and garden estates and, Therefore,  mainly relates to the construction in building class I. Unfortunately, it does not contain any innovations in the area of climate protection. It remains to be seen what the Enquete on Building Law announced for 2022 will bring with regard to climate protection and sustainability.


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Mag. Gabriele Etzl

Mag. Gabriele Etzl

Jank Weiler Operenyi RA | Deloitte Legal

Gabriele Etzl ist Partnerin bei Jank Weiler Operenyi Rechtsanwälte (JWO), dem österreichischen Mitglied des globalen Anwaltsnetzwerkes Deloitte Legal, und leitet die Praxisgruppe Real Estate. Zuvor war sie 14 Jahre lang Partnerin im Immobilienbereich einer der größten Anwaltskanzleien Österreichs. Sie ist Expertin für Immobilienrecht mit dem Schwerpunkt nationale und internationale Immobilientransaktionen,  Immobilienfinanzierung, Immobilienrestrukturierung, gewerbliches und privates Miet- und Wohnrecht,  Bauträgervertragsrecht,  sowie öffentliches Immobilienrecht. Sie spricht fließend Deutsch und Englisch und verfügt über Grundkenntnisse der spanischen und französischen Sprache. Gabriele Etzl ist Lehrbeauftragte für Immobilienrecht an der Juristischen Fakultät der Universität Wien und Autorin mehrerer immobilienbezogener Publikationen, insbesondere auch zu Immobilienrecht und Immobilienfinanzierungen in Österreich und CEE.

Kevin Nager, LL.B., LL.M. (WU)

Kevin Nager, LL.B., LL.M. (WU)

Jank Weiler Operenyi RA | Deloitte Legal

Kevin Nager ist Rechtsanwaltsanwärter bei Jank Weiler Operenyi RA | Deloitte Legal, der österreichischen Rechtsanwaltskanzlei im globalen Deloitte Legal Netzwerk. Seine Tätigkeitsschwerkpunkte liegen vor allem im Bereich Real Estate und Real Estate Finance.