Legal protection for residential tenants during the Corona crisis

Special legal amendments

To protect residential tenants during the Corona Crises from negative effects the legislator has provisioned special legal amendments:

Which reliefs had been introduced?
- Reduction of negative consequences of payment arrears
- Short-term extensions of fixed-term rental agreements
- Postponement of eviction execution

Who may take advantage of the amendments?
The reliefs are applicable to all residential tenants, with no difference of the tenancy law regime to which they are subject (the may be subject to the Civil Code “ABGB”, the Act on Tenancy Law “MRG”, in full or partial application). Commercial tenants however are not included. According to the legislators opinion they have already been supported by public auxiliary measures.

Is it possible to terminate rental contracts in case of rent arrears?
Terminations are possible from 1 July 2022 onward. If the tenant's economic performance is significantly reduced because of the pandemic, and if the rent arrears are caused by the pandemic during the period of 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2020 terminations cannot be subject to a proceeding until 1 July 2022.

Is it possible to initiate proceedings because of rental arrears?
Yes, but not immediately. Rent arrears occurring between April 1 and June 30, 2020 can only be enforced in court from 1 January 2021 onwards.
Any resulting arrears must be repaid at an interest rate of a maximum of 4% pa. Tenants do not have to bear the costs incurred for debt collection measures (e.g. through a collection agency).

Is it possible to retain of rent deposits due to the effects of the Corona crises?
No, landlords are not allowed to retain on the security deposit in case of non-payment due to the current crisis.

What shall be done if a temporary rental contract expires during the corona crisis?
As an exception, fixed-term rental contracts may be extended also for periods less than three years. Temporary rental contracts expiring between 1 April and 30 June 2020 can be extended in written form for any period up to 31 December 2020. However, the landlord is not obliged to agree to such an extension. Particular caution is advised when drafting such extension agreements.

The tenant is threatened with eviction.  Are there measures of defence?
If the apartment serves to satisfy an urgent need for housing, the tenant can file an appeal to postpone the eviction execution without to the obligation to deposit securities. However, the landlord may argue that the eviction is absolutely necessary in order to avoid serious personal or economic disadvantages to him.

Which rules apply to tenants of commercial properties?
The legislator intended to regulate only the residential agreements, an intervention in commercial contracts and leases should therefore not take place at now. Companies had already been supported by special public auxiliary measures. Furthermore, the legislator assumes that current issues regarding commercial rents and leases "are to be solved on the basis of the existing legal situation".

Authores: Mag. Mark Krenn, Dr. Angelika Schüßler-Datler, LL.M.