In April 2022 deputies of the Slovak parliament, approved two long-awaited laws: Act No 200/2022 on zoning (‘the Zoning Act’); and Act No 201/2022 on construction (‘the Construction Act’). These two laws are about to replace the 1976 Building Act. Although they do not take effect until 1 April 2024, they bring such fundamental changes that need to be considered right away, in particular by the developers and real estate investment funds. The most significant of these changes are summarised below.
Transfer of competences:
One of the main changes is the transfer of competences in the zoning and construction process from the municipalities to the state. This change brings along the establishment of a new central body of the state administration: Úrad pre územné plánovanie a výstavbu Slovenskej republiky (the Zoning and Construction Office of the Slovak Republic, hereinafter referred to as the ‘Zoning and Construction Office’). The powers of the current building authorities (municipalities) will therefore be transferred to the regional offices of the newly established Zoning and Construction Office (the “respective “Building Office”).
The new legislation is intended to establish the digitalisation of zoning and construction process through a single zoning and construction information system called Urbion. Urbion will be accessible to all persons involved in zoning and construction procees. All proceedings under the Construction Act will be conducted electronically in Urbion. Builders will be able to go through the entire permit process digitally via their mobile device or computer.
Another benefit that is to be introduced is so-called Once-Only Principle, which means that if the state has already acquired some information, that individual will not be required to resubmit this information.
The Zoning Act:
The role of the newly established Zoning and Construction Office in the zoning area will be to procure a Zoning Development Strategy of Slovakia and to act as the coordinator of uniform zoning procedure and processes by issuing methodological guidelines.
The aim of the legislation is to unify zoning methodologies and principles and to establish a uniform structure of zoning plans for the whole territory of Slovakia. The new law also responds to practical problems. The concept of current zoning documentation, where every minor modification requires complex procedure isabout to change. .
The law also introduces a new type of zoning documentation: micro-region zoning plans. These will be adopted at the self-governing region level and will take into account the particular needs of specific regions in Slovakia. The explanatory memorandum mentions, by way of example, the territories of the High Tatras and Žitný ostrov (‘Rye Island’). For major urban conglomerations, Bratislava and Košice, there will be a special regime in the form of a metropolitan zoning plan with a specific methodology.
The Construction Act:
Simplification of the building permit process:
The new legislation is intended to significantly speed up the whole process for granting building permits, which at present lasts for up to 300 days on average. The building permit process is expected to be simplified and accelerated by implementing Urbion and by increasing the importance of architects who will be able to apply for a building permit on the builder’s behalf and arrange the entire procedural aspect of the issuance of the building permit.
The current multi-stage building proceedings will be abolished when the zoning and building permits, and possibly also the environmental impact assessment proceedings, are to be replaced by a single proceeding and subsequent decision: the building plan decision. The building plan decision will allow the builder to start the construction process immediately. Hence, there will no longer be two-stage administrative proceedings for the assessment of building plans (i.e. zoning proceedings and building permit), which in many cases resulted in the duplicity of statements from the authorities and the parties to the proceedings.
Unauthorised buildings are to be penalised far more strictly under the new legislation. Builders of unauthorised buildings will no longer be able to apply for an additional building permit. If a building is found to be unauthorised, the competent state authority will order its removal. If the owner or operator of the building does not remove it within the time limit set by the competent state authority, that authority will itself enforce the decision. If construction work is found to be unauthorised, the competent state authority will, in addition to imposing a fine, order the owner of the technical infrastructure to disconnect the structure from the water and electricity supplies. The enforcement of the competent state authority’s order will be carried out on the basis of a contract with the respective Building Office by an entity authorised to perform construction work. The costs of removing the structure and removing the building waste will be borne by the respective Building Office, which will then recover these costs from the owner of the removed structure.
In addition, sanctions for breaches of construction legislation have been expanded and increased, and state supervisory powers in the area of construction have been strengthened. Another new element is the possibility of a building’s forfeiture to the state. In the case of a breach of the Construction Act, it will be possible to sanction not only the builder or contractor, but also persons authorised to supervise construction or construction managers.
These rules, however, apply only to future unauthorised buildings, i.e. constructions carried out after the effective date of the Construction Act.
The problem of existing unauthorised buildings will be solved by a specific process – a review of whether the unauthorised building is fit for operation. During the process, the builder will have the opportunity to prove, that if the existing unauthorised building is not contrary to the public interest or private interests (if it is not built on a third party’s land) and meets other conditions specified by law, it may be authorised additionally.
By Lucia Kolenicova, Associate, PONTES