For a successful rescue to take place, the business premises must remain available for the continued operation of the company. Consequently, Section 12c of the Insolvency Code protects the debtor from eviction in rescue proceedings. However, the Supreme Court recently confirmed that a landlord may proceed with eviction proceedings if the tenant fails to meet certain obligations.
A recent judgment of the Supreme Court made clear that future damage of an unknown amount arising from an event that occurred before the opening of insolvency proceedings may be asserted only as a bankruptcy claim in the insolvency proceedings. The estimated amount of damage must be disclosed when the claim is asserted against the bankrupt company.
A new real estate income tax was recently introduced in Austria. When land encumbered by liens is now sold in the course of insolvencies, the question arises as to whether this new tax qualifies as special estate costs. The Supreme Court is yet to clarify the matter; therefore, until this happens, creditors should note that reduced amounts will be attributed to them from the proceeds from the sale of collateral.
In 2009 the Austrian legislature abolished free legal aid for legal entities, and thus also for insolvency estates without assets, although free legal aid had previously been granted only under very restricted conditions. However, a recent ruling of the Constitutional Court held that the abolition of the entitlement to free legal aid for legal entities (ie, also for insolvency estates) was incompatible with constitutional law.
In two recent decisions the Supreme Court clarified employer liability for harassment perpetrated by employees. The decision demonstrates that sexual harassment by the employer can also be perpetrated by the victim's superior. In such case the employer will be (vicariously) liable even where the harassment was the first such conduct of its kind.
The Supreme Court recently clarified that the termination indemnity for commercial agents can be forfeited if an agent has terminated the agency contract for retirement reasons other than reaching the regular retirement age. Agents would be well advised to consider the implications for their termination indemnity and principals have been granted yet another reason to avoid payment of the indemnity once an agent retires.
The Constitutional Court recently declared unconstitutional an article of the Court Fee Act, under which the fee for the registration of a new owner in the Land Register by reason of a deed of gift is taxed on the basis of the tax value. Although this judgment concerns court fees only, it calls into question all occasions where property transactions are taxed on the basis of the tax value rather than the market value.
The Supreme Court recently clarified its position on whether injured persons could also join criminal proceedings as private parties if the offender has filed for insolvency. It ruled that creditors may join criminal proceedings as private parties in such cases only if the claims result from the prosecuted criminal action, arose after insolvency proceedings were opened and are not affected by the effects of the insolvency proceedings.
The Supreme Court recently handed down a decision concerning a real estate agent's fee in connection with a cross-border sale agreement under which an Italian estate agent had facilitated the sale of an Austrian hotel to an Italian investor. The court ruled that the agent's contract had no close connection with Austria but was instead governed by Italian substantive law. The claim was therefore dismissed.
Austrian law allows employers and employees to enter into non-compete agreements. The law distinguishes between restrictions of competing activities during employment and restrictive covenants pertaining to post-termination periods. Whether a restrictive covenant on post-termination periods is enforceable depends on how, and by whom, the employment relationship was terminated.
Company pension commitments to employees should be secured in case of the employer's insolvency. If (contrary to legal requirements) such pension securities are not held separately from the employer's other securities, the statutory pledge for securing company pensions cannot fulfil the hedging purpose prescribed by law. Therefore, if the employer acts unlawfully, the security mechanism prescribed by law is to no avail.
The Supreme Court recently handed down a decision concerning the disruption of a tenant's business by severe construction work carried out by the landlord, and held for the first time that corporate entities can claim compensation for discomfort. The damages will be consolation for the tenant, but will not induce landlords to take tenants' interests into consideration when planning such work.
In order to carry out dismissals and mass terminations, the Austrian legal regime requires the employer to give prior notification to the appropriate agency and observe the relevant terms. Additionally, the regime provides for staggered severance pay, increasing with seniority, if the termination of employment is not initiated or primarily caused by the employee.
In civil law jurisdictions, sale and purchase agreements frequently use key phrases which either trigger or exclude a set of legal rules laid down by statute, and which thus need not be explained in detail. Consequently, contracts require careful drafting. The Supreme Court recently handed down a decision concerning the contractual exclusion of a seller's warranty in a property transaction, with surprising results.
Individuals can free themselves of debts through a so-called 'skimming-off procedure', provided that their assets have already been sold. However, if they cannot settle the required 10% share of their debts, they will not be released from the remaining debts and their situation will remain unchanged after the bankruptcy proceedings have been set aside. A proposed reform should change this.
The Supreme Court recently clarified the scope of a works council's right to freedom of information under the Labour Relations Act. The employer, an airline, intended to evaluate its quality of service using so-called 'mystery flyers'. The information gathered was passed on to the airlines works council, which made several inquiries, requesting further information.
The Supreme Court recently applied the rules of unlawful return of equity to a rental agreement. A company and its majority shareholder agreed on rent payments of approximately three times the market value. The company realised that it was overpaying and argued that the excessive rent payments constituted an unlawful return of equity. The court's decision will have a significant impact on M&A transactions involving property.
Estate agents are entitled to a statutory commission if they facilitate the conclusion of a contract for the sale or lease of real property. In the absence of an agreement between the estate agent and the respective party to the agreement, the estate agent is entitled to claim the maximum amount as laid down in a regulation by the minister of economics. A new regulation, which recently entered into force, significantly reduces these limits.
In general, companies can collect employees' personal data. A prerequisite for the lawful processing of non-sensitive personal data is that it does not infringe an employee's legitimate interest in the confidentiality of the data. This condition is met if there is an explicit legal authorisation or duty to carry out the processing and the data subject has expressly agreed to, or has a vital interest in, such processing.
The recently enacted Insolvency Amendment Act provides new rules for secured creditors. Since the return of items needed for the operation of an insolvent business could jeopardise the business's continuation, the act provides for mandatory deferrals of claims for separation and recovery of assets not belonging to the bankrupt estate over a period of six months after the initiation of insolvency proceedings.