In February 2021 the Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee of the National Council surprisingly decided to include the initiative to temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad in the revised urgent COVID-19 Act instead of amending the Lex Koller through the ordinary legislative process. However, the Council of States and the National Council recently rejected the proposal. Despite this pleasing result, the topic remains on the agenda.
The Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council recently submitted an initiative that would temporarily prohibit the acquisition of business premises by persons abroad. The proposal claims that it will mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis by preventing foreign investors from acquiring financially distressed Swiss companies at low prices. However, as foreign investors improve the sales conditions for such companies by fostering demand, the amendment would actually be counterproductive.
The proposed COVID-19 Business Rental Act has failed in Parliament and is thus off the table on a national level. The main arguments for the dismissal included the retroactive intervention in private law contracts and the legal uncertainty with regard to the question of whether the proposed act had a sufficient constitutional basis. However, the topic of COVID-19 rent reductions will likely lead to court decisions in the future.
The Federal Council recently submitted to Parliament a preliminary draft federal act on rent payments during the COVID-19 lockdown and opened the consultation procedure with the cantons, political parties and interested organisations. The act is a political decision and its constitutional basis is questionable. Further, a number of the suggested provisions leave room for improvement.
Numerous shops, restaurants and other facilities throughout Switzerland have had to close their businesses due to emergency regulations issued to combat COVID-19. This has led to the question of whether the tenants of such premises are still obliged to pay rent or whether they are entitled to a full or partial rent reduction. Despite many opinions having been expressed in the legal community and by politicians, this question remains as unanswered as it was at the beginning of the lockdown.