Právne správy

Reform of construction legislation

As of April 1, 2024, a reform of the construction legislation has entered into force, which is expected to significantly impact the regulation of the rules relating to the construction process. This reform introduced two new pieces of legislation, the Spatial Planning Act, and the Construction Act, which are intended to completely replace the currently existing Building Act and better reflect the current needs and trends in the construction sector.

The introduction of the new legal framework through the Act on Spatial Planning and the Act on Construction created a situation where specific legislation on spatial planning and construction continued to contain legal regulations corresponding to those of the Construction Act. Therefore, with effect from April 1, 2024, the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved Act No. 205/2023 Coll. on Amendments and Additions to Certain Acts, the priority purpose of which was not only to eliminate formal incompatibilities that could be bridged by interpretation but also, and above all, to harmonize complex procedural changes, new institutes and a different way of permitting construction, which had to be reflected in number of special legal regulations.

  • What the reform of building legislation with effect from April 1, 2024 brings.

Until April 1, 2024, construction law was regulated mainly by Act No.50/1976 Coll. on Spatial Planning and Building Regulations as amended (the Building Act). However, the reform of construction legislation has brought many fundamental changes in this respect. The main pillars of the reform of the construction legislation are Act No 200/2022 Coll. on spatial planning (Act on Spatial Planning) and Act No 201/2022 Coll. on construction (Act on Construction), which are to completely replace the currently existing Building Act. The priority purpose of the reform is to speed up and streamline processes, adjust competencies and at the same time introduce electronification into construction processes.

While the Act on Spatial Planning comes into force in April 2024, the new Act on Construction, which was supposed to replace the building permitting process already in 2024, will finally come into force only in 2025, and therefore the building permitting will continue to be governed by the regulation contained in the Building Act until the end of 2024.

On the other hand, with effect from April 1, 2024, the new Act on Spatial Planning will be followed when creating a spatial planning zone or declaration of construction bans.

  • New competences of the Office for Spatial Planning and Construction.

Following a change in building legislation, eight new Regional Planning and Construction Authorities (Regional Offices) were opened from April 1 2024. The Regional Offices are thereby established in all regional towns from April 1, 2024. The Regional Offices have a number of tasks within the territorial district in the field of building regulations. For example, they carry out state building administration in stage II matters, whereas municipalities act as stage I building authorities. At the same time, they supervise the compliance with legislation in the field of building law and control the execution of the state administration carried out by the municipalities. Last but not least, they issue decisions in stage I and II of administrative proceedings in connection with construction and perform the role of state construction supervision.

From April 1, 2024 the Regional Offices can therefore issue decisions on building permits, verify construction projects, or even implementation projects, issue certificates of occupancy, issue certificates of notification and other related acts according to the new legislation.

It is also important to note that there are no major changes in the distribution of competencies in this context. The competence of municipalities as general construction authorities acting in stage I, within the framework of the delegated exercise of state administration, remains unchanged. The current competencies of the district offices in the seat of the region, which included the departments of construction and housing policy as well as construction and expropriation, are transferred to the Regional Offices established within the organizational structure of the Office for Spatial Planning and Construction of the Slovak Republic.

However, spatial planning remains the responsibility of municipalities. The main role of municipalities in the framework of the building legislation reform is to decide on the function of the area and what infrastructure needs to be prepared for it. From April 1, 2024, a uniform methodology has been introduced, which should result in clearer and more legible spatial planning documents.

  • The newly created micro-region master plan.

The micro-region spatial planning documents is a new type of spatial planning documentation established in the Act on Spatial Planning, which should take into account the special needs of the development of specific regions of Slovakia and will be procured by self-governing regions in agreement with the affected municipalities. Introducing this type of spatial planning documentation is to increase the accessibility of the actual spatial plan for many municipalities that are part of different natural, socio-cultural, urbanized units and spaces.

Thus, municipalities are obliged to prepare and approve a municipality or micro-region spatial plan by March 31, 2032 and self-governing regions are obliged to prepare and approve the concept of spatial development of the region by March 31, 2028.

For the binding parts of the spatial plans of micro-regions, municipalities and zones, the Act on Spatial Planning provides for a minimum and uniform range of mandatory and optional spatial and functional regulations. The basic mandatory spatial regulations are the regulation of built-up area, the regulation of floor areas, the regulation of building height, the regulation of vegetation areas and the regulation of public spaces.

  • The URBION information system in a slightly different way.

The adoption of the reform of the construction legislation also led to the launch of the new information system URBION (URBION System), which was supposed to enable the electronification of construction processes. In particular, the URBION System was supposed to introduce uniform forms for applications, opinions, and decisions, as well as a shared repository and delivery and signature functions within the Central Portal of Public Administration. However, the URBION system was not launched after the legislation came into force on April 1, 2024, which, combined with the newlegislative formulation, may reduce the clarity of the application process for claimants.

However, on April 1, 2024, a spatial planning portal was launched and is available on the Office for Spatial Planning and Construction of the Slovak Republic website. The portal is a digital place that serves both to implement all spatial planning processes and ensure communication between the participating entities and the Office for Spatial Planning and Construction of the Slovak Republic.

The portal is also intended to provide all participants in the spatial planning process with access to electronic forms or applications for all relevant life situations in any spatial planning area. At the same time, it is intended to enable these participants to handle all submissions in one place. It is, therefore possible to obtain, for example, a zoning plan or an extract from the binding part of the spatial planning documentation via this portal.

  • Introduction of a single integrated procedure.

So far, the construction process has been multi-step. Thus, before starting construction work, the builder first had to apply for planning permission, which determined the basic conditions for the location of the construction on the construction plot and set the basic conditions for future construction. Only then could the builder apply for a building permission. In most cases, it was also necessary to go through an environmental impact assessment procedure for larger constructions.

However, from April 1, 2024, this multi-stage permitting process has been removed. The amendment has created the ability to combine the planning procedure with the construction procedure and the environmental impact assessment procedure. These procedures have been merged into a single permission procedure – the construction plan proceedings.

The result of this procedure will be a decision on the building permission, which will also verify the construction project and, therefore, allow the builder to start the construction process directly.

This change also applies to a different range of buildings than those specified so far, provided that the conditions for their location result from the zoning plan or from the binding opinion of the Building and Planning authority. However, the builder will have to apply for a binding opinion utilizing an application. The requirements for this application and the time limits for issuing a binding opinion are laid down in the Act on Spatial Planning.

Until now, a common problem has been the lengthy process of obtaining a binding opinion from the Building and Planning authority on the building permission. However, with effect from April 1, 2024, the municipality has a period of 60 days or 90 days to issue an opinion, depending on the nature of the construction project.

If the Building and Planning authority fails to provide an opinion within the specified time limit, the fiction of consent shall be triggered. This means that the proposed construction is automatically presumed to comply with the binding part of the planning documentation.

  • Introduction of the principle “the main building absorbs the secondary.”

With effect from April 1, 2024, the reform of building legislation also brings new definitions of the terms main building and complex of buildings. A complex of buildings is a number of buildings forming a functional unit. The main building of a complex of buildings is the building whose function determines the main purpose of the complex of buildings. A detached building includes related underground spaces, above-ground structures, connections, and technical, technological, and operational equipment, without which the building would not be complete and serviceable.

Within the amendment is a merger of individual, interrelated and mutually conditional decisions into one single construction procedure for the main building, consisting of several constructions or a complex of constructions forming a functional unit. Suppose more than one construction authority can permit individual constructions from the set. In that case, the procedure will be conducted, and the construction permit will be issued by the competent construction authority for the permit of the main building from the construction complex. Separate proceedings for ancillary buildings will be replaced by the opinion of the authority concerned, which will be the authority competent for the ancillary building.

  • Additional legalization of illegal buildings built before April 1, 2024.

Buildings constructed and used without a building permit, also known as illegal buildings, can be retrospectively approved from April 1, 2024. However, such retrospective approval applies only to existing illegal buildings. Proceedings for additional approval can only be initiated at the owner’s request of the illegal building.

However, certain conditions must be fulfilled before the additional approval of the building under the amendment to the Building Act. The building must stand on the land of the owner of such a illegal building and at the same time it must not be in a protection zone or on someone else’s land, and there must be no proceedings for the removal or additional legalization of the building already initiated. In addition, it must be a building which is continuously used for the purpose for which it was built. If these conditions are met, the Building and Planning authority may legalize such a illegal building. The Building and Planning authority shall issue a decision on the suitability of the building for its use. Such a decision of the Building and Planning authority shall have the effect of an approval decision.

The reform of the construction legislation introduces a stricter regime for newly constructed illegal buildings, i.e. illegal buildings constructed after April 1, 2024. It will no longer be possible to apply for an additional building permit for newly constructed illegal buildings and the Building and Planning authority will order their removal in the case of a illegal building. Suppose the owner of the structure or its operator does not remove the structure within the time limit set by the Building and Planning authority. In that case, the Building and Planning authority itself will ensure the enforcement of the decision at the expense of the owner of the structure. In addition to the imposition of fines, the Building and Planning authority shall also order the disconnection of the building from the water supply and electricity supply, or the connection of the illegal building to the network will not even be possible.

The new legislation introduces, for example, the institute of forfeiture of the building to the state if this seems more effective than ordering the removal of the building. Penalties for breaches of the legislation have also been extended and increased, with the highest monetary penalty that can be imposed under the new legislation being EUR 250 000, or twice that amount in the case of repeated breaches or failure to remedy an unlawful situation.

  • What changes does the amendment to the construction legislation in the Act on Ownership of Flats and Non-residential Premises bring?

In connection with the reform of construction legislation, new legal definitions for established terms are also being introduced. These are in particular terms in the field of transfer of ownership rights to residential and non-residential premises, their management and other legal acts.

With the amendment’s effectiveness, the term “house” refers to a residential house and a non-residential house. The distinguishing criterion between the two terms is the amount of floor area intended for living purposes.

Other terms affected by the change are, for example, flat, floor area, a common part of the house, common facilities, fixtures and fittings, adjacent land, etc.

The amendment also introduces a new definition of the duty of house management. The obligation of house management does not apply to family houses and houses in which all residential and all non-residential premises are owned by the same owner. This new obligation arises only if at least one residential or one non-residential premises is acquired by another owner.

  • Stricter Requirements for Freelancers Active in Preparation of Project Documentation

The amendment also changes the conditions of trade business and increases the qualification requirements. It is primarily about obtaining a trade license concerning the preparation of project documentation of simple constructions and small constructions and changes to these constructions, management of the execution of construction works of small constructions and changes to these constructions and the execution of constructions. Therefore, in order to obtain a trade licence for these activities, higher education or experience is required with effect from April 1, 2024.

  • Proceedings commenced before April 1, 2024, shall be completed under the previous legislation.

Proceedings commenced before the reform of construction legislation comes into force, i.e. proceedings commenced before April 1, 2024, which have not been finally concluded by March 31, 2024, will be completed under the rules in force until March 31, 2024. The new legislation will only apply to proceedings commenced after it comes into force.

At the same time, the amendment has affected a large number of legal regulations in which, as a result of the adoption of the new legislation on the Construction Act and the adoption of the Act on Spatial Planning, the terminology of certain terms is changed and references to these newly adopted legal regulations are added.