Changes brought by the new Building act
The Construction Act and the Spatial Planning Act, which were approved almost five decades after the adoption of the original legislation, will enter into force in 2024. The aim of the new legislation is to eliminate the shortcomings of existing legislation and consider the current needs of society. The result should be simplification and acceleration of construction permits, digitization, but also stricter sanctions against unauthorized constructions.
1.Selection of changes brought by the Construction Act:
The aim of the new legislation in the field of construction is the professionalization of the state administration in the field of construction, reducing the administrative burden of construction-related activities, simplifying, and accelerating the process of building permits, its electronification and digitization of data related to spatial planning and construction.
- Transfer of competencies:
One of the main changes in the new legislation is the transfer of competencies performed within construction proceedings by municipalities within the transferred performance of state administration back to the state. Part of this change is the establishment of a central state administration body, namely the Office for Spatial Planning and Construction of the Slovak Republic (hereinafter the "Office for Spatial Planning and Construction"), which will act through subordinate authorities with limited territorial competence. The competence of the existing authorities (municipalities) will therefore be transferred to the regional offices of the newly established Office for Spatial Planning and Construction.
The competencies of the existing special construction offices are maintained, except for specialized construction offices in the field of construction of motorways, railways, and airports.
- Simplification of construction permitting:
The intention of the new legislation is to significantly speed up the entire process of granting construction permits, as according to the authors of the law, this process currently takes an average of up to 300 days. Based on the proposed changes, it is assumed that the issuance of a construction permit after the effectiveness of the new act will be possible within 40 working days. However, the question of whether such a presumption can be fulfilled will only be answered in practice.
The multi-stage construction procedure will be abolished, the territorial and construction procedure, and the procedure for environmental impact assessment (if applicable) will be replaced by one decision - the decision on the construction plan. The decision on the construction plan will also represent a verification of the construction project, i.e., it will allow the builder to start the construction process straight away.
The possibility of notification, and thus gaining a simplified construction permit, for certain categories of construction works remains. Subject to notification will be minor construction or minor construction work. This simple procedure, where the builder only has to prove the compliance with the conditions of the construction site, will be completed by the issuance of a confirmation of the construction notification by the competent authority.
- Electronization of the proceedings and digitization of data:
The process of gaining construction permits should also be simplified and accelerated thanks to electronization, the introduction of an information system and the growing importance of designers who can apply for construction permits for the builder instead of the builder. In particular, the designer will be obliged to prepare a design of the construction plan on the basis of the builder's instructions in accordance with the basic requirements for constructions. The designer will carry out the elaboration of the design of the construction plan on the basis of a contractual relationship with the builder. The builder or the designer authorized by him is then obliged to upload the prepared construction plan with the relevant documentation in the Urbion information system, which will automatically assess it and publish it for the interested parties for comment.
The issuance of the decision will be preceded by a discussion of the draft construction plan with all relevant state administration bodies, affected legal entities, the municipality in whose territory the building is to be built and the owners of neighboring buildings and land. All proceedings under the Construction Act will be conducted electronically in the information system.
The so-called "once and for all" benefit will be introduced, which means that if the state already has some information about a particular citizen, it will not need to be resubmitted.
- Unauthorized buildings:
Unauthorized buildings will be sanctioned more severely. According to the authors of the law, the reason for the existence of numerous unauthorized buildings are confusing and long-lasting processes, when it is "easier" for the builder to build an unauthorized building and then apply for an additional permit, as there’s almost no risk of rejecting the application for an additional permit. The current sanctions for breaches of construction legislation also appear to be insufficient.
The new legislation therefore contains a significant tightening of the processes of "permitting" unauthorized buildings, when it will no longer be possible to apply for an additional construction permit and the building authority will order the removal of a construction or part thereof, alterations to the construction or building modification carried out by unauthorized construction works. If the owner of the building or the operator of the building does not remove the building within the period specified by the building authority, the building authority will ensure the enforcement of the decision. In the case of unauthorized construction works, in addition to imposing fines, the building authority shall order the owner of the technical infrastructure to disconnect the building from the water supply and electricity supply. Enforcement of the building authority's order will be carried out by an organization authorized for construction work on the basis of a contract with the building authority and the costs of removing the building and removing construction waste will be paid by the construction office, which will then recover these costs from the owner of the removed building.
Sanctions for breaches of construction legislation have been expanded and increased and powers in the area of state construction supervision should also be strengthened. The institute of forfeiture of the building into state ownership is also being introduced. In the event of a breach of the law, it will be possible to penalize not only the builder or the contractor, but also the persons authorized to perform construction supervision or the construction manager.
However, these rules apply to unauthorized buildings in the future, i.e., proceedings initiated after the new legislation will come into force. The problem of unauthorized buildings already built should be solved by a specific process - by reviewing the suitability of an unauthorized construction for operation, during which the builder will have the opportunity to prove that if the previously constructed unauthorized construction is not contrary to the public interest, or private interest (if it is not built on foreign land) and meets other conditions set by law, such construction can be additionally legalized.
After some remarks, there was also an annual shift in the effectiveness of the Construction Act, which was originally scheduled for 1 January 2023. The Construction Act is to enter into force on 1 April 2024. Proceedings initiated at building authorities pursuant to existing regulations, which will not be validly completed by a decision in the matter by 31 March 2024, shall be completed at the construction office pursuant to law effective until 31 March 2024.
2.Selection of changes brought by the Spatial Planning Act:
According to the submitters, the new Act on Spatial Planning is intended to strengthen research in the field of spatial planning and transfer research results into the principles of spatial planning, professionalize the state administration and reduce the administrative burden in spatial planning activities.
- Transfer of competencies:
The Spatial Planning Act also regulates the competencies for the newly established Office for Spatial Planning and Construction in the area of spatial planning. Its main task will be to procure the Concept of Spatial Development of Slovak republic and to act as a coordinator of a unified procedure and processes of spatial planning through methodological guidelines.
The existing levels of individual spatial planning documentation are preserved, and a new type of spatial planning documentation is added - the spatial plan of the micro-region. The zoning plan of the micro-region will be approved by the self-governing region together with a generally binding regulation declaring its binding part. The capital Bratislava and the city of Košice will have a special regime in the form of a metropolitan zoning plan with a special methodology.
The new legislation is intended to bring new electronic spatial planning processes in a unified methodology and in a unified Urbion spatial planning and construction information system, which will store and publish relevant data and information. The public part of the information system should contain spatial planning documentation, information on the territory provided by spatial planning authorities for publication, decisions and binding opinions of spatial planning authorities and selected data about decisions and measures of construction offices. Based on the relevant authorizations, the information system will be accessible to all participants in spatial planning and construction proceedings and will provide the necessary services for the individual phases of spatial planning, construction, and operation of buildings.
The spatial planning process is to be significantly simplified, for example by harmonizing the proceedings with environmental impact assessment processes. The detailed regulation of each procedure will depend on the type of required spatial planning documentation and the requirements imposed on it, which will be regulated by an implementing regulation.
- Zoning plans:
According to the authors of the law, spatial planning should become a basic procedure, where with the help of a uniform methodology and uniform principles of spatial planning, the competence is given to municipalities and cities to plan development in their own territory. The aim is to create a unified structure of spatial plans throughout the Slovak Republic. The new law also responds to practical problems by introducing a conceptual approach, while it pursues the goal of making the valid spatial planning documentation a relatively stable binding document. It thus seeks to eliminate cases where spatial planning authorities procure even minor changes separately, several times a year, while in some cases such processes overlap, and the overall result is not uniform. In the new law, the submitter seeks to eliminate this negative practice by introducing more detailed conditions for the preparation of individual spatial planning documentation and more strictly regulated possibilities for their changes.
As with the Construction Act, the Spatial Planning Act will enter into force on 1 April 2024. The spatial planning documentation approved by 31 March 2024 will be obligatory replaced by the spatial planning documentation created in accordance with the Spatial Planning Act by 31 March 2032, otherwise it will expire on the following day.