COVID-19 - What will happen to currently running time limits in administrative proceedings?
04/08/2020 - Reading time: 2 minutes
Along with the Second COVID-19 Act, a COVID-19 Accompanying Act on Administrative Law (Verwaltungsrechtliches COVID-19-Begleitgesetz, COVID-19-VwBG) was adopted affecting, among other things, time-limit rules in administrative law. The Fourth COVID-19 Act (4. COVID-19-Gesetz) now provides for clarifications.
On the running of time limits
Already pending proceedings before public authorities: running time limits are interrupted. All time limits for which the event triggering the term occurs after this federal law, COVID-19 VwBG, has entered into force (22 March 2020), as well as time limits which have not expired until 22 March 2020, are interrupted until the expiry of 30 April 2020. Please note: However, the authority may decide not to interrupt a time limit for the defined duration in individual proceedings. In such a case, the public authority shall at the same time set a new reasonable time limit.
Hence, it should urgently be clarified with the public authority whether a running time limit is interrupted or not.
When time limits start to run anew, has been defined more precisely. In case of time limits set out on the basis of days, 1 May 2020 should not be included in the calculation whereas in case of time limits set out on the basis of weeks or months, 1 May 2020 is to be taken into account.
These provisions shall apply mutatis mutandis also to proceedings before administrative courts insofar as for the respective proceedings at least the General Administrative Procedures Act (Allgemeines Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz, AVG) is applicable, too. Equally, the above provisions shall apply mutatis mutandis to proceedings before the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof, VwGH) and the Austrian Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof, VfGH).
Exemptions from the interruption of time limits
The interruption of limitation periods explicitly provided for in the Second COVID-19 Act was deleted. What is currently envisaged, is that the period from 22 March 2020 until the expiry of 30 April 2020 is not included in the calculation of limitation periods. Hence, limitation periods are merely suspended.
Time limits will further be suspended also with regard to applications initiating legal proceedings. As a consequence, the period starting with the day of the COVID-19-VwBG’s entering into force (22 March 2020) and ending with the expiry of 30 April 2020 will not be taken into account when calculating the time limit set out for submitting an application initiating legal proceedings (section 13 (8) AVG). The time limit for submitting such an application must thus be extended by the above period.
Administrative authorities, too, are granted more time: The time between 22 March 2020 and the expiry of 30 April 2020 will not be taken into account in time limits for the passing of decisions (except for maximum time limits defined under constitutional law). In such cases, the respective time limit for the passing of decisions is extended by six weeks; in cases where such time limit is shorter than six weeks, it is extended by the length of the respective shorter time limit.
In addition, the Fourth COVID-19 Act also provides for the extension of deadlines for the payment of anonymous administrative fines (Anonymverfügung) and administrative fines collected by law enforcement officers (Organstrafverfügung) issued or handed out in the period between 22 March 2020 and 30 April 2020. In case of anonymous administrative fines and administrative fines collected by law enforcement officers the deadline for the payment of the fine amounts to six and four weeks, respectively.
The Fourth COVID-19 Act does not provide for any changes to time limits under the Epidemics Act (Epidemiegesetz). Time limits governed by the Epidemics Act are still not affected by the interruption of time limits. This is relevant, among other things, for asserting claims for damages under the Epidemics Act. The claim for remuneration under the Epidemics Act must thus still be asserted before the competent district administrative authority (Bezirksverwaltungsbehörde) within six weeks starting with the day the actions of the public authority are lifted.