Tag: Germany

1
New Bill Planned for the Development and Funding of Offshore Wind Energy in Germany
2
Implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Germany
3
Reform of Construction Contract Law Planned in Germany
4
Independent evidentiary proceeding—A legal tool in Germany to avoid construction court proceedings
5
No Compensation for Clandestine Employment in Germany!

New Bill Planned for the Development and Funding of Offshore Wind Energy in Germany

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

An introduction of bidding processes for determining the amount of funding for the generation of electricity from onshore wind turbines, offshore wind turbines and large photovoltaic systems is planned with an amendment of the German Renewable Energy Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz).

The German government sees the transition to bidding processes as being a central instrument for attaining the goals laid down by policy makers regarding the development of the share of renewable energies in the production of electricity. The political goal is to increase the share of renewables in the amount of electricity generated to between 40% and 45% by 2025, between 55% and 60% by 2035 and at least 80% by 2050. In real terms the increase in the contribution of renewable energy to the electricity production in Germany has gone from 25.3% in 2013 to 28% in 2014 and 32.6% in 2015. It is the political will of the current government not to fall below or exceed this established scope for expansion. For this purpose the aim is to fix the tendered quantities at a level that is as accurate as possible on the one hand; on the other hand, a high realisation rate needs to be achieved with regard to the projects awarded in the context of the bidding process.

A further goal of the general introduction of bidding processes for establishing the amount of funding is to limit the funding to a level that is economically essential. In order to ensure that this amount is determined correctly by means of the planned bidding processes, a high level of competition must be achieved for these.

Read More

Implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) in Germany

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

In recent years, numerous issues have accumulated in connection with the realisation of large building projects planned and financed by the public sector, such as the new international airport in Berlin, the Elb-Philharmonie in Hamburg and the Stuttgart 21 train station project. In particular, issues included delays, huge cost increases and communicating the projects and the attendant problems affecting the public. The ensuing discussions in the German public triggered the formation of a reform commission by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur), called “Bau von Großprojekten” or “Large-Scale Construction Projects”. One recommendation in the reform commission’s final report is that Building Information Modelling (BIM) should be implemented in Germany.

Read More

Reform of Construction Contract Law Planned in Germany

By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin

Introduction
Despite the huge economic significance of the construction industry to Germany, there is, as yet, no codified construction contract law. Usually, general services contract law according to the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB) is applied to contract types as varied as manual repair work and project developments involving millions of Euros. Traditionally, general contractual terms known as “VOB/B” (Verdingungsordnung für Bauleistungen), which have existed for almost 100 years, are of considerable practical importance to the German construction industry. They are flanked by increasingly extensive case law regarding individual issues of construction law, requiring expert knowledge to comprehend the legal framework for construction contracts. A codification of construction contract law has been called for in Germany for a long time. The most recent comprehensive reworking of the law of obligations, which came into effect in 2002, also saw a revision of services contract law, but without consideration of the specific characteristics of construction contracts. The pressure exerted by practitioners on the legislature has increased due to recommendations issued by the building commission, “Deutscher Baugerichtstag”, that has been convening biannually since 2006. In September of this year, a draft bill was presented by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz) for the reform of the construction contract law. There will be considerable need for further discussion regarding the details in the consultations currently taking place among interested groups. However, we would like to take this opportunity to give an overview of the planned changes to the law.

Read More

Independent evidentiary proceeding—A legal tool in Germany to avoid construction court proceedings

By Christoph Mank and Eva Hugo, K&L Gates, Berlin

The dilemma

A construction principal faces a lot of questions if material defects occur while a building is still under construction: he can decide to continue with construction in order to prevent a delay in completion, but faces the risk that it might be difficult, or rather, impossible, to outline and, in particular, to later prove the background and causes of defects. Furthermore, warranty claims against contractors or architects can become time-barred if the works continue for years without clarification of the defect. On the other hand, if construction stops until a court proceeding takes place, the project might be delayed due to the excessive duration of German construction court proceedings, possibly causing enormous financial losses. Besides the principal, contractors and architects also have an interest in the causes and responsibility for an occurring, material construction defect being promptly clarified and assessed.

Aims of independent evidentiary proceedings

Independent evidentiary proceedings, as provided in the German Code of Civil Procedure, can help those principals, contractors and architects involved in construction project to step out of the above scenarios.

Independent evidentiary proceedings are initiated by the application of one party. It is not required that a court proceeding be pending. Independent evidentiary proceedings aim to secure the state of construction and to clarify the causes of, and responsibilities for, a defect through an expert’s participation. This enables construction parties, for example, the principal and a contractor, to come to an agreement and to avoid a subsequent court proceeding. The defect can be remedied and the project continued to completion. Even if an agreement cannot be reached and a court proceeding follows, an independent evidentiary proceeding will help accelerate the construction court proceeding, because the independent evidentiary proceeding’s results will be considered as evidence in the court proceeding.

Legal requirements

Independent evidentiary proceedings have to be applied for at the court that would also settle the legal matter. Furthermore, the applicant party has to provide a legitimate interest to establish the state or value of an object, the cause of property damage or a material defect or the effort required to remedy the property damage or material defect by a written expert opinion. Such a legitimate interest is statutorily presumed if the establishment serves to avoid a court proceeding.

Evidence can be taken by way of written expert opinion. In its application, the applicant has to precisely designate the opponent, as well as the facts and circumstances on which evidence should be taken; it is not allowable to describe vague, unsubstantiated facts only for the purpose of obtaining information to concretize an argument of fact. However, it is permitted to describe the facts as they appear to the applicant as a lay person in construction matters. The court then decides whether to take evidence on the application, and chooses an expert to be instructed. The expert´s opinion only assesses the case on a factual basis; legal questions and interpretations are excluded.

Independent evidentiary proceedings end with the delivery of the expert´s opinion and, possibly, with an agreement between the parties, which then will be recorded by the court, but not by a contentious decision of the court. The court may set a time period within which the parties can raise objections to the expert´s opinion and may apply for appointments to orally discuss the opinion with the expert.  If, however, the case is later brought before court by one of the parties as the result of the independent evidentiary proceedings, the expert´s opinion will be treated as if it was obtained during the court proceeding.

The opening of an independent evidentiary proceeding also affects the underlying claims. The limitation of those claims, especially warranty claims, will be suspended from the beginning of the independent evidentiary proceeding until six months after its end, a further advantage of this special type of proceeding.

 

No Compensation for Clandestine Employment in Germany!

By Christoph Mank and Kristina Fischer, K&L Gates, Berlin

In Germany, it is prohibited by law to hire clandestine workers. But what happens if a principal nevertheless hires a clandestine worker and does not pay the agreed compensation? Is the clandestine worker entitled to claim his compensation before court? In a recent judgment dated 10 April 2014, the German Federal Court of Justice (“Bundesgerichtshof“) said “no“ and decided that clandestine employment must not be compensated.

The defendant was building serial houses; the plaintiff was instructed by the defendant to do electrical installations. As compensation, plaintiff and defendant had agreed that the defendant would pay a lump-sum of EUR 13,800 including VAT and another EUR 5,000 cash and without invoice. From the agreed amount of EUR 5,000, the defendant had paid EUR 2,300 but refused to pay the remaining EUR 2,700. The claim with which the plaintiff (inter alia) requested payment of these EUR 2,700 was, however, dismissed:

The agreement between the parties, obliging the defendant to pay the cash amount of EUR 5,000, is null and void. According to Section 134 of the German Civil Code, an agreement which violates a statutory prohibition is void, unless the statute leads to a different conclusion. In this case, the parties´ understanding has violated Section 1 no. 2 (2) of the German Act to Combat Clandestine Employment (“Schwarzarbeitsbekämp-fungsgesetz“), which classifies as clandestine employment the nonfulfilment of statutory tax liabilities. According to the Court, it was evident that the parties´ agreement to provide works without an invoice was meant to conceal the plaintiff´s turnovers from German tax authorities and to provide a price advantage for the defendant. Even if the „cash understanding“ referred to only a part of the agreement, the violation of Section 1 no. 2 (2) of the Act leads to a nullity of the entire agreement. As a consequence, the clandestine worker was not able to claim the agreed compensation from the principal.

What makes the decision of the German Federal Court of Justice particular? In a former decision of 1990, the Court had decided that although the agreement between principal and contractor was violating the (former) Law on Clandestine Employment the contractor was nevertheless entitled to claim restitution according to the value of his work. The Court argued that the principal who mostly is the economically stronger party, would otherwise be in unjust advantage if he was allowed to keep the clandestine worker´s performance without any consideration. Since 1990, the Laws on Clandestine Employment have tightened. Accordingly, in 2013, the Court heralded a change of its case law and ruled that a principal has no warranty claims against a clandestine worker, if the worker´s performance was poor, inadequate or insufficient. With its 2014 decision, the Court emphasized the importance to enforce the Laws on Clandestine Employment effectively: A person who deliberately violates the Law does not deserve to be protected by civil law. By denying the principal´s warranty claims on the one hand and the clandestine worker´s claim for compensation on the other hand, parties shall be restrained from concluding a prohibited clandestine agreement. Whether or not this judgment will have the expected deterrent effect on clandestine contractors and principals remains to be seen.

Copyright © 2018, K&L Gates LLP. All Rights Reserved.