Much has already been written on the new Civil Code, but what impact will the new regulation have on every day life?
Every day, we enter into various contractual relationships. We are not even aware of a number of them, but we comply with them because we tend to act as we have been taught to do. We might take, as an example, the fact of hanging our coats on the clothes hook in a restaurant or when we buy a ticket for the bus in the morning. Even such trivial things entail rights and duties. When entering into a legal relationship of this kind, we normally do not read the Civil Code and are not concerned about the provisions that govern such relations, but we tend to follow the rules that we learnt from our parents, school, i.e. the experiences of many years, and we behave just as we are expected to, according to the laws in question. These established habits in relation to the new Civil Code, may give rise to greater problems. We will try with a few examples that obviously do not cover the entire new system of rules, to show how the new Civil Code and its various amendments will affect the lives of all of us.
From January 2014, buildings will become an integral part of the land, so we will have to consider the building and the land as a single unit. This means that if one decides to sell, purchase or mortgage the land, it will automatically include all things on it. Furthermore, if your house is located on a plot of land that belongs to others, there is the pre-emption right against the owner of the land and vice versa. Should you decide to sell the house, you will first be required to offer it for sale to the owner of the land.
As of January 1st 2014, accommodation in a rented flat and the relationship between landlord and tenant will be directly disciplined by the new code system. A novelty is the cancellation of the housing allowance when a house tenancy notice to quit has been given and the determination of the maximum amount of the deposit to six times the price of the rent. The couple will thus have both the same rights to the house or flat they live in, together with the children. Either of the partners will not be able to terminate the tenancy of the flat they are living in without the written consent of the other partner.
The Italian legal system foresees the family concern that may be considered as a restaurant or farm in which all the family members take part, where not all of them are owners of the firm. Even those who help the enterprise without a salary will have the right to their share of the profits and may also express their opinions when decisions have to be made on the fate of the firm.
The common belongings of the spouses will be much more protected compared to now and will cease to be common property of the spouses and will become part of the normal furnishings of the house. The spouses’ common property that has not a little value, such as the washing machine or refrigerator, cannot be sold without first informing the other spouse.
Drawing up a contract
Failure to sign a contract shortly before the final signature could prove to be anything but beneficial. If it happens in an unjustified way, during the phase in which the drawing up of the contract seemed quite probable, this will give the right to ask for compensation for costs and lost profit. This may occur, for example, on the conclusion of a contract of sale when you’re considering whether to buy a house, and at the last moment, without a real motivation, you should change opinion. You may have to pay compensation for the costs incurred by the seller during the negotiations, the damage resulting from not searching for another buyer, as well as compensation for other losses and associated costs. The same principle is applied also when you run a simulated negotiation of a contract, for example, for strategic reasons.
Depending on the content of the offer or shared practices, a contract may also be concluded only by the provision of one of the parties without the express consent of the other. For acceptance, it is sufficient to act as if one had accepted the offer. For example, we may consider the situation where a customer every day goes to his favourite coffee bar to have a coffee. The waiter knows him and, as usual, even if the customer has not ordered anything, brings him his usual coffee. Silence or inactivity in itself do not represent acceptance of the offer and there must be in any case, a common accepted procedure.
Acceptance of the offer implies also taking its appendages or variations if they do not alter its essence and when the proposer does not reject, without an unnecessary delay, such acceptance. It is the case in which the supplier declares to “offer 100 units at 2.000 CZK” and the client replies “I accept, but the package will have to contain 10 units” or “I accept a cash payment basis”. So now, in a few cases, silence would mean consent.
Another important change is the informality of the contract. If the law does not expressly foresee a different proceeding, it will be possible to enter into a verbal contract. A specific form, such as the written contract must be agreed upon.
Therefore, we may expect greater freedom in legal relations, but also a closer attention to responsibility for what we do and how we do it.
Mr. Martin Holub (lawyer)
Law Firm Safra & partneři