Up Again Romania: Premises and Workplace

Employment

1. What are the key things that employers have to consider in relation to social distancing in the workplace, e.g. open plan or spacing of desks, use of shared equipment, limited access to communal facilities, canteen / restaurant, etc.?

Though the currently available regulations and guidelines are somewhat unclear and debatable on the point, employers may only compel employees to continue working from home with their consent. Any return to work must be in compliance with the law and guidance on health and safety, particularly with regard to COVID-19.

As such, employers need to consider their strategy for potentially phasing the return of employees on a gradual and/or rotational basis, to ensure social distance between employees.

Employers with more than 50 employees must unilaterally implement a working schedule to ensure a different start and end time between employees. So, the employer must split the employees into three groups of at least 20% of the staff and decide the start date for each group so that there is at least one hour between the start date of each group, mainly to:

  • avoid peak hours congestion in public transport;
  • avoid congestion at the entrance/exit of the premises; and
  • limit the number of employees present at the same time on the premises.

Employers should also:

  • organise the working space so that the recommended social distance (1.5 m) is observed by establishing a maximum number of people that can stay in the same space;
  • observe the rules on carrying out activity in open spaces, such as arranging work spaces in a manner that ensures a minimum distance of 1.5 m between employees working in front-to-back and back-to-back desks, and that face-to-face desks will be separated by shields that are disinfected daily;
  • create specially arranged spaces for vulnerable employees (people with chronic diseases, people over 65);
  • arrange staggered lunch breaks, during which a minimum 1.5 m distance is observed;
  • inform employees of the recommended social distance of minimum 1.5 m and limitation of physical contact with other people to maximum of 15 minutes;
  • ensure there are special routes for employees to avoid congestion inside the premises;
  • apply marking strips to indicate the recommended social distance (1.5 m) for people waiting in line (for companies with public access);
  • organise, where possible, access for the public separate from the employees' entrance;
  • recommend that people waiting in line to enter the premises, as far as the weather conditions allow, remain outside the premises and observe the recommended social distance (minimum 1.5 m); and
  • limit people’s access to common areas and ensure compliance with the social distancing rules in these areas.

Employers must also comply with health and safety guidance from the relevant authorities.

2. What key hygiene and/or infection prevention measures will employers have to take to ensure a safe workplace e.g. provision of adequate handwashing facilities, regular deep cleaning of offices, etc.?

Based on the state of alert regulations/guidelines, employers should:

  • ensure employees wear masks at the workplace;
  • ensure employees and visitors disinfect their hands and are subject to epidemiological triage (which is mandatory and conditional to entrance to the premises); epidemiological triage consists of:
    • temperature measurement by non-contact thermometer (recorded temperature must not exceed 37.3°C):
      • If the recorded temperature exceeds 37.3°C, it is recommended that temperature measurement is repeated after two to five minutes of rest.
      • If an employee or visitor maintains a temperature above 37.3°C or shows signs of other respiratory symptoms, the person is not allowed access to the premises and – in the case of employees – they are sent for medical consultation to their physician.
      • If the recorded temperature does not exceed 37.3°C and the person does not show other respiratory symptoms, access to the premises is allowed – however, visitors may enter only accompanied by someone from the respective premises and after declaring and registering the office/room/department where the visitor will go.
    • observation of respiratory signs and symptoms.
  • immediately isolate and send home any employee with symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, sneeze, fever or a temperature over 37.3°C) or altered general health condition that appeared during work;
  • carry out training for employees on the preventive health and safety measures with the health and safety provider and occupational physician;
  • regularly clean and disinfect, with substances approved as effective against COVID-19:
    • ­common areas and work spaces, handrails, door and window handles on the premises, and other commonly used areas, at least once a week and whenever necessary; and
    • ­contact surfaces, at the beginning of the work day and then once every four hours;
  • inform employees of the general preventive measures such as maintaining strict hand hygiene, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds or with approved disinfectants, whenever necessary;
  • place dispensers with disinfectant solutions at the entrance and in each area of the workplace;
  • permanently provide soap and hand sanitisers in toilet facilities, changing rooms and canteens, and posters showing the correct way to wash hands;
  • ventilate offices at least once a day; and
  • ensure, in case of air-conditioned rooms with air recirculation, nebulisation is carried out – outside working hours – once a week, preferably at the end of the week, and disinfection of the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Employers must also comply with health and safety guidance from the relevant authorities.

Real Estate

3. Are there any specific obligations, liabilities or duties of conduct imposed on landlords, tenants or visitors with respect to the use or re-use and decontamination of premises; care, cleaning and maintenance of the exclusive and common areas; reporting requirements and/or measures in case of identified infections; health and safety issues - e.g. recommissioning water systems to avoid virus, installation of plexiglass screens, moving desks to comply with distancing. remodulation of fire prevention strategies (entrance/exit routes)? Is any distinction made between asset classes?

In Romania, the emergency state ended on 14 May 2020; on 15 May 2020, the state of alert started. Under the new state of alert, certain obligations have been imposed under several normative acts.

Law no. 55/2020 on certain measures to prevent and combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Government Decision no. 394 dated 18 May 2020 on declaring the state of alert, provides for the following:

  • An obligation to wear protective face masks in closed public spaces, commercial spaces, public transport, and at work.
  • An obligation for public institutions and authorities, economic operators and professionals to ensure mandatory epidemiological triage (by measuring the temperature by non-contact thermometer) and mandatory disinfection of hands for staff and visitors when entering the premises.

The Order of Ministry of Health and of Ministry of Internal Affair no. 874/81/2020, which came into force on 22 May 2020, provides the following obligations.

An obligation for public institutions and authorities, economic operators and professionals (applicable to landlords, without specifically mentioning them), to ensure mandatory epidemiological triage and mandatory disinfection of hands when entering the premises, as follows:

  • entry into the premises is permitted only for people with reasonable grounds and subject to mandatory epidemiological triage and hand disinfection;
  • entry is not allowed for people who deliver documents/packages etc. This should be done outside the building, directly to the recipient, in compliance with precautionary measures;
  • epidemiological triage does not involve the registration of personal data and consists of the following:
    • temperature measurement using a non-contact thermometer (the recorded temperature must not exceed 37.3°C);
    • observation of respiratory signs and symptoms (such as frequent cough, frequent sneezing, altered general condition);
    • if the recorded temperature exceeds 37.3°C, it is recommended to repeat the temperature measurement after two to five minutes of rest;
    • if a temperature above 37.3°C is maintained or other respiratory symptoms are present, the person is not allowed to enter the premises (in the case of employees, they must be sent for consultation to their family doctor); and
    • if the recorded temperature does not exceed 37.3°C and the person does not show other respiratory symptoms, the person will enter the premises only accompanied by a staff person, subject to prior registration of the office/room/department where the person will go (this measure does not apply to employees).

The obligation to wear protective face masks in closed public spaces, commercial spaces, public transport, as well as at work, except for the following cases:

  • the person is alone in the office;
  • the person suffers from a respiratory disease;
  • the person performs intense physical activities or works in demanding conditions (e.g. high temperatures, high humidity);
  • for TV presenters and their guests, provided that a distance of 3 m between people is observed;
  • for public speakers, indoors, provided that a distance of 3 m between them and other people is observed, and if there are no more than 16 people inside; and
  • for children under five years of age.

Order 3577/831/2020 issued by the Ministry of Labour and by the Ministry of Health obliges employers to ensure health and safety at work. Some of these obligations are also applicable to landlords, mainly applying to common areas (e.g. lobby, toilets, elevators), as specified under the lease agreements. The obligations include:

  • implementing measures regarding the activities that can be resumed while complying with the various rules regarding prevention of COVID-19;
  • displaying, at the entrance and in the most visible places on the premises, mandatory rules for all people entering the space regarding the prevention of COVID-19;
  • informing employees of universal precautions such as maintaining social distance of at least 1.5 m in all public areas;
  • ensuring that the protection measures are respected by external suppliers, external companies, subcontractors, people entering the premises, the public, customers and so on;
  • providing special access to the premises and routes for employees to avoid congestion;
  • limiting access to common areas and ensuring observance of social distancing in these areas;
  • establishing rules for avoiding accidental situations of people gatherings inside the premises;
  • designating a person responsible for checking the temperature of all people entering the premises;
  • ensuring the observational triage of employees by checking their temperature at the start of the work shift and whenever necessary during working hours;
  • placing dispensers with disinfectant at the entrance to the premises, and in each sector of the workplace;
  • prohibiting access to the premises of people who show COVID-19 symptoms;
  • stopping any contact between anyone on the premises and a symptomatic person – mainly in common areas;
  • applying recommended distance marking strips (1.5 m) in workplaces for the public and for people waiting in line to enter the premises, and recommending, as far as weather conditions allow, that people waiting outside the building keep a distance of at least 1.5 m;
  • disinfecting railings, door and window handles, and other commonly used areas (at least once a week and as many times as necessary);
  • disinfecting, at least once a week and whenever necessary, common areas and workspaces with substances approved for the control of COVID-19;
  • avoiding the use of air conditioning systems or, if it is necessary to use them, ensuring the nebulisation and disinfection of the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer's instructions, outside working hours;
  • permanently ensuring soap and hand sanitisers are provided in toilet facilities, locker rooms and dining rooms, with posters showing the correct way to wash hands;
  • reviewing the prevention and protection plan according to the relevant guidance and legislation; and
  • reviewing their own safety and health instructions at work according to the relevant guidance and legislation, and bringing them to the notice of employees.

Special measures if an employee is suspected/confirmed as having COVID-19 – applicable mainly to tenants, and for the landlord in respect of common areas – include:

  • Employees with respiratory symptoms (cough, sneezing, runny nose), temperature higher than 37.3°C or general altered condition that appeared during work must immediately be isolated from colleagues and sent home or to a health centre, depending on the person's condition. In the vast majority of cases it is not necessary to close the office/building.
  • If the time since the employee/person suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 was last on the premises is less than seven days:
    • all rooms where they spent a long time (more than 20 minutes) must be closed;
    • ­before the end of the working day the room must be ventilated (by opening windows); and
    • ­to limit cleaners’ exposure to respiratory particles, cleanup and disinfection should be postponed for 24 hours (if it is not possible to postpose for 24 hours, cleaning should be postponed for as long as possible).
  • If more than seven days have passed since the employee/person suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 was on the premises:
    • no additional cleaning or disinfection is required; and
    • ­routine cleaning and disinfection measures should be maintained.
  • People with whom the employee/person suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 came in prolonged contact (more than 20 minutes, at a distance of less than 1.5 m and without a mask) must be informed and they should isolate at home for 14 days, monitoring for signs and symptoms of respiratory infection.

Consequently, one of the obligations imposed on employees is to agree to checking of their body temperature any time they enter the building.

Order 1731/832/2020 issued by Ministry of Economy and by Ministry of Health stipulates certain recommendations/good practices for employers and employees regarding activity in open-plan offices, but these are also applicable to landlords in respect of common areas and tenants in their premises. The obligations include:

  • ensuring the observational triage of employees and not allowing people with symptoms of respiratory infection to be at work;
  • checking employees’ temperature daily, on entering work and at the start of a shift; employees with a temperature above 37.3°C will be sent home, with instructions to consult their family doctor;
  • for desks facing each other, ensuring they are separated by partitions disinfected daily with alcohol-based solutions;
  • ensuring disinfection of work surfaces at the start of the work day and subsequently every four hours;
  • ensuring regular ventilation of rooms;
  • for air-conditioned rooms with air recirculation, performing nebulisation once a week, preferably at the end of the week, and disinfecting the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer's instructions.

4. Are there any rent suspension measures and/or stay of recourses and actions (including eviction) or any Government support initiatives such as a furloughed building grant scheme (if so, maybe only a part of the building should be re-occupied)? When rent suspension measures are available, what is the usual payment mechanism and timing agreed to by the parties?

The Government Emergency Ordinance no. 29 / 2020 dated 21 March 2020 (GEO no. 29) provides for certain deferrals for SMEs, providing that, throughout the state of emergency (which expired on 14 May 2020), they:

  • partially or fully ceased their activity after the decisions issued by the competent public authorities during the state of emergency; and
  • held an emergency certificate issued by the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Business Environment.

Qualifying SMEs are entitled to:

  • defer payment for utilities services (electricity, natural gas, water, telephone and internet services); and
  • defer payment of rent for their headquarters or secondary offices.

For more details, please see question 6 below.

Such benefits are also applicable to some lawyers, public notaries and bailiffs whose activity is affected by the COVID-19 measures, provided certain criteria are met (e.g. this applies to law firms with up nine lawyers and a net income of a maximum of EUR200,000 in 2019).

In the case of rent suspension, the usual payment mechanism agreed by the parties is to postpone the payment of the related rent after the emergency state ceases. After that, the payment shall be due within an agreed deadline from the delivery of the invoice, which shall be issued after the activities are resumed. Usually, such suspension of the rent payment is generally paired with an extension of the term of the lease agreement.

Law 62/2020 regarding the application of facilities for rent payment during the state of emergency applies to:

  • economic operators (companies and professional individuals);
  • practitioners of liberal professions;
  • legal entities under private law whose activity has been interrupted or whose income or revenue has decreased by at least 15% in March 2020 compared to the average of the previous calendar year during the state of emergency; and
  • individuals economically affected directly or indirectly during the state of emergency.

Qualifying entities/individuals may postpone, on request and without payment of interest and penalties, payment of rent for the use of immovable asset registered as offices, working points or residence, provided that:

  • the amount of rent is lower or equal to the amount of the rent for February 2020; and
  • the maximum amount of the monthly rent is RON10,000 (EUR2,100) for economic operators for each location, and RON2,000 for individuals for a single location (EUR415).

The amount of money equal to the rent value, however, must be paid by the territorial tax body directly to the landlord’s bank account on the tenant’s request. A tenant whose request is approved must subsequently pay the amount of money corresponding to the postponed rent payments to the territorial tax body, in equal instalments, after the period for which the payment was deferred, up to 31 December 2020. If they do not fulfil this obligation, the territorial tax body will proceed to enforce claims which have not been recovered.

This facility is applicable during the state of emergency period, and for the month after the state of emergency ceases.

Tenants must submit a request to the competent territorial tax body. It is also possible to submit an email request to the contact listed on the relevant territorial tax body’s website.

There are certain documents that must be presented with the tenant’s request:

  • the lease agreement
  • an addendum to the lease agreement, which must include:
    • the parties’ (landlord’s and tenant’s) agreement to postpone the rent payment;
    • the period for which the rent payment will be postponed;
    • the amount of money corresponding to this period;
    • identification details of both the landlord and the tenant;
    • the landlord’s bank account details; and
    • the date the addendum is to be signed and the parties’ signatures
  • any documents serving as proof that it is impossible for the tenant to pay the rent for the aforementioned period

5. Are there specific tax reliefs on payment or collection of rent instalments? Do they apply subject to actual payment or regardless? Do they apply generally or only to specific asset classes?

There are general rules, according to which:

  • the tax liabilities due starting on 21 March 2020 are not considered outstanding and no late payment interest or penalties are assessed or due for such amounts; and
  • any foreclosure actions are suspended or do not start, except those decided by a court of law in criminal matters.

These measures apply for the entire state of emergency period (which expired on 14 May 2020) and for a period of 30 days afterwards.

Law 62/2020 regarding the application of some facilities for rent payment during the period related to the state of emergency provides the following benefits:

  • When establishing the annual net income, income obtained under lease/sub-lease/usufruct agreements is not considered taxable income, provided the beneficiaries have reduced the value in use compared to February 2020 by at least 30%. The period for which individuals can benefit from this tax relief is the period for which the reduction of the value in use of real estate has been negotiated, however without exceeding the date of 31 December 2020.
  • For determining the social health insurance contributions owed by individuals in 2020, the value of the use of real estate shall be excluded from the annual calculation ceiling, provided that the value of the use of the real estate has been reduced by at least 30% compared to the value of the use of the respective real estate in February 2020.
  • The two abovementioned tax reliefs may also be used by those who, in 2019, received income from the assignment of use under at least five ongoing lease agreements and, starting with 2020, qualified that income as income generated by independent activities, under the conditions under the exemption from the provisions of the Fiscal Code.
  • For taxpayers paying income tax and those who owe income tax on micro-enterprises, the rent obtained under lease agreements is taxable on 80% of its value, provided that the value of the rent has been reduced by at least 20% compared to the equivalent value of the rent in February 2020.

6. Are there any measures regarding relief from the performance of real estate-related contractual obligations?

The competent authorities have taken no specific measures to allow the non-execution of real estate-related contractual obligations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as mentioned in question 4 above, SMEs and some lawyers, public notaries and bailiffs may suspend rent payments.

Regarding SMEs, the provisions of GEO no. 29 outlines three main scenarios:

  • Throughout the state of emergency, SMEs that:
    • have partially or fully ceased their activity following the decisions issued by the competent public authorities during the state of emergency; and
    • hold an emergency certificate issued by the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Business Environment (Emergency Certificate)
  • are entitled to:
    • deferred payment for utilities services (electricity, natural gas, water, telephone and internet services); and
    • deferred payment of rent for their headquarters or secondary offices.
  • For all other ongoing contracts concluded by SMEs, force majeure can be invoked only after a documented attempt to renegotiate the contract, in order to adapt the clauses to reflect the exceptional circumstances under the state of emergency.
  • SMEs do not owe delay penalties for their obligations under contracts concluded with public authorities throughout the state of emergency.

Considering the latest negotiations between landlords and tenants caused by the COVID-19 situation, this suspension of the rent payment is generally paired with an extension of the term of the lease agreement.

7. Are there any credit facilities in place to mitigate loss of income for landlords?

The Government Emergency Ordinance no. 37 dated 30 March 2020 (GEO 37) regulates the granting of certain facilities for loans granted by credit institutions and non-banking financial institutions to certain categories of borrowers (the GEO no. 37).

Applicability

Under GEO 37, debtor means:

  • natural persons, including freelancers, individual enterprises and family businesses;
  • liberal professions and those professions exercised under special laws, irrespective of their organisation form; and
  • legal persons that are a party to credit/leasing agreements.

By way of exception, credit institutions cannot be considered debtors.

Under GEO 37, creditor means:

  • ­a credit institution; or
  • ­a non-banking financial institution; or
  • ­Romanian branches of foreign credit and non-banking financial institutions operating in Romania.

Under GEO 37, the obligation to pay the due installments related to loans, representing capital rates, interest and commissions granted to borrowers by creditors until the date GEO 37 enters into force is suspended at the request of the debtor for up to nine months, but no longer than 31 December 2020

The maximum duration for which the credit is granted (according to the creditor’s regulations) may be exceeded by a period equal to the duration of the suspension of the payment obligation.

To benefit from GEO 37, the following conditions must be met:

  • The debtor has concluded a contract to obtain a loan:
    • ­that has not reached maturity; and
    • ­for which the creditor had not declared anticipated maturity before the entry into force of GEO 37.
  • The facility can be granted only:
    • ­for loans that do not register arrears on the date the state of emergency was declared in Romania; or
    • ­if the debtors have made the payment of these arrears until the date they request suspension of the payment obligation.
  • The facility is granted exclusively to debtors whose incomes have been directly or indirectly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The debtors, as defined above, except for natural persons, must:
    • ­partially or fully interrupt their activity following the decisions of the competent public authorities throughout the state of emergency and hold the Emergency Certificate; or hold an Emergency Certificate that attests (based on their statement) that their income or revenues have decreased by at least 25% through March, April or May 2020, compared with the average of January and February 2020, or the partial or full interruption of activity following the decision of the competent public authorities throughout the state of emergency; and
    • ­not be insolvent at the date of requesting the suspension of the loan repayment, according to the information available on the website of the Trade Registry’s National Office.

Procedure

To benefit from the GEO 37 facility, the debtors send, no later than 15 June 2020, a written request to the creditors, in paper or by email, to the contact details specified in the credit contract or through another remote communication channel offered by the creditor.

If the debtors cannot send this written request, they can make an oral request, by phone (the phone numbers for this purpose will be announced by each creditor on their website). The creditor is obliged to record such calls.

The request can be made for a period of suspension of one month to nine months, but no longer than 31 December 2020.

If the request has been approved by the creditors, the extension of the contractual term becomes effective from the date the suspension request to the creditors was communicated.

Interest

As a general rule, the interest due by debtors (corresponding to the due amounts whose payment is suspended) will be capitalised on the credit balance existing at the end of the suspension period. The increased capital must be paid in instalments for the remaining period, until the new maturity of the loans, after the period of suspension.

However, there is an exception to this rule for natural persons – see question 8 below.

8. Is there any relief from loan repayments / enforcement of loans secured against properties?

According to GEO 37, for consumer credit agreements for immovable property (credite ipotecare), interest corresponding to the suspension period is calculated according to the provisions of the credit agreement and represents a distinct and independent debt in relation to the other obligations arising from the credit agreement. The interest corresponding to this debt is 0% and its payment must be made in 60 equal monthly instalments, starting from the month immediately following the end of the suspension period.

For this type of credit agreement (namely consumer credit agreements for immovable assets) the Romanian State, through the Ministry of Public Finances, will guarantee the payment of the interest due for the suspension period.

9. Are public services necessary to complete the sale, acquisition or other operation of real estate assets or companies or to establish the right to open for business (planning authorities, notary public, Land Registry, Companies’ Registry, etc.)?

In order to complete such operations, certain public services are required.

Notary public

Under Romanian legislation, sale-purchase agreements for real estate property must be authenticated by a notary public. Although there are no express regulations as to the suspension of notary publics’ activity, at the moment, there are general measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which need to be complied with.

Public authorities

Public authorities’ activity (including the land registry, as well as the trade registry) is also governed by a set of preventive and protective measures.

For example, according to the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 70/2020 (GEO 70), which came into force on 14 May 2020, during a period of six months from the date the state of emergency ceased, the trade registry’s activity will be carried out mainly through electronic means communication and correspondence. Further, activity with the public has been limited to four hours a day, divided into two periods.

Also, as per the provisions of GEO 70, the validity of the documents issued by the public authorities is maintained during the state of emergency, and during a 90-day period from the date the state of emergency ceased. This is a general provision, which also seems to be applicable to building permits, urban planning certificates and other approvals in the field of real estate.

10. Are there any specific processes or protocols available to consummate real estate operations enabling them to comply with any required social distancing (e.g. electronic signature, etc.)?

Electronic signature is available in Romania, regulated by Law No. 455/2001 regarding the electronic signature, which transposes Directive 99/93/EC on electronic signatures (Electronic Signatures Directive). Law No. 455/2001 provides for two types of e-signatures:

  • electronic signature
  • extended electronic signature

Agreements can be signed with an extended electronic signature, based on a qualified certificate and purchased from an authorised supplier. This type of signature has the same value as a handwritten signature on the printed version of the document. The accredited suppliers for issuing electronic signature certificates in Romania can be found in a registry published on the website of the Ministry of Communications and Information Society.

The existing legislative framework does not provide oblige private entities to use electronic signatures, whether simple or extended.

However, as of 7 April 2020, the government has given private entities the option of using electronic signatures in relation to public authorities and institutions. Specifically, public entities falling under the scope of Government Emergency Ordinance no. 38/2020 are obliged to receive documents signed with an electronic signature and, correspondingly, issue documents signed with an electronic signature, either through an online portal or email.

The above mechanisms cannot, unfortunately, be used throughout certain phases of real estate transactions for which a deed authenticated by a public notary is legally required, such as the conclusion of an asset sale agreement or of an immovable mortgage agreement.

Although specific legislative bills were proposed almost 15 years ago, online notarisation of such documents is not yet permitted under Romanian law.

11. Are contractors who were carrying out works within the premises obliged to resume them? Can building sites reopen when they were closed down? Are there any specific provisions in relation to certain asset classes authorising continuation / resumption of works (e.g. healthcare structures)?

The Romanian government has not provided any express interdictions regarding construction activities during the emergency state period. Contractors and construction companies are able to continue their activities while observing both the general existing interdictions and precautionary measures, and those imposed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including regarding the health and safety of workers.

12. Are there remedies or contractual arrangements available to address impossibility or delay for a party to handover premises to another which are/were to be constructed or refurbished, or for such other party to take over those premises?

The existing remedies for impossibility or delay of handover should be analysed on a case-by-case basis, and will depend on the cause of the impossibility/delay.

Should the impossibility/delay be directly caused by a third party (and not by the parties), including government measures issued regarding the pandemic, either party could invoke the fortuitous impossibility of performing the takeover/handover obligation under the general conditions of the Romanian Civil Code, subject to any contrary provisions included in the contractual agreement, resulting in either the suspension or the liberation of the relevant obligation.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of emergency measures have generally not been considered as satisfying the conditions under the Romanian Civil Code for a force majeure event, the government has granted certain SMEs the option of invoking force majeure and renegotiating contractual obligations – specifically, SMEs that had their business activity restricted or severely affected by the state of emergency measures. For more details see question 6 above.

Nonetheless, by taking into consideration the specific circumstances of each agreement, the parties can resort to any of the usual mechanisms provided by the law and their contractual agreement (e.g. negotiation, agreement amendment, penalties, performance suspension, termination), as well as claiming force majeure as cause for the impossibility/delays, if applicable.

13. Has the duration of validity of administrative authorisations pertaining to development/construction of real estate assets (in particular planning authorisations) been extended?

During the state of emergency period, and for a 90-day period from date the state of emergency ceased, validity is maintained for documents issued by the public authorities, including building permits, planning certificates and other approvals issued by the authorities and required for real estate development/construction.

However, given that development/construction activities have not been legally suspended, to date there are no legal provisions indicating that the validity period of construction authorisations is extended, other than the general regulation mentioned above.

Litigation and Regulation

14. Is the use of disclaimers for visitors or others coming on to the site of business useful for limiting potential future COVID-19 claims?

Yes, the use of a disclaimer for visitors to the business site is useful for limiting liability. However, clauses/declarations of limitation of liability can be censored by a court of law (in the sense that they can be rendered null and void) if the person who benefits from them has acted in bad faith or grave disregard.

If there are any dangers associated with the premises (such as a large number of infections, or lack of decontamination) that could cause damage to the visitors, a disclaimer cannot be used for liability limitation or exclusion, but can be considered as indicating a danger. In such a scenario, the damaged visitor is also held liable for the damages that they contributed to or that they could have avoided.