1. What are the key things that employers must 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.?
Although there is an obligation to ensure physical distance, there is no specific regulation or guidance on the procedures to be adopted in relation to employees.
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.?
Key hygiene measures include:
- mandatory use of masks, as there is a general obligation to use a face mask in closed areas of common use (however, there is no specific obligation for employers to supply masks);
- observance of physical distance;
- checking employees’ body temperature;
- hand-hygiene points at the entrance and inside the facilities;
- compliance with biosafety measures;
- the placement of recommendations of health authorities in a visible place;
- regular cleaning of surfaces and work equipment; and
- regular ventilation of spaces.
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 light of the enacted restrictions to the home collection duty and the consequent limitation in the function and opening of public services, landlords must comply with the biosafety requirements imposed by the health authorities and the creation of a contingency plan. Landlords are responsible for complying with the safety and health measures in common areas.
If there is a suspected case of infection, local health authorities must be contacted immediately.
Besides the obligations and duties of conduct imposed on landlords, tenants also have obligations and duties that are required of them in terms of biosafety and the adoption of preventive measures. Tenants are responsible for complying with safety and health measures in the respective leased space.
The application and compliance with the measures and duties of conduct imposed on landlords and tenants may imply restriction of access to the premises for visitors or employees who do not comply with the general recommendations of the health authorities.
There is no distinction between asset classes.
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?
In Angola, no specific law has yet been approved establishing an exceptional and temporary framework for late payment on residential and commercial rents.
However, with the Declaration of the Situation of Public Calamity, approved by Presidential Decree n.º. 142/20 of 25 May, it was determined that the parties to the lease agreement (residential or commercial leases) can settle the debts of arrears until 31 August 2020, and payment can be made in instalments.
By virtue of this legal power, the tenant may take the initiative to propose to the landlord a plan for the settlement of rent arrears until 31 August 2020, its execution being dependent on the terms of the agreement between the parties.
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?
To date, there are no specific tax reliefs on payment or collection of rent instalments in connection with the pandemic.
6. Are there any measures regarding relief from the performance of real estate-related contractual obligations?
In leases in general, there is the possibility for tenants to settle the outstanding rent until 31 August 2020, and the outstanding amount may be paid in instalments under the terms agreed by the parties.
As for other real estate-related contracts, each case will depend on the contract’s wording. For example, construction agreements may include applicable force majeure provisions.
7. Are there any credit facilities in place to mitigate loss of income for landlords?
To date, there are no credit lines created to mitigate loss of income for landlords.
8. Is there any relief from loan repayments / enforcement of loans secured against properties?
No relief was determined regarding payments or in the execution of loans secured against properties. However, in general, flexibility was established in the terms for the fulfilment of credit obligations through a 60-day moratorium on the amortisation of capital and interest.
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.)?
The right to open for business is determined by the Angolan government, which always requires the intervention of public services to company registration.
Registry services are necessary to complete the sale, acquisition or other operation of real estate assets, the intervention of notaries public services is necessary, as well as the intervention of the Conservatory Property Registry.
Planning authorities are required only if the real estate assets require a certain license before their sale and acquisition (for instance, a use permit issued by the respective province).
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.)?
In the execution of real estate operations, specific processes or protocols have not yet been defined to allow some records of real estate assets to be made online.
Real estate transactions should preferably be carried out by prior appointment, and signatures must be in person. Electronic signatures are not permitted.
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)?
Public or private works that are suspended because of the State of Emergency are allowed to resume, except where the activity of the company is suspended due to the decision of the owner of the place, the company or the government to implement preventive sanitary measures.
Building sites may reopen if safety, hygiene and health measures recommended by the health authorities (namely protection and safety equipment to avoid contagion and social distancing) are adopted and complied with.
No specific provisions were enacted authorising the continuation or resumption of construction works regarding certain asset classes.
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?
Without prejudice to specific commitments the parties had agreed or are willing to agree, Angolan law provides two remedies:
- Total and permanent impossibility of handover/takeover the premises originating a “loss of interest in the performance” allows for the termination the contract, and extinction of any obligations arising thereof.
- Temporary impossibility, causing a delay in handover/takeover, means the contract still needs to be complied with, and the resulting delay is not an underperformance – as such, no penalties for delay apply, and deadlines should be extended for the duration of the impediment.
13. Has the duration of validity of administrative authorisations pertaining to development/construction of real estate assets (in particular planning authorisations) been extended?
In general, the duration of all administrative authorisations has been extended to 30 August 2020.
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?
No. In accordance with Presidential Decree n.º. 142/20 of 25 May, companies are obliged to establish a contingency plan adapted to specific site conditions, in accordance with the instructions and guidelines issued by public health authorities.
According to the abovementioned legislation, establishments must, among other measures, ensure awareness of compliance with hand hygiene rules, the mandatory use of a face masks, and other personal and environmental hygiene measures, by displaying the recommendations of the health authorities in a visible place.
Failure to comply with this and other measures provided for in the Presidential Decree constitutes a crime of disobedience under criminal law and administrative sanctions may also follow.
A disclaimer, when the above is not complied with, does not exempt COVID-19-related claims. However, provided full compliance of legal provisions is ensured, the disclaimer may add an additional layer of coverage to the site owner if it helps remind that a number of obligations also fall on employees/visitors.
This material was prepared by DLA Piper Africa, Angola (ADCA)