by ZS Law

As the world slowly enters the fifth week of the COVID-19 pandemic it become increasingly clear which spheres of regular business activities have been impacted the most with the newly developed situation. Besides the questions of loans repayment and status of the employees/engaged workers, in our practice we are increasingly experiencing problems related to the lease of business/office premises. Considering that maintaining personal contacts in the current world climate is becoming harder each day, these new problems concerning the fulfilment of obligations which stem from lease agreements are not unexpected, however, the manifestations of these problems represent burning legal issues addressed by both landlords and tenants, seeking the optimal solution from our law office.

The no. 1 question which is rightfully posed is the question regarding the payment of rent, i.e. is there currently, under the applicable law, an obligation to pay rent and if there is, does the legal system of the Republic of Serbia prescribe any grounds for the reduction of this obligation in the current circumstances. 

Other questions which we face often regard the obligation of the landlord to provide unobstructed access and use of premises which are leased, followed by questions regarding the activation of provided collateral for reimbursement of rent payments which are due but have not been settled yet, etc. 

As a rule, legislation is always late when it comes to regulating life events and it is a rare occurrence that the life situation which we have not faced before are defined clearly by rules which address these situations explicitly. However, some countries have attempted just that – legislative regulation of the issues stemming from lease agreement during the COVID-19 pandemic in the goal of pre-empting eventual escalation of this problem which threatens to impose even greater economic damage though countless new litigation procedures.

One of the first countries which has taken positive measures in the goal of regulating this issue is the Federal Republic of Germany. The German lawmakers have imposed a moratorium on rents through the amendments of the German Civil Code, for the period of April 1st until June 30th, 2020, including prohibition of the termination of lease agreements during same period. This rule is not without exception, it only applies to arears influenced by direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, i.e. it is on the tenants to prove that their inability to pay rent is conditioned by the current pandemic, in this regard, failure to pay rent which is due before the aforementioned period can represent a legal basis for the termination of a lease agreement even during the moratorium period. Additionally, the lawmaker has obliged the tenants to reimburse the landlord in full for the rents due over this three-month period, including statutory default interest which amounts to 8,12%, after the moratorium has been lifted.

The Republic of Serbia still has not regulated the status of lease agreements by special rules for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, there are only isolated situations such as the decision of the City of Belgrade not to charge rent for the office premises leased by the City of Belgrade for the duration of the pandemic, where the tenants are given the choice of reimbursing these rent payments in a reduced amount until the end of 2020. Regardless of the aforementioned exception, we are facing real problems on a daily basis which we are handling in real time by applying existing rules wherever possible.

In certain situations, the contracting parties have the intention of keeping the lease agreement in force, however they call on the impossibility of performance with regards to the payment of rent for the duration of the pandemic. In other situations, the only solution for the parties is termination of the lease agreement. In all these situations, regardless of the end goal be it termination or change of the agreed upon terms of lease, the only applicable legal remedy for achieving that goal, i.e. the argumentation of the parties, is most commonly based on invoking force majeure, impossibility of performance and changed circumstances. 

In legal theory force majeure is usually defined as a legal term referring to some external event which was unforeseeable, and which could not have been avoided or removed. Our Law on contracts and torts does not contain definition of the force majeure but its meaning is determined through interpretation of other relevant legal norms or on the basis of the force majeure clause as the contracting parties chose to define it in their lease agreement.

Declaring a state of emergency can certainly be considered force majeure, although it is important to keep in mind that even though the effect of force majeure can exempt one of the parties of their liability for damages on the account of obligation non-performance, it does not exempt non-performance automatically, but is instead required for the force majeure to have a direct i.e. immediate effect on the possibility of performance. Having in mind that the primary obligation of the tenant is payment of the rent, the effect of force majeure without an existing country wide proclamation (as is the case with PR China and their “force majeure certificates”), does not necessarily lead to the inability to performance of contractual obligations. 

This is especially important for landlords because depending on the location and the intended use of the leased premises, with the wider context of imperative measures which are in force for the duration of the state of emergency on the territory of the Republic of Serbia and by which, among others things, the gatherings of people in large numbers have been prohibited, as well as limiting the possibility of work for shopping malls, and stipulating imperative obligations for employers to allow remote work for every position where it is possible etc., the extent to which landlords are able to provide tenants with the use of leased premises in accordance with the provisions of the lease agreement is questionable.

On the other hand, if the situation does not pose influence directly (immediately) on the possibility of contract performance, but on the contracting party itself and its interest in keeping the lease agreement in force, there can exist the basis for the application of rules for termination due to changed circumstances. Having in mind that this termination can only be requested through a court procedure, which further burdens the situation in which it is necessary to urgently solve newly occurring issues, it is again questionable whether this institute of changed circumstances can, in this situation, fulfil its purpose or is it best for the parties to regulate the situation by additional agreement with mutual understanding and trying to find a balance in their opposing interests. The specificity of this institute lies in the fact that the affected party can be awarded damages which are to be paid by the party which requested the termination which in turn can be an unforeseen and undesirable effect of hastily made contra productive decisions in this period.

The conclusion of our law office, formulated through constant work with landlords and tenants stems from the fact that when there is an impossibility for payment performance, it is not permanent but temporary, so in that sense it should not lead to the cessation of individual obligations or agreement termination, nor should it lead to absolution of payment, but it should lead a delay of performance of tenant obligation or partial exemption from obligation. 

De facto both sides are negatively impacted by this situation, the lessee suffers damages in lost profit due to the inability to conduct regular business activities and the lessor suffers damages due to the rent reduction, for which reason the rent reduction in every specific situation depends on the characteristics of the specific case, is the lease agreement concluded for an indefinite or predetermined time period, is performance in a specific deadline an essential part of the agreement, what is the business activity of the tenant, where is the leased property located etc.

Currently there is no existing judicial practice regarding this situation, but it is undoubtable that in the coming months there will be disputes where the final word will be held by the highest court instances. Until then it is necessary to look at existing court practice in situations that can be applied by analogy. 

Considering that under all prognosis we are in for an extended economic crisis, our first recommendation is that the contracting parties negotiate all contentious issues and redefine their contractual relationship in order to avoid future costs and maintain cooperation which will be tested even after the state of emergency has been lifted. In the situation where negotiations fail to give a satisfying result the parties will be forced to turn to the courts and our recommendation is to commit to that without delay, as more time passes certain rights will be inevitably lost which will impact the chances for success. 

For all questions and comments our law office remains at your disposal.


Svet polako ulazi u petu nedelju pandemije COVID-19 i sa tim postaje sve jasnije koje su sfere redovnog poslovanja privrednih subjekata najviše pogođene novonastalom situacijom. Osim pitanja u vezi sa otplatom kredita i statusom zaposlenih/angažovanih radnika, u praksi se sve više susrećemo sa problemima u pogledu zakupa poslovnih prostora. S obzirom da je održavanje ličnih kontakata u trenutnoj svetskoj klimi teže svakog novog dana, novoiskrsli problemi sa ispunjenjem obaveza iz ugovora o zakupu nisu bili neočekivani, međutim, pojavni oblici ove problematike postavljaju goruća pravna pitanja za čije rešavanje nam se obraćaju kako zakupodavci tako i zakupci. 

Pitanje br. 1 koje se osnovano postavlja je pitanje zakupnina tj. da li trenutno prema zakonu postoji obaveza izmirenja zakupnina i ako postoji, da li pravo Republike Srbije predviđa osnov za umanjenje ove obaveze u trenutnim okolnostima. 

Druga pitanja sa kojima se često susrećemo tiču se obaveza zakupodavca da obezbedi nesmetan pristup i korišćenje prostora predmeta zakupa, te da li postoji pravni osnov za naplatu dospelih a neisplaćenih zakupnina aktiviranjem sredstava obezbeđenja i sl.  

Po pravilu, pravo uvek kasni za životnim događajima i retko se dešava da za životne situacije u kojima se pre nismo našli postoje jasna pravna pravila koja je eksplicitno regulišu. Međutim, neke države su pokušale upravo to – zakonodavno regulisanje problematike ugovora o zakupu za vreme trajanja COVID-19 pandemije u cilju predupređivanja eventuale eskalacija ovoga problema koja preti nanošenjem još veće ekonomske štete kroz bezbroj novih parničnih postupaka. 

Jedna od prvih država koja je preduzela pozitivne mere u cilju regulisanja ovoga pitanja je Savezna Republika Nemačka. Nemački zakonodavac je izmenama Nemačkog građanskog zakonika uveo moratorijum na zakupnine u periodu od 01.04.2020. do 30.06.2020. godine, čime je ujedino zabranjen i raskid ugovora o zakupu. Ovo pravilo nije bez izuzetaka, ono se odnosi na zakupnine zadocnele samo usled neposrednog dejstva COVID-19 pandemije tj. na zakupcima je da dokažu da je njihova nemogućnost isplate uslovljena postojećom pandemijom, isto tako neplaćanje zakupnina koje su dospele pre navedenog perioda može predstavljati pravno legitiman osnov za raskid ugovora o zakupu i za vreme trajanja moratorijuma. Dodatno, zakonodavac je obavezao i zakupce da zakupnine koje dospeju tokom ovog tromesečnog perioda moraju da nadoknade zakupodavcu u celosti, sa obračunatom zakonskom kamatom od 8,12% a po prestanku moratorijuma.

U Republici Srbiji status ugovora o zakupu za vreme trajanja pandemije COVID-19 još uvek nije posebno regulisan pravilima baš za ovaj slučaj. Za sada postoje samo izolovane situacije kao što je odluka Grada Beograda da se zakupnine za poslovne prostore koje Grad Beograd izdaje u zakup neće naplaćivati za vreme trajanja pandemije već je zakupcima data mogućnost da ove zakupnine izmire u umanjenom iznosu do kraja 2020. godine. Nezavisno od navedenog izuzetka, svakodnevno se susrećemo  sa realnim problemima koje rešavamo u hodu, primenom postojećih pravila. 

U određenim situacijama strane imaju nameru da održe ugovor o zakupu na snazi ali pribegavaju institutu nemogućnosti ispunjenja obaveza u pogledu zakupnina koje dospevaju za vreme pandemije. U drugim situacijama kao jedina solucija javlja se raskid ugovora o zakupu. U svim ovim situacijama, nezavisno od krajnjeg cilja, kao pravno sredstvo postizanja tog cilja, tj. kao argumentacija ugovornih strana, najčešće se javljaju viša sila, nemogućnost ispunjenja i promenjene okolnosti.

U pravnoj teoriji viša sila se uglavnom definiše kao pravni pojam koji se odnosi na neki spoljašnji događaj koji se nije mogao predvideti, izbeći ili otkloniti. Naš Zakon o obligacionim odnosima ne sadrži definiciju pojma više sile već se njegovo značenje utvrđuje tumačenjem drugih zakonskih normi ili na osnovu sadržaja odredbi o višoj sili na način na koji su je ugovorne strane definisale u svom ugovoru o zakupu. 

Uvođenje vanrednog stanja se svakako može smatrati višom silom, ali je bitno imati u vidu da ovakvo dejstvo više sile, mada može osloboditi drugu stranu za štetu zbog neispunjenja obaveze, ne oslobađa je automatski obaveze, već je neophodno da ista ima direktan tj. neposredan uticaj na mogućnost ispunjenja obaveze. Imajući u vidu da je primarna obaveza zakupca isplata zakupnine, uticaj više sile bez konkretne državne proklamacije (kao što je, na primer, učinjeno od strane NR Kine kroz izdavanje „sertifikata više sile“), ne mora nužno voditi nemogućnosti ispunjenja konkretne ugovorne obaveze. 

Ovo je naročito od značaja za zakupodavce jer, u zavisnosti od lokacije i namene prostora koji je predmet zakupa a u kontekstu mera koje se primenjuju za vreme vanrednog stanja na teritoriji Republike Srbije kojima je, između ostalog, ograničeno okupljanje ljudi u većem broju, zabranjen rad tržnih centara, uspostavljena obaveza poslodavaca da obezbede rad od kuće u svim situacijama gde je to moguće i dr., može se osnovano postaviti pitanje koliko su zakupodavci u mogućnosti da obezbede zakupcima korišćenje zakupljenih prostora u skladu sa odredbama ugovora o zakupu. 

S druge strane, ako konkretna situacija ne utiče direktno (neposredno) na mogućnost izvršenja obaveze, već na obveznika i njegov ugovorni interes, može postojati osnov za primenu pravila o raskidu ugovora zbog promenjenih okolnosti. Imajući u vidu da se ovakav raskid može tražiti samo sudskim putem, što prilično otežava situaciju u kojoj je potrebno hitno rešavanje novonastalog problema, te se postavlja pitanje da li ovaj institut uopšte može u ovoj situaciji ostvariti svoju svrhu ili je najbolje da ugovorne strane same regulišu novonastalu situaciju sporazumno uz međusobno razumevanje i popuštanje. Specifičnost ovoga instituta podrazumeva i mogućnost dodeljivanja naknade štete drugoj strani, a od strane koja je tražila raskid što može biti nepredviđen i nepoželjan efekat ishitrenih i kontraproduktivnih odluka u ovome period.  

Zaključak do koga je naša advokatska kancelarija došla u neprestanom radu sa zakupodavcima i zakupcima proizlazi iz činjenice da i u situacijama kada postoji nemogućnost plaćanja ona nije trajne prirode već privremene, te ne bi onda trebalo da vodi prestanku obaveze odnosno ugovora, ali ni oprostu zakupnine, već odlaganju izvršenja obaveze zakupca ili delimičnom oslobođenju od plaćanja zakupnine. 

De facto su obe ugovorne strane negativno zahvaćene nastalom situacijom, zakupac trpi štetu u vidu izgubljene dobiti usled nemogućnosti poslovanja a zakupodavac izgubljenu dobit od umanjenja zakupnina, iz kog razloga umanjenje zakupnine u svakoj pojedinačnoj situaciji zavisi od karakteristika konkretnog slučaja, da li je u pitanju zakup na određeno ili neodređeno, da li je izvršenje u roku bitan elemenat ugovora, koju delatnost zakupac obavlja, gde se nalazi zakupljena nepokretnost itd.

Sudska praksa za ovu potpuno novu situaciju ne postoji, ali je nesumnjivo da će u predstojećim mesecima biti sporova o kojima će se izjasniti i najviše sudske instance. Do tada, potrebno je sagledati postojeću sudsku praksu u situacijama koje se mogu primeniti po analogiji. 

Naša prva preporuka je da ugovorne strane što pre rasprave sva sporna pitanja i same uobliče svoj ugovorni odnos kako bi izbegli buduće troškove i očuvali saradnju koja će biti na testu i kada vanredno stanje bude ukinuto, jer nas po većini prognoza čeka produženi period ekonomske krize. Tamo gde dogovor ne bude moguć, stranke će ipak morati da se obrate sudovima, a naša preporuka je da se to uradi bez odlaganja, jer se protekom vremena gube određena prava i bitno smanjuje šansa za uspeh.

Za sva pitanja i komentare naša kancelarija vam stoji na raspolaganju.

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