Corona pandemic can be classified as force majeure

In a decree issued by the Federal Ministry of Construction on 23.03.2020, the federal government announced that the corona pandemic can be classified as force majeure in individual cases for public buildings. At the same time, however, it intends to continue with its construction projects and only interrupt them when official measures come into force, if these measures make further construction activities impossible, such as the construction of a new building, for example:

– quarantine of most construction workers or

– decree of prohibition to enter.

This is stated in a decree of the Federal Ministry of Building and Construction from Monday. The addressee is the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning.

Force majeure possible in individual cases

In the letter, which was addressed to the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning, the ministry gives advice on how to deal with process disturbances in construction. According to this, the Corona pandemic is in principle suitable to trigger the facts of force majeure according to § 6 Para. 2 No. 1 VOB/B (German Construction Contract Procedures). ‘Force majeure usually means an unforeseen event which cannot be averted economically even by exercising the utmost care.’

The ministry does not see these strict requirements as generally given. The Ministry recommends that the subordinate authorities check in each individual case why a company is not efficient. Exemplary reasons are:

– that the authorities have quarantined a large number of employees,

– no replacement can be found,

– Building material is missing or

– that workers can no longer come to the construction site due to travel restrictions.

The Ministry of Construction is thus responding to the demands of the building associations, whose interest is to protect defaulting companies from recourse claims by clients.

In case of doubt for the construction company

Doubts may remain during the examination. The authorities are required to ‘handle the statements required by the contractor in individual cases with a sense of proportion, pragmatism and with a view to the overall situation’. With the letter, the Ministry of Construction also took into account the demand of the construction industry for fee payments and thus for securing liquidity. Invoices are to be checked and paid immediately, the decree warns.