Bern says new second home law doesn’t apply to existing ones

BERN, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss government 25 May opened for public review the proposed initial regulations drawn up by a working group, that result from a popular vote in March 2012 to limit the number of second homes in the country.

The vote called for a 20 percent cap on second homes in any commune, but developing the ordinances has been fraught with heated discussions about what precisely the Swiss voted on.

Canton Valais, which has a particularly high number of small communes where the number of second homes is well over 50 percent, has been pushing for clarity on several of the issues: when the law goes into effect, whether or not it affects existing second homes and the impact on inheritance.

Thursday Bern said that two options are being proposed for the law to go into effect, 1 September 2012 and 1 January 2013. The first would allow communes to continue giving building permits until September, in theory.

It also noted that “buildings that have been constructed and used in line with legislation in effect before 11 March 2012 must be able to continue to be used in the same way that was legally admissible on the date when the new constitutional law was accepted. Existing homes must be able to be freely sold and handed on through inheritance.”

Bern also clarified the definition of a second home: one that is not the legal domicile of the people living there.