How to acquire Real Estate in Liechtenstein
In this article we explain the aspects of the purchase of property from a practical point of view in Liechtenstein.
It can be stated as a general introductory note that the legal situation in the Principality of Liechtenstein as to property law and land registration is almost identical to that in Switzerland. Therefore, the civil law situation as regards the purchase of property as well as the administrative law situation as to the procedure of entering such purchase into the Land Register are almost the same as in Switzerland. What is different, however, is the character of the authorisation proceedings for the purchase of land by foreigners: basically, only persons or companies resident in Liechtenstein can purchase land in Liechtenstein.
A. Before signing the contract
It can certainly be recommended to have the legal and factual situation clarified before signing a contract. What should be checked in particular is the legal situation as it is reflected in the Land Register, the admissibility of the planned usage according to the zoning plan, and the compatibility of the planned purchase with the Grundverkehrsgesetz (Land purchase act).
Under civil law, there is no in rem binding by signing corresponding preliminary contracts. However, such preliminary contracts are still relatively common in practice. Signing a preliminary contract only – but at least – results in obligations under the law on obligations to comply with the preliminary contract’s terms and conditions.
B. What contract do you need to sign?
Basically, what is needed for entering a real estate transaction into the Land Register is the proper contract, which will usually be a purchase contract.
However, that contract must be certified, i.e. signed by the Land Registrar, a court official, or the proper mediator. In addition, applicants must fill in a form in which the compatibility of the land purchase with the provisions on land purchase in Liechtenstein, that is in particular proof of a corresponding need.
C. The loan
As already indicated, easements are regulated just as in Swiss property law.
Basically, charges on property are the usual instrument of financing or the tool to secure loans to that effect. The two most common types are the mortgage, which is bound to the land and expressly mentions the creditor, and the land charge certificate. The latter can be made out to bearer or to a specific name.
D. Who can purchase property?
To answer that question, one must consult the specific Liechtenstein Act on Land Purchase, which basically says that only persons resident in Liechtenstein may acquire land in Liechtenstein, regardless of citizenship.
When land is purchased, the purchaser must prove / explain for what purpose he needs the land in question, be it to satisfy his own need for living accommodation, for recreation, for erecting a facility for a company, or the like. In order to ensure a wide diversity of land ownership, land cannot be purchased without limitations; rather, area is limited per family to what is necessary for the above-mentioned needs. The proof of need can only be waived in special cases such as when land is purchased by a spouse or by a person related by blood up to the third degree, with exchanges of property of equal value, or in the case of acquisition mortis causa.
The procedure is as described above. A potential buyer must meet the requirements of the Land Purchase Act and sign a corresponding purchase agreement, the signature being certified, so that the land is subsequently transferred in the Land Register. A transfer does also have taxation consequences, for which see below.
Property also is subject to the general rules of inheritance law contained in the Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB: General Civil Code). The Liechtenstein ABGB was basically adopted from Austrian law, so that the respective provisions are comparable to those of Austria. Under the Gesetz über das Internationale Privatrecht (IPRG: Act on Private International Law), which also applies to border-crossing matters, it is the personal statute of the deceased at the time of his death that determines applicable law. Therefore, the inheritance law to be applied basically depends on the nationality of the deceased. However, § 56 Jurisdiktionsnorm (JN Jurisdiction Act) states that exclusive jurisdiction for probate proceedings concerning Liechtenstein real estate always rests with the Fürstliches Landgericht (Princely Court of Justice). So if there is no express selection of law by the deceased in a will or an inheritance contract, Liechtenstein real estate is always subject to Liechtenstein law pursuant to Art. 29 (2) IPRG.
If Liechtenstein law applies, testamentary freedom prevails, which means that if the deceased has left a clear will, inheritance of real estate is always subject to that will. If there is no testament, intestate succession applies, which also provides forced inheritance shares for spouses, descendants, and if there are none of the previous, also for parent. If there is neither a clear will nor an agreement between the heirs concerning the transfer of a concrete property, all heirs are entered in the Land Register as owners with the respective co-ownership shares.
G. Taxes and expenses
If ownership of property is acquired / entered in the Land Register, Land Register fees are payable. These are normally 0.6 % of the purchase price with a minimum of CHF 100.00.
If ownership of property is transferred, another tax that becomes payable is the so-called Real Estate Profit Tax, which depends on the period of time the seller has owned the property and the amount of the profit made. Depending on these two factors, taxation varies between 3.24 % and 34.02 % of the profit made on property, that is, the sales proceeds minus the original purchase price and minus investments by the seller increasing the value of the property.
Lacking an express contractual provision to the contrary, the tax is in both cases payable by the seller.
During ownership of real estate, property tax is levied on the so-called tax assessment value of the property. The tax assessment value is normally far below the market value. Depending on the applicable progression class, property tax is between 0.054 % and 0.284 %.
When the owner of property dies and the ownership of the property is transferred mortis causa, inheritance tax becomes payable. Depending of the degree of relation between the heir and the deceased, inheritance tax can be between 0.5 % and 27.0 %.
There is no value-added tax in the context of the transfer of real estate in Liechtenstein.
The above comments refer to the acquisition of private property for the purpose of satisfying the need of living accommodation or recreation. If real estate is used for commercial or industrial purposes, certain specific rules apply.
More detailed information on the Principality of Liechtenstein and its legal and administrative system can be found under www.liechtenstein.li.
Our staff will be gladly available to you at any time if you have any questions or require assistance.