History of the Lex Koller - The law with the many Federal Council names
The origins of the "Federal Act on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad", popularly known today as the "Lex Koller", dates back to 1961. At that time still known as the "Lex von Moos", Swiss politicians created this law out of fear of the so-called "sell-out of the homeland". The Federal Councillor responsible and head of the Department of Justice and Police at the time was Ludwig von Moos from Obwalden (CVP Federal Councillor 1960 - 1971). Since 1961, the law has been amended several times, so that the "Lex von Moos" became the "Lex Furgler" after the St. Gallen CVP Federal Councillor Kurt Furgler (in the Federal Council 1972 - 1986), the "Lex Furgler" became the "Lex Friedrich" after the FDP Federal Councillor Rudolf Friedrich (in the Federal Council 1983-1984) and finally, with the last major amendment to date, in 1997, it was given the name of CVP Federal Councillor Arnold Koller (in the Federal Council 1987 - 1999).
What does the Lex Koller mean for foreign persons who want to acquire real estate?
The Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad defines that "persons abroad" are subject to this law with regard to the acquisition of residential real estate. In concrete terms, this means that foreigners who are not resident in Switzerland are not entitled to purchase residential property in Switzerland. The Lex Koller applies to:
- Foreigners residing abroad
- EU / EFTA citizens residing in Switzerland without a B, C or L residence permit
- Citizens of other foreign states without a settlement permit C
However, this does not include:
- Swiss nationals and also dual nationals resident in Switzerland or abroad
- EU and EFTA citizens with legal and actual residence in Switzerland (residence permit B, C, possibly short stay L)
- Citizens of other countries with a C permit and actual residence in Switzerland
What does the law provide for in the case of legal persons?
In the case of legal entities, a distinction is made as to whether they are domiciled in Switzerland or abroad. Legal entities domiciled abroad may purchase commercial real estate in Switzerland, but not residential real estate. Mixed-use properties with a commercial and residential component may only be purchased in exceptional cases.
Legal entities with their head office in Switzerland may acquire real estate provided they are not so-called "foreign-controlled". A company is foreign-controlled if persons abroad have a dominant position due to their ownership share in the company (own more than one third of the capital or voting rights or have granted significant loans).
Are foreigners allowed to buy holiday homes?
First of all, yes, foreigners are allowed to buy holiday homes in Switzerland, but Switzerland has an upper limit of 1500 holiday homes that can be sold to foreigners per year. However, not all cantons have quotas for holiday homes for sale to foreigners. This is possible in the cantons of Appenzell Ausserhoden, Bern, Fribourg, Glarus, Grisons, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Obwalden and Nidwalden, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Ticino, Uri, Vaud and Valais. It is therefore important to clarify with interested foreign applicants whether the quota still permits this. In principle - there is the possibility of exceptions in certain cases - the net living space must not exceed 200 m2 and the plot should not exceed 1000 m .2
Further information / leaflets etc. can be obtained from the Federal Office of Justice under the following link:
Do you have questions and are you interested in the topic? Would you like to buy or sell a property or are you interested in converting a property? As always, we are happy to provide you with networked, flexible and discreet support in all matters relating to real estate.
Image: Brunngasse Brienz © Anastasia Beck
This article has already appeared in German on our website under the title "Lex Koller".