Landtmann rental process raises questions

First day of trial in the rental dispute between the Landtmann operating family Querfeld and the Wlaschek private foundation as landlord: The case raises many tricky legal issues that need to be clarified. The process will now only be continued in October.

Many restaurant and coffeehouse operators have had or will have. Have no income during lockdown periods and therefore can’t afford rents. The dispute about rent arrears for the traditional cafe Landtmann, which lasted several months, had resulted in an eviction action. The trial started on Friday at the District Court Vienna Innere Stadt.

However, there are still no court rulings on the legal issues that have now arisen, only expert opinions from lawyers. At the center of the case is the question of whether Querfeld would have had to pay his rent for four properties in any case with the state subsidies – and if a reduction was permissible, by how much. This is what the next meeting in October will be about.

Coffee house operator Berndt Querfeld before the start of negotiations in the rent dispute between the operator of Cafe Landtmann and the Wlaschek Foundation

APA/Roland Schlager Berndt Querfeld on the first day of the trial – settlement talks did not emerge for the time being

Still no jurisdiction to this situation

The first meeting on Friday was about setting out the legal framework. There are many open legal questions and a high risk of litigation on both sides, the eviction action is still pending and the result will probably be "an intermediate amount" between the respective claims, the judge tried to make an out-of-court settlement palatable.

Both parties then emphasized their willingness to talk – but expected the first step to come from the other side. The representatives of the Wlaschek Foundation pointed to a compromise offer and now demanded a counteroffer from Querfeld. The latter, in turn, pointed out that his cell phone number was known and that he could be reached at any time.

Judge expects "elaborate evidentiary proceedings"

There is little jurisprudence but a lot of scientific contributions on the disputed issues, the judge noted. Therefore in the process the evaluation of many legal questions is to be clarified. "It will be an elaborate evidentiary procedure," she expected. In view of the questions that have not yet been adjudicated and the amount of the claim, this is a case that is suitable for a decision by the Supreme Court (OGH), she held. It won’t happen quickly, however, until 15. October is again free a hall large enough for the trial.

First of all, it had to be clarified for what purpose the various business premises were rented – the famous Cafe Landtmann is just one of the properties. Only then could it be determined whether the use for this purpose was restricted or excluded in the course of the lockdowns and therefore whether a rent reduction was permissible.

APA/Roland Schlager A lot to do for the lawyers of the Wlaschek Foundation: (v.l.) Albert Birkner, Manfred Ton and Irene Welser before the start of negotiations

Then it would have to be clarified to what extent the lockdown measures in the individual phases prevented the agreed use in each case: how distance rules, for example, affected the use.

Amicable solutions with other operators

The judge expressed skepticism that the eviction action asserted by the landlords is valid. She also does not want to order Querfeld to disclose the grants it received for the time being, because current doctrine says they are not relevant to the case. Should this information be disclosed voluntarily, however, they would welcome it. However, a legal representative for Querfeld initially ruled this out.

The rent dispute with Querfeld is the first that the Wlaschek Foundation has taken to court in the CoV crisis. Other disputes ended amicably. Negotiations for rent reductions were underway at many locations. "This tenant is not the only one of our commercial tenants to be affected. But the only one, which is shaped in such a way", was said in the run-up to the start of the trial on Thursday at the Wlaschek Foundation. "The fact that catering businesses have had difficulties due to the bans on entering, we understand. In the other cases, however, we came to good solutions for both sides," said a spokeswoman for the leasing real estate company.

Process around Landtmann rent

The private foundation of Karl Wlaschek sued the operator family of the Cafe Landtmann. It is about the rent for the legendary coffee house.

Landlord: "hand further outstretched")

In Wlaschek real estate (resp. of the foundation subsidiary Novoreal) are also rented, for example, the prominent restaurants Hansen and Morwald, there were also agreements with a renowned gastronomy business on the Freyung in Vienna off the path of the lawsuit.

According to the spokeswoman for the Novoreal/Wlaschek Private Foundation, this was also the landlord’s wish for the Landtmann Cafe from the very beginning. One wishes further expressly that the Landtmann remains a coffee house. "We have not sought this action. From our side the hand is definitely stretched out further."One is ready for an agreement, also for an out-of-court settlement, the spokeswoman said.

Several hundred thousand euros in dispute

Several hundred thousand euros are at stake. Among other things, the landlords accuse the Landtmann operators of unilaterally withholding rents even at times when the pub was open and well frequented. Querfeld, meanwhile, accuses the landlords of "hostile actions"; they were not even able to agree on mediation.

APA/Hans Punz Picture from days gone by

For him, the dispute is essentially about whether the tenant is entitled to a rent reduction during a lockdown, and whether the tenant loses those entitlements if it takes advantage of government benefits. For the plaintiff side, on the other hand, it is "unthinkable that the operator of a cafe receives state aid at taxpayer expense, but at the same time does not pay the rent." This would be a "double liquidation" of one and the same loss.

No renewal option for rental contract

48 hours before the first court hearing, the foundation board and legal representative of Novoreal had communicated not to agree to the exercise of a renewal option for the lease Bel Etage (rooms on an upper floor of the same building), Querfeld complained on Thursday.

He quoted from the letter, "As you know, the lease for this property has been terminated. At this resolution holds Novoreal lmmobilieninvest Ges.m.b.H. continues – as well as to all other in the pending court case elaborated arguments – firmly."At the Wlaschek Foundation said on Thursday, due to the changed circumstances (Corona) such extension options are eliminated.

No out-of-court solution in sight

So far, the cafe operating company said on Thursday, the Querfeld family has always made an effort not to slam any doors shut. Now one takes note, even if with regret, that Novoreal and Karl Wlaschek Privatstiftung want to argue out the matter "absolutely judicially." The matter will therefore be settled in court. There will be no further offers of talks from the Querfeld family in this regard.

Both sides also covered themselves with expert opinions and lawyers’ reports on contentious issues of usage options and rent forfeiture in the event of special events such as epidemics.

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