Legal Support & Advice in Austria
Life has a habit of throwing some unexpected surprises and sometimes legal advice and support is required. Different countries operate in different ways and Austria is no different.
The following provides an overview of the different services available in Austria and some optional products or membership that people should consider BEFORE something becomes an emergency. It is also worth remembering that legal costs can be expensive.
Legal Jurisdiction Overview
The UK has 3 legal jurisdictions – England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland.
Austria is a Federal State with nine Provinces – Burgenland, Carinthia (Kärnten), Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) , Salzburg, Styria (Steiermark) , Tyrol (Tirol) , Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) , Vienna (Wien) and Vorarlberg.
In Austria, the main legal jurisdictions are:
- Federal (i.e. national)
Sometimes there are also local by-laws at a municipal/community (Gemeinde) level.
Since Austria’s accession into the EU, much national legislation has been transposed from EU law – while the objective is harmonised law throughout the EU, there are still national options and discretions, and the possibly to allow EU Member States to be stricter than minimum requirements under EU law.
It is important that when you get advice that the person offering the advice is qualified in the appropriate legal jurisdiction.
Legal Protection Insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)
Legal protection insurance is there to offer you advice and to cover legal costs in the event of a legal dispute (within the scope of the cover).
You can take out legal protection insurance as an option on your house insurance policy or you can take this out as a separate policy. Typically, there is a waiting period of around 3 months before you can make a claim and they will not cover pre-existing problems.
Cover is not that expensive and it may be worth taking this out to provide that re-assurance in case you need it. These policies come highly RECOMMENDED, but please check the coverage and especially the exclusions.
Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer)
If you are an employee, you are automatically a member of the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer) and can ask for their advice on lots of issues particularly employment, but they can also offer advice on other things such as renting.
Their website has lots of useful information.
Works Council (Betriebsrat)
If your company has a Works Council (Betriebsrat) they may also be a good point of call for employment issues that are specific to a company.
Tenants Associations (Mietervereinigung)
One of the most common issues reported in the Austrian Facebook groups are issues related to tenancy. People regularly complain that their landlord has increased the rent retrospectively or something else rent related (e.g. termination issues).
Austrian tenancy contracts are not for the faint hearted and can be confusing. There are Tenants Associations (Mietervereinigung) in every province who are there to represent the interests of the tenants. They have an annual fee and it may well be worth joining if you are renting.
Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft)
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft) is primarily there to deal with issues with the authorities and officials. They cannot intervene if the issue is of a legal nature, but they may be able to assist prior to it becoming a legal issue.
Examples of things they might be able to assist with are people waiting for residence permits more than 6 months.
Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO)
The Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO) is there to represent the interest of companies and the self-employed. You will need to pay them an annual fee but they are able to offer free advice and assistance for issues related to self employment.
Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC)
Your Europe Advice
Your Europe Advice is a service provided by legal experts from ECAS operating under contract with the European Commission. They are experts on EU and national laws. The team that deals with Austria come highly recommended, if you want clarification on EU law.
Please note though that the advice they provide is only an opinion, however sometimes they do provide you with legal precedents which can come in handy.
Note: Be precise in your question and make sure to provide ALL the facts (it’s not a chat service).
Legal Aid (Verfahrenshilfe) & Lawyers
The form for applying for legal aid can be obtained from any court or the bar of the province where you reside in Austria. The petition must be submitted to the court having jurisdiction. One thing to bear in mind though is that if you lose your case, you may still be liable for the costs of the other party.
The bar association also offers some further information on their website:
You can find a list of English Speaking Lawyers here or contact one of the free advice services for a list of their recommended lawyers (the Vienna Business Agency has one).
Notaries provide services that can be summarized in to two categories:
- Services where the Civil Law Notary acts in his/her capacity as a public commissioner of oaths or as delegate of the court (Court Commissioner).
- Professional services, such as the drafting of private deeds of any kind, the representation of parties and mediation.
Specific areas they cover are property, wills and power of attorney.
The first consultation is usually free!
Charities such as Caritas are sometimes able to help particularly on immigration matters for migrants.
Free Advice Services
There are free advice services in some of the Austrian provinces that may be able to offer initial advice or point you in the right direction.
European Consumer Austria
The Verein für Konsumenteninformation are able to offer help and advice for consumers in Europe.
European Consumer Rights
Here are some additional European consumer rules that may be useful
Article 50 and other residency issues
Anyone, experiencing issues to do with Article 50 residence in Austria is first recommended to post in our British in Europe~Austria Facebook Group or contact us via the website Enquiry Form or use the website Forums.
It is important to remember that the team at British in Austria are volunteers and none of us are legally trained; although some of us do have an interest in law. The team does have considerable knowledge in relation to the Withdrawal AgreementWithdrawal Agreement The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and provides for a deal on citizens’ rights. It sets out a transition period which lasts until 31 December 2020. During this time you can continue to live, work and study in the EU broadly as you did before 31 January 2020. If you are resident in Austria at the end of the transition period, you will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and your rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Austria. Any rights that are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement will be the subject of future negotiations. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-withdrawal-agreement-and-political-declaration in Austria and are able to offer informal opinions/advice.
In some cases, we do have the possibility to raise cases to the experts at British in Europe, some of whom are legally qualified (not in Austria). However, it is important to note that they too are unfunded and their time is precious.
The Austrian lawyers we know that may be able to deal with Article 50 and Withdrawal Agreement issues are:
UK based Citizens Advice
In the UK it is common to use the services of the Citizens Advice Service or the Citizens Advice Scotland. These organisations are funded by Local Government. If you are resident in Austria, you are NOT able to use these services and there are no charities that we are aware of that are able to deal with UK specific issues.
Spain is the only EU country that we are aware of that has a Citizens Advice Bureau Charity.
Most of the UK Government bodies offer specific advice services for overseas residents. Here are some of them:
- NHS Overseas Services
- HMRC Non-UK residents: Income Tax and Capital Gains
- DWP International Pensions Centre
British Embassy Vienna
Last, but by no means least we have the team at the British Embassy/Consulate in Vienna. They do not offer legal advice, however if you’re the victim of a crime, have been arrested, or are affected by a crisis, contact the British Embassy Vienna.
The team there are very helpful and are likely to have seen similar cases before. They have also produced an information pack for British Nationals arrested or detained in Austria.