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Planning and environmental issues

Planning

Which government authorities regulate planning and zoning for real estate development and use in your jurisdiction and what is the extent of their powers?

Regional councils are responsible for provincial planning, while the local authority of a municipality is responsible for land use planning, land policy and building guidance and control in its territory (the Land Use and Building Act (132/1999, as amended)).

Land use in municipalities is organised and steered by both masterplans and detailed plans. The masterplan sets out the outline for land use in the municipality and the detailed plan indicates how the use of land areas and buildings is organised. Local authorities can also draw up a joint masterplan.

What are the eligibility, procedural and documentary requirements to obtain planning permission?

Applications for planning permissions are approved by the local building supervision authority and must:

  • be in writing;
  • include a statement that the applicant controls the building site; and
  • include the master drawings signed by the architect.

The authority can require the applicant to provide additional information if needed.

The master drawings for the construction are approved in connection with the granting of the planning permission.

There is no set time limit for processing the applications, but under the Act on Administration (434/2003, as amended), authorities must generally handle matters without undue delay.

When an application for a planning permission is initiated, the owners or occupiers of neighbouring properties must be notified, unless this is clearly unnecessary.

The neighbours then have at least seven days to submit any comments regarding the application.

If necessary, the local building supervision authority can inspect the site to assess whether the building is, among other considerations, suitable for the local environment.

Can planning decisions be appealed? If so, what is the appeal procedure?

The following parties have the right to appeal against a planning decision:

  • owners and titleholders of adjacent and facing areas;
  • the owners and titleholders of other properties, if the construction or use of these properties may be essentially affected by the decision;
  • those whose rights, duties or interests are immediately affected by the decision; and
  • local authorities.

The appeals must be made to the relevant administrative court within 30 days from the service of the decision.  

What are the consequences of failure to comply with planning decisions or regulations?

If construction work or other measures are initiated against planning decisions or regulations, the surveyor or other authority has the right to suspend the work with a written notice and require the refractory person, possibly by imposing a conditional fine, to correct what has already been done or left undone. In addition, a fine may be imposed on certain violations as further defined in the Land Use and Building Act. 

What regime governs the protection and development of historic and cultural buildings?

Buildings, other constructions, groups of buildings or built areas can be protected if they are significant for, among other things (Act on Protection of Architectural Heritage 498/2010, as amended):

  • architectural history;
  • artistic merit;
  • construction technology; or
  • special environmental value.

The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment is responsible for processing proposals concerning protection of buildings.

Government expropriation

What regime applies to government expropriation of real estate?

Expropriation is allowed when required in the public interest, subject to certain exceptions. Permission for expropriation of land is granted by the government in its plenary session.

What is the required notice period for expropriation and how is compensation calculated?

The owner of the real estate subject to expropriation as well as the holder of a usufruct to the real estate must be given an opportunity to make a statement in relation to the expropriation before the granting of an expropriation right, unless a written consent has already been given regarding the expropriation. The time period for giving the statement must not be less than 30 days and not exceed 60 days from the service date of the application for expropriation.

If the land is expropriated, the owner of the land has a right to full compensation for economic losses due to the expropriation. The determination of the purchase price for the expropriated property is based on fair market value.

The applicant may take the expropriated real estate into its possession after the decision of expropriation has been declared and the applicant has paid the relevant compensation and, in certain situations, placed a security. The applicant may be allowed to take the real estate into its possession at an earlier stage due to some urgent schedule or other important reason(s). 

Environmental issues

What environmental certifications are required for the development of real estate and how are they obtained?

Applicants for building permits must obtain an energy certificate showing that the relevant building will meet the requirements for energy efficiency under the applicable laws (Act on Energy Certificates for Buildings (50/2013, as amended), the Land Use and Building Act and the National Building Code of Finland (2/1734, as amended)).

A valid energy certificate must also be obtained for selling or leasing a building (or any part of it).

An energy certificate may be obtained from a person with the relevant qualifications as set out in the Act on Energy Certificates for Buildings.

What environmental disclosure obligations apply to real estate sales?

Under the Land Code, the seller must disclose to the buyer relevant information which could have an impact on the use or value of the real estate or on the transaction as a whole. In addition, if the seller notices before entering into the sale agreement that the buyer has an incorrect understanding of relevant characteristics of the real estate, the seller must correct this.

Under the Land Code, the buyer has the right to price reduction and, in certain situations, damages as a result of the defect. In addition, the buyer may also terminate the sale of real estate in case the defect is material.

What rules and procedures govern environmental clean-up of property? Which parties are responsible for clean-up and what is the extent of their liability?

The liabilities for remediation and cleaning of contaminated areas are regulated by the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014, as amended). The liability for remediation of contamination lies with the party whose activity has caused contamination in the soil and groundwater or, if the party cannot be identified or is incapable of fulfilling its relevant remediation obligations, the party that possesses the contaminated area, if the relevant possessor knew or should have known, at the time of the purchase, about the relevant contamination or has given its consent to said contamination. Moreover, the materialisation of the second option is subject to certain reasonability criteria.

Are there any regulations or incentive schemes in place to promote energy efficiency and emissions reductions in buildings?

A 2009 government report (Foresight Report on Long-term Climate and Energy Policy) set a target to reduce Finland's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from the 1990 level by 2050.

Please also see above regarding energy certificates.

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