A bill proposing compulsory Sunday shop closing has been introduced to Parliament by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) and is reported to have support from FIDESZ, the main governing party.
The bill has been widely discussed in the media, largely focusing on protections for the personal and business interests of families, employees and shop-owners. However, it also raises interesting legal questions, such as whether retail lease agreements could be affected by compulsory Sunday closing, by restricting both the leaseholder’s use of the premises and their ability to generate revenue.
While any such problem will be self-correcting for tenants paying rents based purely on their actual turnover, those tenants paying a fixed rent may need to seek amendment of the lease agreement. Current legal regulations allow agreements to be amended by the court in certain situations. Most agreements will have been concluded under the old Civil Code, whose provisions permit judicial amendment where the rightful interests of one of the parties have been infringed as a result of circumstances occurring after the date of the agreement.
This provision has already been the subject of several court decisions and is also being considered by the Constitutional Court of Hungary. The courts’ unwavering position has always been not to permit amendment for changes affecting economic life as a whole or changes affecting all parties of agreements of the same kind. Judicial amendment can only be used to deal with circumstances related to the actual terms of an individual agreement, and not fundamental socio-economic changes affecting multiple legal relationships between parties.
The Constitutional Court was of a similar opinion when it ruled that the consequences of society-wide changes affecting a high number of agreements cannot reasonably be resolved within the framework of individual litigation. This strongly suggests that Sunday closing will not be grounds for judicial amendment of lease agreements: any amendment to deal with its consequences will therefore have to made by agreement between the parties.