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Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Austria?

Summer is here, making it the perfect time to grill. But are you allowed to do it - and under what circumstances can your landlord stop you?

Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Austria?
Grilling in Austria. What are the rules? Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

With the weather getting warmer and heatwaves sweeping across the country, we’re now in peak barbecue season. 

For those lucky ducks with a big backyard in Austria, you’ve probably already cooked up a barbecue or two this year. 

The situation is different however for city dwellers or anyone with an apartment. 

Due to the high density living in many parts of Austria, there are often restrictions on what you are allowed to do – even on your own property. 

As The Local Austria reported in 2016, neighbours have successfully challenged a person’s right to smoke on their balcony. 

The consequence was a partial ban during certain times which was in fact incredibly complicated. 

The court has now come up with a set of rules as to when the man can and can’t smoke at home, depending on whether it’s winter or summer. It said smoking is not allowed on the balcony or with the windows open between 10pm and 6am and that during the summer a smoking ban should also be upheld during the usual “eating and resting times” – between 8am and 10am, midday and 3pm, and 6pm and 8pm.”

Therefore, Austrian courts will not be reluctant to restrict what you can do on your balcony – and in the most complicated way possible. 

These restrictions are not only from a legal perspective, but could be a part of your tenancy agreement. 

Does Austrian law let me grill on my balcony? 

Strictly speaking, there are no Austrian laws that prevent you from having a BBQ on your balcony. 

The major question – and what the court looked at in the above smoking example – is whether the action “goes beyond what is customary for the location”, under Section 364 (2) ABGB (Austria’s General Civil Code). 

This is the case with regard to noise, smoke, odour and other actions that can impact a neighbour’s enjoyment of their property. 

Of course, this means that it will be a question for a court to determine if there is a dispute. 

If your neighbours are fine with it, then there will be no issues. If they do have a problem however, then they can go to court and get an injunction to stop you from doing it. 

One major thing that the court will consider is whether the smoke from the BBQ enters another person’s house, i.e. it “penetrates the windows” reports Vienna Online. 

This means that while the smoke and the smell might waft across someone else’s balcony, it will only be an issue if it enters their house. 

So unless you’re grilling brontosaurus burgers day in day out, it’s unlikely that occasional barbecue activity will breach Austrian law. 

That said, if your neighbour’s grilling is becoming a problem – and nothing is being done about it – you may be entitled to ask for a rent reduction under section 1096 ABGB. You will be entitled to a reduction if the property cannot be used as contractually agreed

Can my landlord stop me from having a barbecue on my balcony? 

Another possible buzzkill will be your tenancy arrangement, which can prevent you from doing certain activities. 

READ MORE: Why do so few Austrians own their home?

If your lease agreement expressly prohibits you from barbecuing, then you need to stick to it. 

If you breach this, you may receive a formal warning or in some instances have your lease terminated. 

The latter is an extreme option, but generally these clauses are written into a tenancy agreement for a reason. 

One thing to remember is that the tenancy agreement is just that – an agreement. This means that even if you don’t know about the clause, you technically agreed to it. 

This is important because it means that a clause cannot be put in at a later time to prevent you from grilling – unless of course you agree to its inclusion. 

Some tenancy agreements will prohibit particular types of grills, i.e. charcoal or wood, while allowing others such as electric or gas barbecues. 

While the smell of your tasty sausages is going to be there nonetheless, obviously electric or gas grills will not produce smoke and will not annoy your neighbours as much. 

This is something to consider even if there are no express prohibitions. 

And even if you are restricted from some or all types of grilling, ultimately your neighbours are the ones who it will impact – and who are likely to complain. 

So if you want to give yourself the best chance of being on their good side while grilling this summer, invite them around for a Käsekrainer or two. 

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Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.