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On track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code

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Reform of the Belgian Civil Code

After more than two centuries, we are on track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code. The extensive Civil Code reform aims to suit the needs of the modern society by codifying or modernising backbone rules of the laws of property, evidence, obligation and contracts.

In 2015, experts from the academic world were entrusted with the task of revamping the Civil Code around the following main characteristics:

  • To produce a new Civil Code that states in clear and simple language the rules governing private relations between citizens
  • To modernise legal concepts for the contemporary context and to get rid of outdated concepts
  • To produce a new Civil Code integrating all the dispersed laws and codifying the court-created civil rules, making the legal concepts more accessible, transparent and foreseeable.

The result is a new Civil Code.

 

The current status is the following:

Implementation

Click through the wheel to navigate the timeline.

4 February 2020

Adoption of Book 3 (Property Law)

Book 3 contains 188 articles and is a fairly comprehensive revision of property law. 

It is divided in 8 titles:

  • Title 1 : General provisions (Articles 3.1 - 3.37)
  • Title 2 : Classifications of goods (Articles 3.38 - 3.49)
  • Title 3 : Ownership (Articles 3.50 – 3.67) 
  • Title 4 : Co-ownership (Articles 3.68 – 3.100)
  • Title 5 : Neighbourly relations (Articles 3.101 – 3.137)
  • Title 6 : Usufruct (Articles 3.138 – 3.166) 
  • Title 7 : Long-term lease (Articles 3.167 – 3.176)
  • Title 8 : Right to build (Articles 3.177 – 3.188)
1 November 2020

Entry into force of Book 8 (Evidence)

On 1 November 2020, Book 8 on Evidence of the New Civil Code entered into force.  It has become clear that the introduction of these new rules was no earth-shattering event.  Courts are becoming more and more familiar with the concept of standard of proof. Finally, claimants regularly try to convince the judge to order a reversal of the burden of proof in the sense of Article 8.4, para. 5, but courts seem to be cautious in using this new technique for the time being.

1 September 2021
  • Entry into force of Book 3 (Property law)
19 January 2022
  • Adoption of Book 2, section 3 (Patrimonial relations of couples) – Adoption of Book 4 (Inheritance, donations and wills)
28 April 2022
  • Adoption of Book 5 (Obligations) - Adoption of Book 1 (General provisions) – Modification of the Law of 13 April 2019 : the Civil Code includes now 10 Books
1 July 2022
  • Entry into force of Book 2, section 3 and of Book 4
1 January 2023 - Entry into force of Books 1 and 5

Book 1 is an introduction to the other nine books of the New Civil Code.

It contains legal concepts with a transversal application such as direct or indirect representation, legal act or public policy, general principles such as the prohibition of abuse of right and the prohibition of malicious intent and rules over the application of the law over time and over the computation of time.
Book 5 covers and completes articles 1101 to 1369 of the old Civil Code under three main titles which reshuffle the previous ordering in a new, easy-to-apprehend structure:

  • Title 1 - Introductory provisions (Articles 5.1 – 5.3)
  • Title 2 - Sources of obligations (Articles 5.4 – 5.137)
  • Title 3 - The general rules governing the obligations (Articles 5.138 – 5.270
1 February 2024
  • Adoption of Book 6
September 2024
  • Expected entry into force of Book 6
13 April 2019

Creation of a new Civil Code consisting of 9 Books - Adoption of Book 8 on Evidence. 

Book 8 introduces a few real novelties such as :

  • Less evidence formalism by raising the threshold above which a written document is required from 375 EUR to 3.500 EUR (Article 8.9) and by abolishing the required hand-written formula “approved for” with respect to the unilateral obligation to pay (Article 8.20).
  • Expansion of the system of proof by all means to all undertakings (article 8.11). This freedom of proof applies irrespective of the position of the undertaking in the proceedings (plaintiff or defendant). However, the freedom of proof only applies to an act made by an undertaking. For example, it does not apply when an undertaking wants to prove against a defendant who is not a company.
  • An accepted invoice is not only valid as evidence for a sales contract, as previously stipulated in the Commercial Code; it applies to all kinds of agreements (transports, all kinds of services) (Article 8.11, para. 4).

Click through the wheel to navigate the timeline.

2020
4 February 2020

Adoption of Book 3 (Property Law)

Book 3 contains 188 articles and is a fairly comprehensive revision of property law. 

It is divided in 8 titles:

  • Title 1 : General provisions (Articles 3.1 - 3.37)
  • Title 2 : Classifications of goods (Articles 3.38 - 3.49)
  • Title 3 : Ownership (Articles 3.50 – 3.67) 
  • Title 4 : Co-ownership (Articles 3.68 – 3.100)
  • Title 5 : Neighbourly relations (Articles 3.101 – 3.137)
  • Title 6 : Usufruct (Articles 3.138 – 3.166) 
  • Title 7 : Long-term lease (Articles 3.167 – 3.176)
  • Title 8 : Right to build (Articles 3.177 – 3.188)
November 2020
1 November 2020

Entry into force of Book 8 (Evidence)

On 1 November 2020, Book 8 on Evidence of the New Civil Code entered into force.  It has become clear that the introduction of these new rules was no earth-shattering event.  Courts are becoming more and more familiar with the concept of standard of proof. Finally, claimants regularly try to convince the judge to order a reversal of the burden of proof in the sense of Article 8.4, para. 5, but courts seem to be cautious in using this new technique for the time being.

2021
1 September 2021
  • Entry into force of Book 3 (Property law)
2022
19 January 2022
  • Adoption of Book 2, section 3 (Patrimonial relations of couples) – Adoption of Book 4 (Inheritance, donations and wills)
28 April 2022
  • Adoption of Book 5 (Obligations) - Adoption of Book 1 (General provisions) – Modification of the Law of 13 April 2019 : the Civil Code includes now 10 Books
1 July 2022
  • Entry into force of Book 2, section 3 and of Book 4
2023
1 January 2023 - Entry into force of Books 1 and 5

Book 1 is an introduction to the other nine books of the New Civil Code.

It contains legal concepts with a transversal application such as direct or indirect representation, legal act or public policy, general principles such as the prohibition of abuse of right and the prohibition of malicious intent and rules over the application of the law over time and over the computation of time.
Book 5 covers and completes articles 1101 to 1369 of the old Civil Code under three main titles which reshuffle the previous ordering in a new, easy-to-apprehend structure:

  • Title 1 - Introductory provisions (Articles 5.1 – 5.3)
  • Title 2 - Sources of obligations (Articles 5.4 – 5.137)
  • Title 3 - The general rules governing the obligations (Articles 5.138 – 5.270
2024
1 February 2024
  • Adoption of Book 6
September 2024
  • Expected entry into force of Book 6
April 2019
13 April 2019

Creation of a new Civil Code consisting of 9 Books - Adoption of Book 8 on Evidence. 

Book 8 introduces a few real novelties such as :

  • Less evidence formalism by raising the threshold above which a written document is required from 375 EUR to 3.500 EUR (Article 8.9) and by abolishing the required hand-written formula “approved for” with respect to the unilateral obligation to pay (Article 8.20).
  • Expansion of the system of proof by all means to all undertakings (article 8.11). This freedom of proof applies irrespective of the position of the undertaking in the proceedings (plaintiff or defendant). However, the freedom of proof only applies to an act made by an undertaking. For example, it does not apply when an undertaking wants to prove against a defendant who is not a company.
  • An accepted invoice is not only valid as evidence for a sales contract, as previously stipulated in the Commercial Code; it applies to all kinds of agreements (transports, all kinds of services) (Article 8.11, para. 4).

Download the full translation of Book 1

(Only available to the Knowledge subscribers)

Download the full translation of Book 5

(Only available to the Knowledge subscribers)

image of the book 5

Focus on Book 6

The reform of the Civil Code continues with the adoption of Book 6 pertaining to extra-contractual liability.

The six articles of the old Civil Code (Articles 1382 et seq.) have become six chapters, it being understood that chapter 7 includes specific regimes of liability without altering their content.

Book 6 was adopted in the plenary session of 1 February 2024, and will come into force 6 months after its publication in the Belgian Official Gazette.

To ensure you don't lose your way while navigating through Book 6, discover our useful information and tools that will be published regularly on this site.

Slides

Stay on track and click below on essentials of Book 6

Focus on Books 1 and 5

Book 1 only contains a dozen articles and is meant to be an introduction to the other nine books of the New Civil Code. Its field of application is very broad as it governs relationships between private persons and relationships between public legal persons and private persons if not subject to other legislations or to the rules of exercise of state authority.

Book 5 covers, completes and restructures Articles 1101 to 1369 of the old Civil Code (i.e. the law of obligations but not non-contractual liability). It includes 270 articles.

For you not to lose track while making your way through books 1 and 5, discover our useful tools below.

Seminar slides

Click below to download the slides of our workshop series on the modernised Belgian Civil Code.

*This content is available to clients subscribed to our Knowledge Portal.

Codex

Click below to download your copy of the Codex of Books 1, 3, 5 and 8 in Dutch and French.

Correlation Table

Download the correlation table in Dutch or French, or our bilingual version below.

Book 5 in practice

The first applications of Book 5 are making their debut in case law. Check out this section to get the scoop on the latest developments!

Highlighted articles

To fast track your understanding of the legal text, we discuss several concepts and articles of Books 1 and 5 in the materials linked here 1.

Media Hub

Discover the salient points of the Books adopted so far 

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Landlord's EPB certificate obligation and nullity consequences

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On track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code - Book 1

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On track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code - Book 3

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On track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code - Book 5

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On track to a modernised Belgian Civil Code - Book 8

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