Questions and answers on procedural deadlines in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in Portugal
1) Have procedural deadlines been suspended?
Yes, under Law 1-A/2020, of March 19, as amended by Law 4-A/2020, of April 6, the suspension of most procedural deadlines was decreed, until the exceptional situation of prevention, containment, mitigation and treatment of the epidemiological infection by SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19 ceases, although with a few exceptions.
1.1 Suspended deadlines
Most procedural deadlines are considered suspended since March 9, 2020 until the date of termination of the suspension is indicated, which shall be defined by decree-law declaring the exceptional situation to be over.
This suspension covers all deadlines that are not indicated in point 1.2. below.
However, this suspension does not prevent proceedings from continuing to be processed, when all parties understand that they have the conditions to ensure the practice of procedural acts through the computer platforms that enable them to be carried out electronically or through appropriate means of distance communication. This suspension also does not preclude a final decision from being issued where the status of the case so allows.
Law 4-A / 2020 clarified that the suspension covers the deadline for submitting the debtor to insolvency, as well as all acts to be carried out in the context of the enforcement proceedings, which means that seizures of assets are also suspended.
The suspension of enforcement proceedings will not apply only if the Applicant demonstrates that such suspension causes serious damage to his/her livelihood or other irreparable damage, in which case there will have to be a decision by the Court to order the enforcement proceedings to continue.
Limitation periods for all types of processes and procedures are also suspended.
Eviction actions, special eviction procedures and processes for the return of the leased property are also suspended, when the tenant, according to the final judicial decision to be handed down, may be placed in a situation of fragility due to lack of own housing or another compelling social reason.
During the duration of the measures for the prevention, containment, mitigation and treatment of the epidemiological infection by SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19, as determined by the public health authority and up to 60 days after the end of such measures, the effects of lease agreements termination, deadlines for returning the leased property and foreclosure on real estate that constitutes the defendant's own permanent home are also suspended.
1.2 Deadlines which are not suspended
Law 4-A/2020 came to establish (or at least to clarify) that, as of April 7, 2020, urgent proceedings continue to be processed, without suspension or interruption of deadlines, acts or hearings, the latter having to be carried out by means of adequate distance communication.
In the context of urgent proceedings, if it is not possible to carry out the necessary hearing through means of distance communication, it can be carried out in person only if life, physical integrity, mental health, freedom or subsistence of the parties are at stake and provided that it does not imply the presence of a greater number of people than foreseen by the recommendations of the health authorities and in accordance with the guidelines established by the competent superior councils.
Even so, the law determines the application of the suspension regime to urgent proceedings if it is not possible, nor appropriate, to ensure the performance of acts or the conduct of hearings in urgent cases.
On the other hand, Law 4-A/2020 came to determine that the following are considered urgent, for the purposes of applying the described regime:
- Processes and procedures for the defense of rights, freedoms and guarantees injured or threatened with injury by any unconstitutional or illegal measures;
- The urgent service provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, in the law of international judicial cooperation in criminal matters, in the law on mental health, in the law for the protection of children and young people in danger and in the legal regime of entry, stay, exit and removal of foreign nationals, which must be executed on Saturdays, on holidays that fall on Mondays and on the second holiday, in the case of consecutive holidays;
- Proceedings, procedures, acts and hearings that prove necessary to avoid irreparable damage, namely those relating to minors at risk or to urgent educational guardianship processes and the diligences and judgments of imprisoned defendants.
It should be noted that the deadlines related to the practice of acts performed exclusively electronically within the scope of the powers of the Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial, I. P. (intellectual property entity) are also not suspended.
The suspension of deadlines also does not apply to the pre-contractual litigation provided for in the Code of Procedure in Administrative Courts and to the deadlines related to public procurement procedures, namely those contained in the Public Contracts Code.
The procedural deadlines under the Public Contracts Code that were suspended under the previous wording of Law 1-A/2020, thus resume their counting on the date of entry into force of Law 4-A / 2020, of 6 April, that is, on April 7, 2020.
1.3 Other deadlines
The described regime also applies to: (a) procedures that run in notary and registry offices; (b) administrative, sanctioning and disciplinary procedures, including acts of judicial challenge of final or interlocutory decisions, that run terms in direct, indirect, regional and municipal administration services, and other administrative entities, namely independent administrative entities, including the Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência), the Insurance and Pension Funds Supervisory Authority (Autoridade de Supervisão de Seguros e Fundos de Pensões), Bank of Portugal (Banco de Portugal) and the Securities Market Commission (Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários), as well as those that run under professional public associations; and (c) administrative and tax procedures with respect to the practice of acts by private individuals (regarding tax deadlines, they only concern certain acts).
2) One of my documents expires shortly. Must I renew it?
All renewable documents whose term of validity expires on 9 March 2020 or during the 15 days immediately prior will be accepted as valid by public authorities.
In particular, the citizen's identity card and certificates issued by the registration and civil identification services, the driving licence, and documents and visas relating to foreigners residing in the national territory, expiring on 9 March 2020, will be accepted as valid until 30 June 2020.