For contracts, the law stipulates the principle that a violation of contractual obligations is excusable in the context of force majeure. This means that it cannot be demanded that the other party fulfils its obligations during force majeure circumstances. However, not any situation constitutes force majeure. It must be an obstructing circumstance which is not caused by the obligor’s own activities, and which was unforeseeable and unpreventable. Thus, although often thought differently, force majeure is not a miracle cure that would allow a contract party to be released from a contract without consequences simply by notifying the other party. In reality, reliance on force majeure requires a thorough analysis, gathering evidence and actively seeking solutions.
All the above must among other things be construed in the context of the content of the relevant contract and the obligations arising therefrom, i.e., first, look at the contract and perform an analysis of the things in which the parties have agreed on.
The contract partner should also be immediately notified of force majeure circumstances, even if all the circumstances are not yet clear at that moment. A preliminary notice of a possible force majeure situation gives the counterparty a reasonable amount of time for shaping its position.
After sending the preliminary notice, do not idly wait what happens next. You should actively seek and propose solutions, as force majeure can only be relied on if its consequences are unavoidable, i.e., the obligation cannot be fulfilled in any other manner. In practice, this means obtaining alternative offers, increasing the number of employees, reorganising schedules and other such, etc. All of this should definitely be documented to prove your actions, if necessary.
You also have to be prepared to assess and justify the impact of force majeure. If justifications are scarce, it is very easy for the other party to dispute the force majeure claim. A mere generally worded notification and the establishment of, say, a new final term is not enough, as terms can be extended upon the occurrence of force majeure only in the extent of its actual impact. It should therefore be very carefully contemplated for which works and period the extension of terms is justified. The more specific and relevant the justifications, the easier it is to explain your position to the contract partner. In short – present examples, comparisons, add references, etc.
You also must take into account the temporary impact of force majeure. The impact of force majeure on a contract lasts for exactly as long as it obstructs the fulfilment of the particular obligation. As soon as the obstruction has passed, the fulfilment of the contract must be resumed, and the parties are liable for their obligations. The obstruction should obviously also be considered to have passed when the specific problem remains, but other solutions can be reasonably found (e.g., materials can be replaced with something else).
Force majeure does not generally give grounds for terminating the contract or definitively refusing to fulfil obligations, i.e., if the obstruction to the fulfilment of the contract is more extensive than the impacts of the force majeure circumstances (including, for instance, if a project has become loss-making due to a general increase in prices), the parties should still consider other solutions.
It is also important to emphasise that force majeure cannot be an obstructing circumstance in the fulfilment of financial obligations, i.e., the failure to fulfil financial obligations (e.g., the failure to pay rental fees) cannot unfortunately be justified by a force majeure situation.