Wind of justice: Austrian man fined for farting on police has sentence reduced on appeal

The 500 fine issued by Vienna police for a "provocative" fart made headlines around the world last year.

People in the Stadt Park in Vienna

The Viennese man was given the fine after “letting wind escape loudly” last June, following an identity check by police in a park Der Standard newspaper reports. 

The news made headlines across the world, forcing Vienna police to issue a clarification on social media that “of course no-one will be reported for accidentally ‘letting one go’ once”.

The man had challenged the fine, saying although he had farted, this was a “biological process”, which would have amounted to freedom of expression even if it had been done deliberately. 

The administrative court reduced the penalty from €500 euros to €100 euros, pointing to the man’s lack of a criminal record while saying he only had “average” culpability of the offence

Friends ‘laughed and made jokes’

The Vienna Regional Administrative Court stated in its ruling that the man was on a park bench, when he lifted his buttocks and let the wind escape in a way which was perceived by everyone present.

The man’s friends laughed and joked about the incident.

According to the administrative court, the basic right to freedom of communication is not limited to a certain form of communication, but a statement must also have a certain “communicative content”.

However, this is not the case with “pure body stimuli”, the court said, according to the newspaper report.

Makes state order ‘ridiculous’

It concluded even if it were accepting that farting were to accept an act of communication, the wind would still be a “form of expression that transcends the boundaries of decency”. 

The court added “form of action seems suitable to completely undermine any state order and to make it ridiculous”, according to Der Standard newspaper. 

The paper also features comments from Paul Eberstaller, university assistant at the Juridicum, who says the ruling shows how problematic the offence of decency is, particularly when comparing public and private life. 

“If a private person had been a ‘victim’ in this case, public decency would not be violated. In addition, the authorities would probably not pursue complaints from private individuals. At the same time, legal protection is often lacking in the event of actual problems,” he said. 

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Is Vienna running out of rental apartments?

It's no secret that finding an apartment to rent in Vienna isn't an easy challenge. But just how bad is the situation?

Is Vienna running out of rental apartments?

As Austria grapples with a sharp decline in new residential construction, the real estate industry faces mounting challenges in meeting housing demands, Austrian media has reported. 

Experts have alerted that construction starts in the residential segment are plummeting, with numerous projects either postponed or halted, signalling a pressing need for intervention to address the growing housing shortage.

Daniel Riedl, a member of the Management Board of Buwog’s parent company, Vonovia, underscores the economic difficulties in developing affordable, high-quality residential properties. With no construction starts planned for 2024, the industry is at a standstill, grappling with rising interest rates and persistently high construction costs, he explained. 

READ ALSO: What experts say will happen to the Austrian housing market in 2024

“Our aim is to start construction as soon as the situation has eased,” said Riedl. However, it is not yet possible to predict when market conditions will improve, he added.

Rental apartments particularly hit

Building rental apartments has become financially unviable for developers, with generated values falling below production costs, as explained by Riedl.

Karina Schunker, Managing Director of EHL-Wohnen, highlights a staggering supply shortage of over 50 percent in the rental apartment sector, exacerbating demand pressures. Consequently, terminations of existing rental contracts have decreased.

“Residents are staying in their apartments due to a lack of alternatives,” Schunker said.

While the search for apartments has surged in the purchase segment, the realisation rate, or how often people actually buy a home, has declined. Prospective homebuyers increasingly face hurdles as banks demand pre-selling rates from developers before construction starts, aiming to mitigate risk.

READ ALSO: Renting in Austria – The key things foreign residents need to know

Rising interest rates have compounded affordability challenges, making condominium purchases unattainable for many private buyers.

Schunker stresses the financial constraints and says that potential consumers have almost shrunk completely down to buyers who have an inheritance available, and can meet the 20 percent equity requirement and monthly loan instalments rules.

The repercussions of these challenges are reflected in plummeting new construction figures, with Vienna expected to witness a significant decline of over 46 percent in completed apartments compared to the record year of 2019.

Experts anticipate further decreases in 2025 and 2026, signalling an inevitable housing shortage in the sector.