Pub Tenant Landlords and Reform of the Pub Code

by Stephen Downie on December 24, 2014

Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Bill (“the Bill”) that is proposed to come into force in April 2015. The Bill is currently undergoing readings before the House of Lords following the 1st reading on 19 November 2014 and the 2nd reading on 2 December 2014.

It is well publicised that following derestriction of the pub sector in the 1990s a new corporate phenomenon occurred, the Pub chain. This comprised large companies acquiring pubs and then entering into onerous leases with incoming tenants, with the effect that rents skyrocketed and tenant landlords often faced difficulty in making the business work.

The reforms to this sector have now been drafted in the form of Sections 35-63 of theBill.

These reforms are not yet specified, but the Bill requires that the Secretary of State conduct a review of the Pub Code and introduce regulations about terms of a tenancy or other agreeemnt between a pub-owning business and a tied pub tenant.

The Bill also introduces an arbitration process to settle disputes between the pub tenant and the pub-owning business, where conventionally the balance of power lies with the pub-owning business (and therefore, currently, the pub tenant rarely has – or can afford – legal assistance or protection). The Bill provides for the appointment of an Adjudicator, as part of the arbitration process, to investigate the dispute and report on his/her findings and recommendations.

Such a report may be published (subject to certain criteria) and may lead to financial penalties should either party fail to comply with any of his/her findings or recommendations.

Guidance through this process, especially at the initial stage when the Bill is introduced in April 2015, is essential for all pub tenants or pub-owning businesses and at Francis Wilks & Jones we can assist in this respect.

Stephen Downie
Stephen is a dual qualified lawyer and ACCA accountant, with over ten years experience in restructuring and insolvency law. He commenced his accountancy training with the Official Receiver and thereafter in several large private practice firms dealing with regulatory and asset recovery matters on behalf of liquidators, administrators, receivers and trustees in bankruptcy before qualifying as a solicitor. Prior to joining FWJ he was a lawyer at a large international law firm with offices in the City. Stephen is a Solicitor Advocate with experience of commercial litigation matters pertaining to dispute resolution, debt recovery and enforcement.
Stephen Downie

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