A former Punch lessee has won a legal battle against the pubco for failing to pay interest on his deposit, despite keeping it for six weeks after assignment.
Ben Hope took on a lease at the Hope Inn in Chichester, West Sussex, in February 2000 and assigned the lease in August 2006. Although Punch paid back his £11,000 deposit, it delayed doing so for six weeks - and paid no interest during that period.
It is a lot of money and although I have moved out of the trade I may have needed that for a deposit on another pub former Punch lessee Ben Hope.
"They were satisfied enough that I didn't owe them any money to allow the transfer of the lease to go through and had already received the new deposit, so why should I have to wait six weeks for my deposit to be returned?" he asked. "It is a lot of money and although I have moved out of the trade I may have needed that for a deposit on another pub."
Hope claims he was passed from "pillar to post" in trying to get his deposit returned until he threatened legal action.
"When I finally got the cheque, I realised they had not applied interest over the delay period so I decided to take them to the County Court."
Punch failed to turn up at court and the judge ordered the pubco to pay £47.73 in interest plus Hope's costs of £45. "It was not necessarily the amount of money but the principle," said Hope, who also runs his own property development company. "If you multiply that by 500 to 600 a year, then they are keeping a lot of money that is not actually theirs. Punch is earning interest on ex-tenants' funds, to which they have no legal entitlement."
A spokesperson for Punch Taverns said: "Deposits are normally returned to retailers within two weeks, although this turnaround time does vary according to the terms of the specific lease agreement signed. In this case we accept there was an error in processing Mr Hope's paperwork which delayed the refunding of his deposit.
"We apologise for this delay and are glad the matter has now been resolved."