Paul Newby and I will shortly take an important step to bring more transparency to the arbitration process and shed greater light, in particular, on the market rent only process, by publishing pubs code arbitration awards.
This is a significant milestone in the history of the PCA. Publishing arbitration awards is powerful because it means pub companies will put their arguments and behaviours in the public domain. This will provide an equal level of understanding and transparency between pub companies and tied tenants.
The standard of preparation by the parties to arbitration is critical. I hope that publication limits the need for the same evidence and argument to be repeated in successive cases and improves the standard of that evidence and argument presented. Paul and I must keep an open mind in each case, but we expect our decisions on the law in fully argued cases to be respected.
Proper negotiation between parties is critical to maintaining successful tenancy relationships and publishing awards creates a greater incentive for pub companies to conduct fair negotiations. We are clear that the best option for most parties is to settle promptly through negotiation.
I am pleased to say that this is now becoming the norm and I anticipate that publication will reinforce this development.
Of those referrals received in the first half of 2018, more than 70% have been closed, settlement terms are being agreed or they are stayed at the request of the parties for settlement discussions. Of these closed cases, the average case duration was fewer than 4 months.
So, the cases that need an award by the arbitrator are the exceptions, and are often complex and challenging. Publication will show that complexity, but not the investment in time we, as arbitrators, make in actively managing cases, responding to correspondence, issuing directions, narrowing issues and engaging with the parties. Most often it is that significant workload that results in settlement. Publishing awards is progress but it is just one step in embedding the code’s principles. We are taking other, significant regulatory steps through the publication of the Regulatory Compliance Handbook, following up concerns raised in the pub companies’ first Compliance Reports and continuing to build intelligence through the new MRO questionnaire.
Brick by brick we are building the strong foundations to support the fair and lawful dealing principle of the Code.