Campaign for Pubs

The Campaign for Pubs writes to the Pubs Code Adjudicator urging her to acknowledge serious flaws in the Market Rent Only process and not mislead tenants

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs has written to the Pubs Code Adjudicator, Fiona Dickie, urging her not to mislead tenants about her powers to resolve serious problems arising for tied pub tenants as a result of the Covid crisis.

The letter from the Campaign for Pubs PCA Liaison Officer, Gary Murphy (licensee of Ye Olde Mitre Inne High Barnet) and Campaign Director Greg Mulholland is responding to Fiona Dickie’s first monthly column in the Morning Advertiser and in particular her claim that the PCA and Pubs Code can help with the dire situation faced by many pubs tenants due to the Covid crisis.

The sad reality is that the Pubs Code and the way it is operated by the PCA means that it is of very little use in dealing with the urgent and serious matter of Covid. The grounds for complaint are too narrow, the processes are convoluted and take far too long (which Government promised would not be the case) and the remedies are wholly inadequate.

The letter points out that, even if a tenant with reduced income as a result of Covid thinks that they qualify within the narrow scope for the Market Rent Only Option, they can expect as a minimum to have to pay their full unaffordable rent for 18 months, pay for and go through two laborious arbitration processes with subsequent battles to recover their costs, pay for and go through a rent valuation process and then to pay for the closure of their current lease and to establish a new lease. This assumes that the process goes smoothly, and the pub-owning company does not require further arbitrations and appeals.

This is the reality of the MRO process and tenants are being denied their legal right to move to a Market Rent Only agreement in a reasonable timescale and at reasonable cost.

This is not what Parliament intended, and the Pubs Code Adjudicator in failing to accept and communicate the limitations of the Pubs Code and her powers is actually denying the real intentions of a Parliament.   As a result, tied tenants remain worse off than free of tie tenants and many are being tipped to financial ruin as a result of Covid.

The Campaign for Pubs has criticised  the wholly unrealistic picture of the process given by Ms Dickie in her article and have called on her instead to be honest and admit publicly that the Pubs Code and Market Rent Only legislation has failed.

Gary Murphy, Campaign for Pubs PCA Liaison Officer said:

“It’s time to be honest that the Pubs Code has failed. The PCA has made the situation worse for tied tenants, not better. Tied tenants simply need a legal right to request an assessed Market Rent Only rent and to resolve disputes through ordinary contract arbitration and Court processes“

Greg Mulholland, Campaign for Pubs Campaign Director said:

“It’s disappointing that the new Pubs Code Adjudicator seems more interested in public relations that in actually doing the job of upholding tenants’ rights and actually adjudicating on key issues. Currently, tenants do not have a genuine Market Rent Only option as envisaged by Parliament. Tenants were promised the right to move to a Market Rent Only agreement not longer than 120 days from triggering their right to apply for one, yet that is deliberately thwarted and delayed by pubcos and the Adjudicator not only does nothing to stop it, but is engaging in unnecessary arbitration rather than upholding tenants’ rights.

“We need Fiona Dickie to be honest and admit that the current MRO process is deeply flawed, takes far too long and is denying many tenants their right to go MRO. We call on her to join us in calling for essential changes so tenants get the simple right to the Market Rent Only option as intended by Parliament”.

Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“Since the Pubs Code came into effect we have seen a pitiful number of tenants managing to use it in any way to get a fair deal, let alone see the tortuous process of gaining a genuine MRO deal through to its conclusion. The path is littered with countless obstacles, and these are openly exploited by pub companies to the full in order to thwart applicants by both dragging out the process and ramping up costs. The idea that such a flawed Code can be of help to tenants in such an urgent crisis as this current pandemic is frankly risible.

“It was hoped that a change of Adjudicator would see a fresh start, with these barriers being broken down so that tenants could finally achieve the low-cost speedy resolution originally envisaged by Parliament, but sadly nothing has changed. We need the Adjudicator to say enough is enough and to acknowledge the shortcomings and limitations of both the Code and her own powers, and to report the problems back to the Secretary of State, as is her statutory duty.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“The Adjudicator must demand reforms so that the situation is rectified and then adopt a decisive stance (as should always have been the case) as a fierce champion for tenants against the continuing blatant exploitation which has gone on for so many years now, and which led to the creation of the Code and indeed her own post in the first place”.