The Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) has published a Regulatory Compliance Handbook which sets out how he expects pub-owning businesses, covered by the Code, to act in a number of important areas.
This includes adhering to minimum standards when it comes to communication and engagement with tenants. Best practice behaviours in this area include the expectation that pub-owning businesses will have robust internal systems in place to capture the issuing of rent proposals, rent assessment proposals, MRO full responses and all records of visits to tied pub premises.
Businesses will also be expected to routinely inform pub tenants of any updates through channels such as tenant magazines and e-newsletters.
On the issue of MRO communications and processes, the PCA said that at a renewal or Rent Assessment proposal it expects pub-owning businesses to give tied pub tenants factual information about their MRO option – the minimum requirement would be the supply of up-to-date copies of all relevant PCA literature and materials.
Pub-owning businesses are also expected to take a pro-active approach to ensuring meaningful engagement and negotiation with the tied pub tenant throughout the MRO process.
The third area of focus is on business development managers, in terms of training and operations, whereby all pub-owning businesses should ensure business development managers, and other staff who deal with tied pub tenants, have successfully undertaken Pubs Code awareness training, and complete annual refresher training.
The launch the handbook forms part of the PCA’s response to concerns identified in the Market Rent Only (MRO) verification exercise, earlier this year, which revealed a low conversion rate of MRO notices served into MRO – or free of tie – tenancies agreed.
PCA Paul Newby, said: “I recognise there has been concern and frustration with the operation of the Pubs Code – I share much of that. The Code is new and new law can take time to bed down but I believe we have an action plan that will deliver real progress,” said PCA Paul Newby.”
“My strong focus on increasing the pace of arbitrations will be a great help in the process of developing the key principles that will provide more clarity on the Pubs Code,” he added.
But British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said while it welcomes examples of best practice in code compliance “there is a concern that this could create another level of complexity”.
“It does, however, reflect discussions between the CEOs of individual companies covered by the Statutory Code and the Adjudicator and we believe we are already adhering to much of this proposed best practice,” she added.
The Handbook will be updated as and when new issues or developments arise.