Calls for tougher rules to protect pub tenants15th January, 2014 by Lauren May
A pub landlord who was left with no hot water, no heating and faulty electrics has re-ignited a debate over the rules governing the relationship between “tied pub tenants” and freeholders.
In May 2010 Steve Saunders agreed to move in to The Groeslon Arms in Anglesey for a rent of £28,500 a year subject to its freeholder Punch Taverns bringing the building, which had no hot water, heating and was riddled with damp, up to a basic standard.
However four years later Punch Taverns have failed to act with only basic electric work completed and a water heater fitted in the loft so Mr Saunders can have a shower.
The company has reduced the rent to £15,000 however Mr Saunders said he is still taking a risk everyday in running the pub.
He said: “We said we would be prepared to move in and take over the running of the pub and move towards signing a lease but again stressed that the condition of the property has to be addressed at once. This was agreed and on that basis we took over running the pub.
“This is something I regret doing as basically we have been lied to by no less than five Punch regional managers in the past four years. We have been hoodwinked, mis-led, bullied and ripped off.
“The premise has not been dealt with as agreed and is in a shocking condition.”
However Punch Taverns dispute the agreement saying no such contract was agreed.
A spokesperson said: “When Mr Saunders took over the Groselon Hotel in 2012 he did so on a fully repairing lease having bought the agreement from the previous tenant who was also his employer.
“Contrary to the claim that Punch Taverns promised to complete works on the property and have reneged on that promise, there is clear documentation between solicitors from September 2011, that Punch would not be completing works on the property.
“As such we do not agree that Mr Saunders has been lied to or made any such promises.
“That said, we have been in long-negotiations with Mr Saunders throughout 2013 to resolve some of these issues and we have undertaken works for which Mr Saunders is responsible at our cost as well as putting in place a rental reduction.”
Dave Mountford, GMB branch secretary for tied pub tenants, said The Groeslon Arms is just one of many similar cases and, together with Labour MP Tony Perkins, is calling for statutory rules to govern the relationship between freeholders and tied pub tenants.
The changes sought would prevent pub freeholder from going back on promises made to new leaseholders who take on rundown pubs.
On 21 January Labour will hold an opposition day debate on pub companies calling for a statutory code following the recent completion of a government consultation on pub companies.
Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s Shadow Pubs Minister said: “Too many pubs across Britain are closing their doors and we urgently need action but ministers are dragging their feet.
“A wide range of bodies from the Federation of Small Businesses, CAMRA and trade unions to the BIS Select Committee and the All Party Save the Pub Group have recognised that the relationship between the big pub companies and local landlords is an unfair one which needs to be fixed and have backed plans for a proper statutory code with teeth.
“Pubs are vital hubs in communities up and down the country.
“By forcing a House of Commons debate we are demanding that the Tory-led Government act to support them rather than caving in to powerful vested interests.”