Pubs code adjudicator Paul Newby has said there have been 435 enquiries and 121 referrals for arbitration in the first six months of the new legislation.
The new regulations – which came into force on 21 July 2016 – allow tenants of pub companies and breweries that operate 500+ pubs to request a market rent only (MRO) agreement, meaning they will no longer be tied to buy drinks and other products direct from their landlords.
The figures released today span the period from 21 July to 21 January; the top issues raised by callers to the enquiry line have been requests for information about rent assessment and the MRO process, and tenancy renewal.
Newby said: 'The figures I have released today demonstrate the scale of the task for the PCA. In recent weeks, I have increased my office resources to support this work and I expect some of the early cases to be completed shortly.
'I am committed to resolving all arbitrations without undue delay. However, some are complex cases and as the legislation is new, many are the first of a kind.'
He added: 'If I am to take action on code-related issues it needs to be evidence-based and I would encourage tenants to come forward with that evidence where they believe they have experienced inappropriate practices. I would urge them to contact the enquiry line confident that their identities will be protected.'
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said: 'While it will take time to obtain a full picture of the ongoing demand, it is encouraging to see that the rate of new enquiries appears to have fallen sharply, since November.
'However, there is clearly good awareness of the Code, and this serves to highlight the need for further guidance from the Adjudicator over the coming months, and we and our members are working closely with his office.'
The Pub Governing Body (PGB) has also announced today that it has now made its PIRRS (Pub Industry Rent Review Scheme) 'low-cost tied rent resolution service' available to companies and tenants now covered by the statutory code in England and Wales.
PGB chairman Sir Peter Luff said: 'The introduction of the statutory legislation last year led to a situation whereby those companies affected and their tenants could no longer use the low-cost equitable method of resolving tied rent disputes provided by PIRRS.
'Following discussions with companies and tenants, we are pleased to announce the PIRRS procedure has been amended to allow the use of PIRRS to resolve tied rents on a case-by-case basis, if both parties mutually agree to use the system. This is a positive step which will benefit both companies and tenants.'