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Flexible arbitration can pay dividends

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I read with some optimism Kim Franklin's column about flexibility in arbitration (AJ 2.5.02).

Some time ago we developed a small apartment building. The contractor tendered £199,950 and at the end of an acrimonious contract claimed half a million.

Facing personal bankruptcy, we declined and were frogmarched into RICS arbitration.

The arbitrator (a QS now retired) told us that for him to rule on the several lever-arch files of claims would take a year and he would charge at least £30,000 on top of our legal costs.

An alternative, he suggested, was to try to resolve our differences claim by claim, and when we reached an impasse both parties come to see him. He would then tell us what he would probably decide should we ask him formally to rule.He would charge us by the hour and recommended that we not bring lawyers.

We went to see him a further four times, over about six months, until the outstanding matters were answered.We paid such claims as he recommended and his fee came to £3,000.

A friend had an arbitration over a similar amount. The decision took several years with lawyers on both sides and cost somewhere near £20,000. We felt very lucky with the flexible arbitrator we had been assigned.

Alfred Munkenbeck, London EC2A

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