In a bid to preserve the attractiveness of arbitration in the wake of the faster and less expensive procedures for dealing with disputes by litigation announced recently, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has announced a 'fast-track' arbitration scheme, which can be used in disputes involving less than £100,000.
The system attempts to reduce the time taken to deal with arbitrations, as well as stipulating a maximum number of hours for which arbitrators can charge and introducing a cap on their hourly rates.
The procedure will be that each side must present its statement of case plus evidence including expert reports. A hearing is not automatic, but either party may request a hearing and, if there is one, the arbitrator will produce, at least 28 days before the hearing date, a list of issues which must be addressed by the experts, who will then produce a joint report within 14 days.
No oral evidence will be taken from the experts except in response to the arbitrator's questions. The parties to the dispute will then be able to ask questions in clarification of the answers given, but not to cross-examine the experts.
The aim of the scheme is to settle disputes within six months.