The Laws That Brought Us Rent – Chapter 4

Blake Hayek
Written by Blake Hayek

The Law of Property Act 1925

Even the most cursory glance through the years of rent’s colourful history would reveal the closeness of rent to the laws which shaped the purchase and sale of land. Somewhere along the line, someone has the deeds.

Before 1925, buying and selling land was, well: it sucked. The laws were confusing, the process was arduous, and the end result was usually that you ended up with only more or less what you bargained for. Usually one came up against numerous obstacles during the investigation of the seller’s right to the property and the equitable rights of third parties which were themselves complex and convoluted. It could take ages and likely would incur expensive legal fees.

Brought in by the then Lord Chancellor and one of Churchill’s best mates, Lord Birkenhead, the Law of Property Act was conceived as a means of simplifying and facilitating the whole shabang. It followed on from a series of other land law and policy reforms which the Liberal government had gotten going from as early as 1906, and whilst there have been bits and bobs changed here and there, it’s mostly still in effect.

So what does this mean for the PRS then? Everything.

As we know, in the United Kingdom a freehold is the ownership of real property or land: once you get the keys, they’re yours for life. They’ll have to pry the from your cold, dead hands if they want them back. This is distinct, of course, from a leasehold: you get the keys, but only for a fixed length of time, at which point you have to give them back.

Simple enough, no? Well, once upon a time it wasn’t so straightforward. Before the LAP 1925 there were many more kinds of legal estate. Depending on whether you were an assigned heir or an heir by birth, purchase or otherwise, the nature of ownership and its entailed entitlements greatly varied. The LAP came along to streamline the whole process towards these two familiar concepts: freehold and leasehold, with the details and specifics standardised for everyone.

Buying and selling property is by no means central to every landlord’s game plan, but for many it’s the starting point. So imagine if in order to buy a property to let, you had to convene a meeting with various distant relatives of the deceased, negotiate with multiple lawyers, and host a seance to get the go-ahead? Thanks to the LAP 1925, now you don’t have to.

Image credit: Fiona Shields

About the author

Blake Hayek

Blake Hayek

Blake Hayek lives and works in London where he is completing a part-time MA in English. His thesis looks at how experimental literature of the last century has responded to the abstraction of finance capital. When he's not reading about debt, you'll find him trying to write himself out of it.

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