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The Beginning Of Renting

Blake Hayek
Written by Blake Hayek

Leases, Landlords and Tenancy: A Timeline

Renting has its roots in antiquity, when the name ‘landlord’ actually meant something slightly more grand than the guy who fixes your boiler.

 For the best part of five centuries following the romans, England was divided into much smaller legal jurisdictions. It was only chained together under one name when William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 and diced up the land of the Saxon lords for his mates and family who’d helped him earn the name conqueror.

Manorialism was the way of the land back then, around which the feudal system grew and developed. Either you were luck enough to be a lord and get the lion’s share, or you were a peasant, and made do with a cabbage patch. Or you were somewhere in the middle and did the lord’s dirty work.

Only in 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta did we begin to see any rules governing human and property rights. The statute of Quia Emptores also got the ball rolling by allowing the sale and purchase of land in 1290, meaning freemen could sell their rights to tenancy or of inheritance.

Things more or less chugged along for a couple of hundred years, with a few changes here and there as trade increased in the 18th century. It took industrialisation and the growth of cities for any kind big shifts to occur by way of how leases worked.

Until around the second decade of the 20th century, the vast majority of housing was privately rented. It was only with the beginning of a series of new laws and regulations that changes began happening. The Rent Act of 1915 began the trend in the 20th century towards defending the rights of tenants, and the end of the Second World War saw a dramatic increase in the number of social housing projects as an extension of the welfare state.

This trend continued until Thatcher’s government introduced a series of laws which turned the tide back in the balance of protecting landlords. The Housing Act of 1988 introduced the concept of the assured shorthold tenancy, which meant landlords were able to more freely reclaim properties back after the duration of a contract. The most famous of the acts passed during this period, however, was the Housing Act of 1980 which gave council house tenants the “Right to Buy” their homes.

Since 1991 when private renting in the UK saw an all-time-low at a mere 7%, the private rental sector has been growing. Many accredit the changes undergone in the 1980s through these acts and their respective amendments in 1996 and 2004 to new financial products such as Buy-to-Let mortgages. Others note an increasingly mobile labor force, job insecurity, short-term contracts, and high divorce rates as other possible causes. Whatever the reason, there seems to be growing view that the figures are set to increase. Some estimate that as many as a quarter of households in the UK will rent privately by 2021.

And of course it’s not just permanent residences that are making steps towards private renting, either. Services like Airbnb are fast taking over many city centres across Europe, with new rules and regulations having to be drafted to respond to the changes.

So there you have it: perhaps the fastest study guide on leases, landlords and tenancy you’ll find this side of SparkNotes. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: The People Speak

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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