When the UK government threatened to ban upward-only rent reviews in 2004, then-British Land chief executive Sir John Ritblat mounted a defence of the practice that appealed to an English past of noble lords and humble rustic swains.
“The government should leave it alone,” the FT reported him as saying. “The property investment world has been built up over 1,000 years, dating from the feudal system, and it works extremely well.”
Ritblat was actually pulling the age-old rhetorical trick of appealing to a glorious past that never really existed, to justify a purely commercial motive. The truth about the origin of the modern British lease is much more recent, and arguably more interesting. It was born in Britain’s post-war economic boom, a time of fish fingers and fast food, and pioneered by an unlikely source: the Church of England.
Claims that the British lease system dates back to feudal times
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