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The King of Spain is belatedly singeing many a landlord’s beard…

Mr Ed: This post is made on behalf of Paul Marks, the Sage of Kettering, as he appears to have some issues with posting. I have put my pennyworth in.

Centuries ago the Kings of Spain forbad landlords to remove tenants at the end of their tenancy contract (at least in Castile) – the Kings wanted to be seen as the “friends of the poor”. This was the true start of the decline of Castile and it spread to Latin America – where landlords just became interested in collecting-the-rent rather than improving their estates (as it was not lawful for them to remove tenants). Soon rents became “customary” – fixed under the “just price” doctrine, close kin of the “fair wage” doctrine.

Spain and Latin America lagged behind the Common Law world not because Spanish is somehow an inferior language to English – but because Spanish law became inferior to the Common Law which was based upon Freedom-of-Contract not “Social Justice” with its “just price”, “fair wage” and “security of tenure” (regardless of contract). The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May now seeks to copy the “Spanish Practices” of centuries ago – by making contracts meaningless. For example, if a tenant can not be removed after the term of their contract (their tenancy) is over then only a fool would let out a property in the first place. What is intended to “reduce homelessness” will end up increasing it.

Mr Ed: This piece on Conservativehome sets out the aptly-named Secretary of State’s view, Mr Brokenshire, he is indeed going to scour the Shires, and the towns and cities too. Someone said rent control was the second-surest way to destroy a city after carpet bombing.

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

The legal position (England and, I think, Wales but it may be devolved) is not set out very well in the piece, so the explanation on the government’s website is here. Basically, the legal mechanism is a Section 21 notice, whereby a property owner can evict a tenant after a 6-month tenancy has ended, i.e. it has run its minimum term, or when it is of indefinite duration. This is to be abolished, leaving in place the much less effective Section 8 Notice, whereby tenants can play cat-and-mouse by not paying rent, then paying arrears and stopping an eviction, amongst other things.

Bastiat’s ‘What is seen and what is not seen’ might seem to be the issue here, but I fear that there are those who will not ‘see’ when it does not suit them, and unlike Nelson, it is from cowardice and calculation.

Of course, if the Sage is right, Mrs May is making England that little bit more like Venezuela, singeing Mr Corbyn’s beard and stealing his clothes.

18 comments to The King of Spain is belatedly singeing many a landlord’s beard…

  • Would this be the same Mr Brokenshire who sacked Roger Scruton after that lefty rag ‘The New Statesman’ published an ‘edited’ version of an interview with him?

    If ever there was a Tory who needed to be deselected …

    Broken shire would seem almost too apt a name. 🙂

  • Runcie Balspune

    Freakonomics did a good podcast on Rent Control recently, worth a listen http://freakonomics.com/podcast/rent-control/

  • bobby b

    “We all collectively benefit from a society which can provide safe and secure homes for everyone.”

    And across the country thousands of landlords cry out “umm, excuse us, but WHO is providing safe and secure homes here?”

  • neonsnake

    For clarity – if I rent out the house I currently live in for a fixed 1 year contract to someone while I spend a year working elsewhere in the country, I’m not able to evict the tenant and move back into my own house at the end of the year?

    I’ve surely misunderstood?

  • John B

    So if there were to be a general election and the Tories lost to Labour, nothing much would change.

  • Mr Ed


    Our laws have long since got to the point where, when explaining them, you might say ‘If you are not upset, then you haven’t understood it‘. However, I believe that in the Housing Act 1988, Schedule 2, there is a provision for a former ‘residential occupier’ who has let out the family home and put that point over in writing to the tenant before the tenant moves in, where the court ‘must’ grant possession, provided all the hoops are jumped through or notice isn’t needed, but getting the order and enforcing it are different things. This is a better position that the ‘commercial’ landlord, who has the house as an asset.

    The proviso is here:

    Grounds on which Court must order possession

    Ground 1

    Not later than the beginning of the tenancy the landlord gave notice in writing to the tenant that possession might be recovered on this ground or the court is of the opinion that it is just and equitable to dispense with the requirement of notice and (in either case)—

    (a)at some time before the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord who is seeking possession or, in the case of joint landlords seeking possession, at least one of them occupied the dwelling-house as his only or principal home; or

    (b)the landlord who is seeking possession or, in the case of joint landlords seeking possession, at least one of them requires the dwelling-house as [F1his, his spouse’s or his civil partner’s] only or principal home and neither the landlord (or, in the case of joint landlords, any one of them) nor any other person who, as landlord, derived title under the landlord who gave the notice mentioned above acquired the reversion on the tenancy for money or money’s worth.

    This is under Section 8, so it is unaffected by this proposed change, which is Section 21.

    John B,

    I think that the change would be from semi-apologising and gloating to simple gloating whilst doing the same things.

  • Stonyground

    Has anyone else here read the Tom Sharpe novel The Throwback? For some reason the subject of unmovable tenants made me think of it.

  • Paul Marks

    The principles of Mrs May and other “Social Reformers” are not Conservative – they are radically anti Conservative, they reject justice in favour of “Social Justice”.

    Freedom of Contract, Freedom of Speech, National Independence – Mrs May (and people like her) reject ALL this.

    How did people such as Mrs May come to be? A corrupted culture (including a corrupted CHURCH, Mrs May’s father was a vicar and she knows the RITUALS of Christianity well – but its basic principles, such as opposition to Pagan abortion and the sexual mutilation of adults and children, are totally alien to her as they sadly are utterly alien to many Bishops) and a utterly corrupted education “system”, the schools and universities teach evil rather than good.

    Alfred the Great had a great task to perform – restoring the culture (restoring wisdom) in a land destroyed by many years of war, almost a blank slate.

    The task of future restorers of Western Civilization (if it is restored) is different – they do not face a blank slate, they face a corrupted and perverted culture in which good has been transformed into evil. The outer forms of Church and State and schools and universities remain – but their CONTENT has been utterly transformed, good has been turned into evil.

    Yes this present example is about economics – but someone whose moral sense had not bee warped (utterly warped) would not need to be told not to destroy Freedom of Contract, any more than they would need to be told not to destroy Freedom of Speech.

    If the basic moral sense of the judges themselves has been corrupted – what hope is there of justice? Still perhaps some remnant of moral truth remains in the law.

    If not then the days when babies were thrown alive onto rubbish heaps to be eaten alive by rats, and the welfare addicted “masses” were entertained by watching people thrown to wild beasts – these days will return.

  • Paul Marks

    Short version – good PRINCIPLES (such as Freedom of Contract) are alien to people such as Mrs May, instead they have evil principles. For what they do is not random – they act in line with their evil principles.

  • Paul Marks

    It is not “no fault eviction” – it is “the term of your tenancy contract has now ended – so you must go”.

    If James B. can not understand that – then he is more beast than man.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul and Mr Ed,

    Thanks for the history lesson. Much appreciated.


    –In fact, the posting tickled my curiosity bump to the point of finally arousing me to go see just what the Great Foot might say about the School of Salamanca.

    Also most interesting. If one of you would care to give a critique of the article, the closer the better, I for one would read it with interest, care, and attention — and considerable gratitude. 🙂



    And as is ever the case, one thing leads to another. The article above includes Francisco de Vitoria’s conclusions about “legitimate titles over discovered lands.” I was moved by this passage:

    The second form of legitimate title over discovered lands also referred back to a human right whose obstruction is a cause for a just war. The Indians could voluntarily refuse conversion, but could not impede the right of the Spanish to preach, in which case the matter would be analogous to the first case. Nonetheless, de Vitoria noted that although this can be grounds for a just war, it is not necessarily appropriate to make such a war, because of the resulting death and destruction.

    The other cases of this casuistry are: ….

    to consult Wikipedia on “Casuistry,” as I take it to mean, roughly, a specious but seemingly logical argument; although the writer of the passage above may have meant it in a value-free sense as a term meaning, essentially, “close or careful reasoning,” with no imputation of an attempt either to rationalize the irrational or to deceive.

    Of Casuistry, then, Wikipedia says,


    The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word “[o]ften (and perhaps originally) applied to a quibbling or evasive way of dealing with difficult cases of duty.” Its textual references, except for certain technical usages, are consistently pejorative (e.g., “Casuistry destroys by distinctions and exceptions, all morality, and effaces the essential difference between right and wrong”).[5]

    In both cases, the boldface is mine. And in particular, the final sentence, presented in boldface, certainly bears on the issue of the excursions and illegitimate (IMO, at any rate) assumptions of illegitimate, un-“just” powers — which are not included in our Constitution’s remit of governmental authority: A topic of considerable recent interest here. :>))


    I notice also in the passage on de Vitoria’s thought on “legitimate title,” this position, which I would describe as “hard-core libertarian” and to which I no longer subscribe:

    de Vitoria also analyzed whether there were legitimate claims of title over discovered lands. He elaborated up to eight legitimate titles of dominion. The first and perhaps most fundamental relates to communication between people, who jointly constitute a universal society. Ius peregrinandi et degendi is the right of every human being to travel and do commerce in all parts of the earth, independently of who governs or what is the religion of the territory. For him, if the “Indians” of the Americas would not permit free transit, the aggrieved parties had the right to defend themselves and to remain in land obtained in such a war of self-defense.

    If I read this correctly, and if the Foot of All Knowledge interprets de Vitoria correctly, then the migrants coming across our southern border illegally are in fact entitled, as human beings, to do so — our laws notwithstanding.

    But would de Vitoria see it differently in this context, on the grounds that ours is not an “undiscovered” land?

    (The question here is what de Vitoria thinks, assuming Wikip has the straight of it, and not what we today think of what the Europeans or the Spanish saw fit to do some 500 years ago.)

    Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

  • Julie near Chicago

    By the way, Richard (Epstein) has done a number of podcasts and videos that include emphasis on the bedrock and fundamental importance of property rights and of rights of contract, and on the economic evils of Rent Control.

    One example: His latest podcast on Rent Control from March 7, which traces some of the economic consequences of even “relatively benign” rent control. ~ 21 min.



    Runcie, listening to your podcast now — thanks. :>)

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Idle observation on reading this account of the capers of Mrs. May’s government — No mention of Brussels.

    It may be a useful reminder that the UK’s problems for the most part begin at home. Separation from the EU will not of itself solve the problems of Prime Ministers like May/Brown/Blair, nor the problem of a Parliament that is unwilling or unable to remove them.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “to consult Wikipedia on “Casuistry,” as I take it to mean, roughly, a specious but seemingly logical argument”

    I suspect in this case it is meant in the original sense of the word, which is of a form of moral reasoning in which an analogy is drawn between a morally murky scenario and a morally simple/obvious one, as a way of illuminating the intuition on the former, and which was often misused to argue that the morally murky case could be interpreted in a certain highly artificial way as a case of something else to come to a desired moral conclusion. (See Pascal’s Lettres Provinciales.)

    Thus, by seeing invasion as a particular case of travelling in unexplored lands, the clear moral innocence of the latter is transferred to the morally more murky invasion.

    “If I read this correctly, and if the Foot of All Knowledge interprets de Vitoria correctly, then the migrants coming across our southern border illegally are in fact entitled, as human beings, to do so — our laws notwithstanding.”

    By whose moral system? By your moral system, no they’re not. By their moral system, yes they are. On what basis do we identify which moral system trumps the other? (If the question even makes sense.) Is it the side with the most guns and the biggest army? The side endorsed by the authentic word of the true Gods or Goddesses? (Whichever ones those turn out to be.) The most popular? The most traditional? The most modern? Or is it always ‘our’ side?

    There is another way to look at positive rights. A ‘right’ is something that society collectively chooses to give all its members. If we choose to feed the starving, to voluntarily give them that right, if we all choose to follow the Constitution (considered as a social contract) and ‘pledge allegiance’, no force is needed.

    It is to be distinguished from a ‘natural right’, which is one people have irrespective of whether the society they live in chooses to give it. Not everyone believes in natural rights, and they certainly don’t agree on what those natural rights actually are!

    “But would de Vitoria see it differently in this context, on the grounds that ours is not an “undiscovered” land?”

    Discovered by who? Discovered ‘officially’? By ‘the civilised’? South America had already been ‘discovered’ by the natives, but of course the King of Spain does not recognise their claims and property rights. Whose rules are we following, and why?

    Who owns the oil beneath our land, or the airspace above it? Who owns the moon? Or outer space? Who ‘owns’ the orbital trajectory that someone’s communication satellite is flying through? Where do these rules come from? And why these rules, rather than some alternative?

    Are property rights something objective and absolute, or just a parochial social convention, specific to a particular society?

  • Nullius in Verba

    By the way, this alternative pedia seems to suggest that de Vitoria was sceptical of the arguments you mention. He may have listed them only to knock them down?


  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm. Very interesting link, Nullius. Thanks.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Julie – the School of Salamanca had many valid insights.

    The idea that economics started with Adam Smith (or even with Sir Dudley North in the 1680s and 1690s) is quite wrong.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, Paul, that much I know. I’m just wondering how accurate the Great Foot is in its article.

    Thanks for the reply. :>))