The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

2021 marks a significant milestone for Hamilton Fraser. Initially created as a niche insurance broker in 1996, this year the company celebrates 25 years of continuous operation.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

The launch of Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance in 1996 established Hamilton Fraser as an innovator in the private rented sector, and that’s been the case ever since. From being at the forefront of the tenancy deposit scheme in 2007 with Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd, to the recent launch of Ome, a deposit replacement product, Hamilton Fraser has not only responded to the ever-changing sector, but has been an ever-present name that has helped shape it.

With more than 200 staff that look after in excess of 500,000 individual customers, Hamilton Fraser has ridden the waves of the ever-changing private rented sector and has grown to become one of the key names within it.

The following charts the rental sector from its beginnings in the 13th century, focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries and the part that Hamilton Fraser and its partners have played in making the private rented sector the exciting, dynamic and professional industry it is today.

There’s a lot of information here, but you can skip ahead using the menu below:

The evolution of the rental market


Serf’s up!

The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 saw the first statutory rules on human and property rights in England. Before this a King – lords – knights – tenants feudal pyramid system existed, which was open to extortion and abuse.

That statute of Quia Emptores 75 years later allowed the purchase and sale of land for the first time, the legal principles of which amazingly still regulate the transfer of land in England and Wales today.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

The changing face of renting in the 20th Century

Fast forward 600 years to before WW1 and most people in Britain – around 90 per cent – rent their homes. But this was soon to radically change, with a trend of decline in private renting throughout most of the 20th century. Social policy shifts, and legislation such as security of tenure and rent controls in England and Wales meant that returns were low for landlords, renting was seen as a poor risk and letting residential property became increasingly unpopular.

Anti-landlord sentiment was rife and was exacerbated in the 1960s by the notoriety and scandals of Peter Rachman and others, with “Rachmanism” entering the English language as a term used to describe the activities of ruthless slum landlords, and their exploitation of hapless tenants.

By 1991 only seven per cent of the British population privately rented their homes.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

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The Housing Acts of change

Thatcher’s Conservative government sought to revamp the rented sector through the 1988 Housing Act, and this was followed eight years later by the 1996 Housing Act.

These Acts removed rent control, allowed private landlords to let at market rates and, through the introduction of the assured shorthold tenancy agreement in the 1988 Act, provided a mechanism for landlords to get their property back if needed.

Investment returns became economically viable again, encouraging homeowners, small landlords and investors to enter the lettings market.

These legislative changes in England and Wales coincided with shifts in population demographics and people wanting a modern lifestyle began to favour renting for its flexibility.


Here comes professionalism

But with the opening up of the sector to many first-time landlords it became apparent that being a landlord still carried a measure of risk and insecurity. With no dedicated insurance for those renting out properties until October 1996, if a landlord wanted to insure their let property, they had to purchase a standard homeowners insurance policy and hope that their mortgage lender didn’t find out. And if a tenant was injured due to an issue with the property there was no liability cover!

In 1996, Hamilton Fraser began its journey as a niche insurance broker set up by Eddie Hooker (CEO), Simon Fox (Shareholder), and David Jacobs (Financial Director) to serve the emerging needs of the private rented and aesthetics sectors.

Recognising this industry opportunity, Hamilton Fraser launched Total Landlord Insurance, one of the first dedicated insurance products for landlords in the UK and still one of our central services.

This provided landlords with comprehensive cover and peace of mind should the worst happen.

Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance helped pave the way for the professionally recognised ‘buy to let’ sector of today, establishing the Hamilton Fraser name in the market and helping landlords to protect the things that mattered most.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

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The buy to let boom

In 1999, a free open access website for landlords and agents is founded by established landlord, Tom Entwistle. LandlordZONE provides expert advice and guidance to the landlord community, including a (very busy!) discussion forum.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

In the same year Landlord Action, one of the UK’s best-known eviction and housing law specialists, is founded by Paul Shamplina. It offers landlords a professional and legal route to stage legal evictions.

A pivotal point for the property sector

The principle of landlords taking a security deposit has been ingrained in the private rented sector for more than 300 years, but the Housing Act 2004 was a turning point for the private rented sector, as well as for Hamilton Fraser.

The act brought in a wide-ranging piece of legislation that was pivotal to the modernisation of the sector. It contained provision to create security for the tenant’s deposit in the form of tenancy deposit protection (TDP). Research undertaken by the Government and tenant focused organisations, had shown that some 20 per cent of tenants’ deposits had been unfairly or unreasonably withheld by landlords, often with no explanation.

This new piece of legislation would create a legal requirement for all landlords to protect their tenants’ deposits in authorised tenancy deposit protection schemes. The schemes would also be required to make binding decisions in the event of a dispute over who was entitled to the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

At the time, there was no ‘blue-print’ for creating a tenancy deposit protection scheme anywhere in the world other than in Australia, and the only existing scheme in the UK was a competitor’s custodial only model. Insurance backed tenancy deposit protection didn’t exist, but would offer real benefit for landlords and agents, who would be able to hold on to the deposit themselves. Hamilton Fraser and the National Landlords Association (NLA) together successfully persuaded the Government that there was a need for both schemes in the market.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

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The future of tenancy deposit protection is decided

In 2006, 18 months after discussions began, Hamilton Fraser and the NLA submitted a joint bid to the Government under the then named, Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd.

The tenancy deposit protection contract for England and Wales is awarded to Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd by the Government. It is one of only three contracts awarded, along with TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) and DPS (Deposit Protection Service). All three services are still in operation today.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

The modern private rented sector begins

Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd is launched in 2007, representing a key turning point not only in Hamilton Fraser’s history but the sector too. Landlords, tenants and agents finally had security and protection within the sector.

For Hamilton Fraser, this provided vital experience in bidding for and operating public sector contracts.

Something which would be further developed over the years.

“Winning mydeposits was the proudest moment of my professional life in 2007”

– Eddie Hooker, Hamilton Fraser CEO