Since medieval times, England has held the tradition of quarter days, where debts were settled and magistrates would go to various districts to run court sessions, with the principle being that debts should not carry on past the quarter sessions; this eventually led to the concept of rent quarter days.
For centuries, 25 March has been known as ‘Lady Day’ and is also one of the four quarter days; the others are Christmas on 25 December, Midsummer’s Day on 24 June and Michaelmas on 29 September. Quarter days are often said to be connected to four significant solar events: the winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice and autumnal equinox.
Traditional rent quarter days
Quarter days were the traditional day that tenants paid their quarterly rent. Indeed, most leases still have the clause: “Rent is payable on the ‘usual quarter days’”. When tenants came to pay their quarter rent, they usually brought a fowl at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent, a capon at Christmas and a goose on Michaelmas. Not so nowadays, though you could try and rely on this tradition (at your peril!) because, if a commercial tenant does not pay rent by the due date, a landlord may, subject to the terms of the lease, seek to recover the rent arrears and in some more extreme situations, bring the lease to an end – otherwise known as forfeiture.
Modern rent quarter days
Notwithstanding the above, it should be noted that new leases in England are now tending to use the more modern quarter days of 1 January, 1 April, 1 July and 1 October, and one should always be careful to read the terms of the lease so as not to fall ‘fowl’ of them.