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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Buying your council or housing association home - your options

If you’re a council or housing association tenant, there are government schemes in place to help you buy your home. You can use ‘Right to Buy’ and ‘Right to Acquire’ to buy your home at a discount. You need to have been a tenant for at least five years.

Help buying your home – the basics

You can use the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire schemes to buy your home at a discount on its ‘market value’. This means you’ll get it for a lower price than it would fetch on the housing market.

You could qualify for Right to Buy if you:

  • are a council housing tenant
  • used to be a council housing tenant but your council home was sold to a housing association

You could qualify for Right to Acquire if you’re a tenant of a housing association.

If you don’t qualify for these schemes, or can’t afford them, you could use the ‘Social HomeBuy’ scheme. You can buy a share of your home and pay rent on the rest.

Help buying your home – who can get help

You can only apply for Right to Buy, Right to Acquire or Social HomeBuy if you’ve been a council tenant or public sector tenant for at least five years. (It doesn’t have to be five years in a row.)

You are a public sector tenant if you have lived in properties provided by a housing association, the armed services or a public body like an NHS trust.

The Right to Buy scheme

Right to Buy gives you a discount on the ‘market value’ of your council home (how much it could fetch on the housing market). The longer you’ve been a tenant the more discount you’ll get, up to a limit that depends on where you live.

Sometimes you can’t use Right to Buy. For example, you don’t qualify if your home is sheltered housing for the elderly, the disabled or the mentally ill.

To apply for Right to Buy, speak to your landlord. They’ll tell you if you qualify and will explain how you can apply.

The Right to Acquire scheme

If you’re a tenant of a housing association, you can use Right to Acquire to buy your home.

Not all housing association homes are covered by Right to Acquire - check with your landlord if you can buy your home through the scheme.

Right to Acquire gives you a discount between £9,000 and £16,000 on the value of your home. The discount you will get depends on where you live.

Sometimes you can’t use Right to Acquire. For example, you won’t qualify if you’re being made bankrupt or you’ve been told by the court you must leave your home.

To apply for Right to Acquire, speak to your landlord. They’ll tell you if you can buy your home through the scheme and will explain how you can apply.

Before you buy: things to think about

Once you’ve bought your home, you’ll be responsible for maintenance, repairs and repayments on a loan or mortgage. You’ll no longer qualify for certain benefits, eg housing benefit.

Think about what else you’ll have to pay for and the hidden costs of buying a home, eg legal fees. Think about what might happen if you lose your job or become ill.

You might find it difficult to sell your home, especially if it’s in a high rise block or on a large estate. Speak to other people who’ve bought their council or housing association flats.

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