Right to Buy

This section outlines the Government's Right to Buy policy and provides guidance and publications for public sector landlords.

First introduced in 1980, the Right to Buy scheme is aimed at secure tenants of local authorities (councils) and of registered social landlords/housing associations and at those assured tenants of registered social landlords/housing associations who previously held secure tenancies with local authorities. It is open to virtually any secure tenant who can afford to buy.

Tenants must have at least five years tenancy with a public sector body (or two years if there has been no break in the tenancy and it began before 18 January 2005).

Some properties are exempt from the Right to Buy. These include dwellings occupied in connection with a tenant's employment, and housing especially provided for older people and (in certain cases) people with disabilities.

Tenants looking to exercise the Right to Buy will find useful advice on the DirectGov (external link) website.

Recent and current policy for the Right to Buy


On 10 February 1999 the maximum discounts available to tenants were adjusted to take into account regional differences.

On 27 March 2003 the discounts were reduced to £16,000 in 41 local authority areas that were under the greatest housing pressure, in terms of a high incidence of homelessness and high local house prices.

Buy Back

In March 1999, the government announced a financial incentive to help councils buy back houses and flats from owners facing difficulty. The incentive in effect covers up to 35 per cent of a council's total costs above a threshold of £50,000 per year.

Councils have discretion to decide whom to help and in what circumstances. For example, they are free to decide what price they should offer and whether to offer the owner a tenancy in that or another property (it is open to them to offer a lower price if the owner wishes to stay in the property as a tenant), or to arrange with a housing association to provide a tenancy, or to offer another property for sale. For further information please look in Publications about the Right to Buy.

The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008

The Government's Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 includes further changes to modernise the Right to Buy.

It is still open to virtually any secure tenant who can afford to buy with the exception of dwellings occupied in connection with their employment (eg some police houses) and housing specially provided for elderly and (in certain cases) disabled people. The changes include:

  • that the district valuer's determination can be reviewed under certain circumstances
  • that social landlords can, if they wish, offer equity loans or purchase equity shares to help leaseholders pay their service charges
  • that a mortgage lender who is regulated by the Financial  Services Authority has authomatic approved lender status (a full list is available in the Approved Lending Institutions download)
  • that an initial demolition notice is valid for up to seven years  

Landlord's responsibilities

It is the responsibility of public sector landlords to process Right to Buy applications and they must provide the relevant forms to tenants as requested and comply with the statutory timescales for dealing with applications.

Copies of our publications Your Right to Buy your Home and Thinking of Buying your Council Flat, are available to download or print copies can be ordered in bulk from our publishing house in Wetherby. These booklets provide general guidance and information about the Right to Buy scheme and are specifically aimed at tenants who are considering buying the homes they rent from a public sector landlord.

Although these booklets provide basic information about Right to Buy, we would strongly recommend that professional organisations refer directly to the Right to Buy legislation - ie , to sections 118 -188 of Part V of the Housing Act 1985 (as amended). Schedules 4 and 5 of this Act are also essential reading, as they cover the qualifying period for Right to Buy, the basis on which the discount entitlement is calculated and the exceptions to the Right to Buy scheme.

Mortgage companies wishing to offer a mortgage to Right to Buy tenants must either be a High Street Bank, Building Society or an authorised mortgage lender, as defined in section 622 (1) of the Housing Act 1985, to enable them to secure the first charge on the property. A list of Approved Lending Institutions pre 22 September 2008 is available in this section.

Contact the Right to Buy team

If your question hasn't been answered on these pages please contact:

The Right to Buy policy team
Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place

Email. rtb@communities.gov.uk  
Tel. 0303 444 3799

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