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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Buying your council home - the Right to Buy scheme

You may be able to buy the home you rent from your council at a discount under the Right to Buy scheme. Find out if you can buy your home through the scheme and what discount you could get.

Who can apply for Right to Buy?

You can check your eligibility for Right to Buy on the Right to Buy microsite.

The Right to Buy scheme helps council tenants in England to buy their home at a discount. Secure tenants of Right to Buy landlords may also have the Right to Buy. Your tenancy agreement will tell you what type of tenancy you have or you can check with your landlord. You can also check the 'List of Right to Buy landlords and other public sector landlords' link below.

You can apply for Right to Buy if you’ve been a council or public sector tenant for 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. Check the 'List of Right to Buy landlords and other public sector landlords' below.

If you want to buy your home through Right to Buy, complete an application form and send it to your landlord.

You can make a ‘joint application’ to buy your home through Right to Buy with someone who shares the tenancy with you or with members of your family. They must have lived with you for the past 12 months.

You can’t buy through the scheme if:

  • the property isn't your main home
  • the property isn't self-contained (has a shared kitchen or bathroom)
  • there's a court order saying you must leave your home
  • you're an 'undischarged bankrupt'
  • you're being declared bankrupt
  • if you have entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (a legal agreement where you have made arrangements with people that you owe money to and still owe money to)
  • you have obtained a debt relief order.

Some properties won’t be sold through Right to Buy, eg if your home is suitable for housing the elderly. See the link 'Exceptions to Right to Buy' for more information.

Preserved Right to Buy

'Preserved Right to Buy' applies to some tenants who wouldn't normally qualify for Right to Buy. For example, if you are a tenant of a housing association, you don’t usually have the Right to Buy. However, you may have the Preserved Right to Buy if the council sold your home to another landlord, eg a housing association, while you were renting it. Your landlord can tell you if you have the Preserved Right to Buy.

Preserved Right to Buy works in a similar way to Right to Buy (you use the same form to apply through your landlord).

Right to Buy discounts

Discount increase

As of 2 April 2012, the Right to Buy discount has increased – the new maximum is £75,000

Discount increase

As of 2 April 2012, the Right to Buy discount has increased - the maximum discount is £75,000 for anywhere in England.

If you qualify for Right to Buy, you can get a discount on the market value of your home when you buy it. Your home's market value is the price it would fetch if it was sold.

Previously, the maximum discount ranged from £16,000 to £38,000, depending on where you lived. As of 2 April 2012, the discount you can get is based on:

  • how long you've been a tenant
  • the type of property you're buying (a flat or a house)

If you've previously had a discount to help you buy a council home, this may be taken off your Right to Buy discount.

Check how much discount you could get by reading ‘Discounts available through Right to Buy’.

Mortgages and other costs of buying through Right to Buy

Unless you can buy your home with cash, you'll need to borrow money through a mortgage. Make sure you will have enough money to pay your mortgage each month and other bills like Council Tax. You also need to be able to afford the ongoing costs that you take on as a homeowner, including repairs, maintenance, improvements you want to make and insurance.

Because you are no longer a tenant you cannot claim housing benefit to help with a mortgage. You may be entitled to support for Mortgage Interest - see here for the terms and whether you might be eligible:

If you don't pay your mortgage, your mortgage lender can take you to court and you could lose your home. And because you are no longer a tenant, the council does not have to find you another home.

If you buy a flat, you’ll probably also have to pay a ‘service charge’ towards the upkeep of the whole building and repairs. If major repairs are needed, eg a new roof, the service charge could be thousands of pounds each year. You are protected from unexpected costs for the first five years, and your landlord about long-term plans for repairs and improvements. You can get free, impartial advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service.

If you can't afford to buy your home through Right to Buy, you may still be able to buy a share of it through Social HomeBuy.

How to apply for Right to Buy

You have to go through a set process to buy your home under the Right to Buy scheme. Your landlord has an application form for the scheme, which you will need to complete. You can also download the form from the link below.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced a simple summary leaflet and some more detailed guidance on Right to Buy. You can download them using the links below.

Selling your Right to Buy home

If you sell your property within ten years of buying it, you must first offer it to your old landlord, eg the council, or another social landlord in the area.

Your home should be offered at the full sale price, which must be agreed between you and the landlord. If you can’t agree on the price for your home, a district valuer will say how much your home is worth and set the price. You won’t have to pay for their valuation. 

If the landlord doesn’t agree to buy your home within eight weeks, you can sell your home to anyone on the open market.

Problems or delays with Right to Buy

Most Right to Buy sales go through quickly, but sometimes there can be delays or problems. You can use the link below to find out about possible issues when buying your home through Right to Buy.

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Additional links

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