Questions and answers
Below are some of your frequently asked questions. Click on a relevant question to find the answer.
Right to Buy and eligibility
1. What is Right to Buy?
Right to Buy was introduced in 1980 and gives eligible social housing tenants the right to buy their home at a discount. Over the years, the discount levels have varied, making the scheme unaffordable to many tenants. In April 2012, the Government introduced major changes to Right to Buy, raising the maximum discount to £75,000 across England, and in March 2013, up to £100,000 in London. Also for the first time, receipts from additional sales are being reinvested into providing new affordable homes for rent. Thousands of tenants have become homeowners since the discounts were increased.
2. How do I know if I’m eligible for Right to Buy?
You probably have the Right to Buy if you’re a secure council tenant and have spent at least 5 years as a public sector tenant. The 5 years doesn’t have to be continuous and you can add together any time you have spent as a public sector tenant. A public sector tenant is someone whose landlord is a public body such as a council, housing association or government department. Eligibility criteria also includes having no legal issues with debt or any outstanding possession orders. You should be aware that some properties are exempt from Right to Buy. Check our eligibility quiz which covers the main criteria. Your eligibility would be confirmed by your landlord as part of the Right to Buy application process.
Plans are underway to reduce the eligibility criteria from 5 years to three. See question 22.
3. I part own my house with the council. Can I apply for Right to Buy?
The Right to Buy is not available to people who part own their home. You should talk to your landlord if you are considering buying a further share of your home
4. I am a housing association tenant. Do I have the Right to Buy?
You might have. Most housing association tenants do not have the Right to Buy but if you were a secure council tenant and were living in your current home when it was transferred from the council to another landlord, like a housing association, then you may have a ‘Preserved’ Right to Buy. If you do, then you can buy your home under the scheme in the same way as if you were still a council tenant. Your landlord will be able to tell you whether you have the Right to Buy.
You can also find out more about eligibility on this website.
5. I have lived in armed forces accommodation, can I use this time for the Right to Buy?
Any period spent in armed forces accommodation can count towards the five year qualifying period for Right to Buy and the qualifying period for the discount.You can also count this time if your husband/wife/civil partner was a member of the armed forces and you lived with them in this accommodation. If you currently live in armed forces accommodation you do not have the Right to Buy.
6. Is there a Right to Buy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
7. Can I make a joint application?
Yes, you can but only certain people are allowed to join an application. If you are eligible, you may be able to buy with:
- someone who is on the tenancy agreement with you;
- your spouse or civil partner;
- up to three family members, who have been living in your home for the 12 months immediately before you make the application. They don’t have to be on the tenancy agreement but it must be their main home.
8. Can my children buy my home for me?
Family members may be eligible to join in the Right to Buy with you. However, if they are not named on the tenancy agreement, they will need to have lived in the property for the past 12 months. There is nothing in law that specifies how a Right to Buy purchase should be financed. A family member (or someone else) could provide the funding for the purchase. However legal ownership of the property can only be in the names of the eligible tenant/s and other eligible applicants. We recommend that you get financial and legal advice on joint mortgages.
Discounts, finances and costs
9. What discounts will I be entitled to?
The longer you have been a tenant, the bigger the discount you could get, up to a maximum discount of £100,000 in London and £75,000 in the rest of England (click here for a list of London Boroughs). The discount is set in law and individual councils cannot change it. Discounts for houses and flats are worked out differently:
House: If you live in a house (or bungalow), discounts starts at 35% after 5 years’ tenancy. Add 1% for each extra year that you have been a tenant, up to 60%*.
Flat: If you live in a flat, discounts start at 50% after 5 years’ tenancy. Add 2% for each extra year that you have been a tenant, up to a maximum of 70%*.
*Whatever percentage you are eligible for, your discount cannot be greater than the maximum cash discount.
*The government recently announced plans to increase the maximum percentage discount for a house to 70% and increase the maximum cash cap in line with inflation.
Our Right to Buy calculator can help you work out the discount you could receive based on length of tenancy and average property prices for your area. It can help get you started with an idea of how much it would cost to buy your home through Right to Buy. However you won’t know the exact discount you can receive until your home is valued under the application process. Ensure you look at all the costs of homeownership, not just the purchase price and mortgage repayments.
10. How can I find a mortgage for Right to Buy?
For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they will ever make so it pays to do your research and look at all the costs involved. You are responsible for how you finance your Right to Buy purchase. Your landlord cannot advise you on this or recommend a specific mortgage or lender.
For free, unbiased information, The Money Advice Service is a good starting point – they have information and guidance about working out the costs of homeownership and understanding the types of mortgages available – call 0300 500 5000 or visit https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/mortgages-and-buying-property
You can also consult an Independent Financial Advisor, mortgage broker/ lender who will be able to provide information on mortgages. Some charge for their services. Always ask about costs and fees, and make sure they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Check out carefully any person or company offering to help you buy your home as some of them may charge a fee. They may be offering a deal which is far better for them than for you.
Further information about costs and things to consider before you buy are available in our Right to Buy summary booklet ’Want to make your home your own?’.
11. Will I need a deposit? I’ve heard the discount can be considered as a deposit?
Many lenders will take the discount as a deposit, although some will not. You should talk to a mortgage lender/ broker, an Independent Financial Advisor to find a mortgage that best suits your needs – always check costs before you appoint anyone.
12. What if I decide to sell? Will I need to repay the discount?
You are able to sell your home at any time, but if you sell your home within the first five years, the landlord has the right to ask for repayment of all or part of the discount. After five years, you can sell the property without repaying any of the discount you received.
|If you sell within:||Proportion to be repaid:|
|The first year of purchase||The whole discount will have to be repaid.|
|Second year||Four fifths must be repaid|
|Third year||Three fifths|
|Fourth year||Two fifths|
|Fifth year||One fifth|
13. Can I buy my home if I am on benefits?
Being on benefits doesn’t affect your legal Right to Buy but you will need to make sure you can afford your monthly repayments. But being a homeowner may affect your benefits. For example you won’t be eligible for housing benefit if you become a homeowner. So take time to work out all the costs involved. Look at our ‘Can I afford it?’ page for more information or contact the Benefits Agency, Citizens Advice Bureau or Money Advice Service.
Right to Buy process
14. What can I do if my landlord is delaying my application?
The time limits for the application process are set in law. – see our step-by-step guide for timescales. If you feel your landlord is delaying your application you can issue them with a delay notice, and in some instances you could get a further reduction in the sale price. More information and delay notice forms can be found at GOV.UK.
15. How will my landlord work out the value of my home?
Your landlord has to value your home at the price it would be sold for on the open market. It is up to individual landlords to decide how to provide this valuation, but usually they will employ a valuer to come to your home and assess its market value. If you disagree with your landlord’s valuation you have a right to an independent ‘district valuer’ details of which are on the landlords valuation form.
16. My home is in a state of disrepair. Will the council fix it up before I can buy it?
Your landlord is required to maintain the property in line with the terms of the tenancy agreement. However, there’s no requirement for the landlord to repair the property because you’re interested in buying it, and most repairs will stop once you have submitted your Right to Buy application.
The state of repair of your property will be reflected in the valuation. However, if you are concerned about the cost of potential repairs you might consider having a detailed survey done on the property before you buy.
17. How many tenants have taken up their Right to Buy since the scheme changed?
From April 2012 to September 2013, almost 13,500 tenants had bought their home through Right to Buy.
And as part of the updated Right to Buy scheme, the money raised through extra sales is now going straight towards new affordable homes. As of September 2013, £219 million is being reinvested.
Future changes to Right to Buy
This section is about plans for further changes to Right to Buy policy expected to come into effect in 2014. This covers changes to discount levels, eligibility criteria and the introduction of a new Right to Buy agents’ service.
18. Will there be an increase in the discount available for Right to Buy?
The government recently announced plans to increase the maximum percentage discount available for houses from 60% to 70%, and to increase the maximum cash cap (£100,000 in London and £75,000 for the rest of England) in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
These increases will require changes to the law. We expect the changes to come into force in Spring 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval.
19. What is the Consumer Price Index?
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is an index which measures the cost of living compared to the same time the previous year. Once the changes come into force, you will be able to find out the current maximum cash cap on this website.
20. How will I know if I will benefit from the changes?
These changes may affect you if you currently qualify for either the maximum percentage for a house, or the maximum cash discount. If you already have an application in the system and you are affected by the changes, your landlord should inform you. You can check your current likely discount using our discounts calculator.
21. I have an application in the system. Do I have to start my application again to get the bigger discount?
If you are due to complete your purchase after the changes are legally in effect and you qualify for the bigger discount, your landlord will have to apply the new maximum discount; you will not need to reapply.
If you are due to complete before the changes come into effect, then you will need to decide whether you want to continue with the current discount or wait. Your landlord may allow you to suspend your application and complete once the new discounts are in force. However your landlord can ask you to complete within a certain timescale. If you want to wait for the increased discount, and your landlord will not let you suspend your application, then you would need to withdraw your application and start the process again. You should also check if there is a time limit on your mortgage offer. If you are considering suspending or withdrawing your application, keep your landlord informed and discuss your options with them.
22. I’ve heard the qualifying period for eligibility is changing too. When will that be in force?
The Government has announced plans to change minimum eligibility period from five years public sector tenancy to three. This requires a change to the law. This is expected to be in place in late 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval.
The Bill’s progress can be tracked at;
23. How will a Right to Buy agent help me and when?
Right to Buy agents will offer a free service to help guide you through the Right to Buy process, answer your questions and help signpost you to financial and legal advice. We need to set up the service and recruit agents. We expect them to be in place in April 2014. We will publish more information on the Right to Buy agents’ role in due course.
24. Do I have to use a Right to Buy agent to purchase my home?
It will be your choice whether you use their service. Your landlord will still be responsible for processing your Right to Buy application form and for fulfilling their statutory duties. The agents are intended to provide additional help, support and advice if you need it.