The right to buy scheme is a government initiative in the UK that allows eligible council tenants the opportunity to purchase their council homes at a discounted price. This scheme, first introduced in 1980, has helped many tenants become homeowners, providing them with a sense of stability and ownership. However, understanding the eligibility criteria and application process can be challenging for some. This article aims to answer the question: “Can I buy my council house?” and will provide an overview of the right to buy scheme, eligibility requirements, and the application process.
Eligibility requirements for the right to buy
To be eligible for the right to buy scheme, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be a council tenant or a housing association tenant in England who has transferred from a council tenancy.
- You must have been a public sector tenant for at least three years. This period does not have to be consecutive.
- The property you wish to purchase must be your main home and not a second home or investment property.
- You must not be in the process of being declared bankrupt or have outstanding debts to the council, such as rent arrears.
- You must not have any legal issues that could prevent you from buying your council home, such as a court order disqualifying you from the scheme.
Please note that the right to buy scheme is only available in England. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have different housing policies and schemes in place.
The right to buy discount
Eligible tenants can receive a discount on the market value of their council home, depending on the length of their tenancy and the type of property. For houses, the discount starts at 35% for a tenancy between 3 and 5 years and increases by 1% for each additional year of tenancy, with a maximum discount of 70% or £96,010 across England and £127,940 in London boroughs (whichever is lower).
For flats, the discount starts at 50% for a tenancy between 3 and 5 years, increasing by 2% for each additional year, with a maximum discount of 70% or £96,010 across England and £127,940 in London boroughs (whichever is lower).
The application process
If you meet the eligibility requirements and wish to apply for the right to buy scheme, follow these steps:
- Request a right to buy application form (RTB1) from your landlord or download it from the government’s website.
- Complete the form, providing accurate and up-to-date information about your tenancy history and personal circumstances. Ensure that you sign the declaration at the end of the form.
- Submit the completed form to your landlord, who will then assess your eligibility for the scheme. Your landlord has 4 weeks to respond to your application (8 weeks if they have been a landlord for less than 3 years ).
- If your application is approved, your landlord will send you a formal offer notice (Section 125 Notice) within 8 weeks for freehold properties or 12 weeks for leasehold properties. The notice will include the property’s market value, the discount you are entitled to, and the purchase price.
- The landlord will send you a reminder if you don’t respond. You have 28 days to respond to the reminder, or the owner might not consider your application anymore.
- If you agree to the terms, you must notify your landlord within 12 weeks. After this period, you can proceed with the purchase by arranging a mortgage or other financial arrangements, as well as hiring a solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the transaction.
- Complete the purchase and become a homeowner. You must live in the property for at least five years after the purchase; otherwise, you may be required to repay a portion of the discount.
If you disagree with the landlord’s offer
- If you don’t like what the landlord is offering, you should contact your landlord and explain.
- If you think the market value of your home is too high, you must request an independent valuation within 3 months of receiving the offer. A district valuer from HMRC will then assess your home and determine its value. You have 12 weeks to accept their offer or withdraw from the sale.
The right to buy scheme offers eligible council tenants in England the opportunity to purchase their homes at a discounted price, promoting homeownership and stability for many families. Understanding the eligibility requirements and application process is essential for those who wish to take advantage of this initiative.