The official Government Right to Buy website

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

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, discount levels and eligibility criteria have varied. Concerned that the scheme had become unaffordable for many tenants the Government has introduced major changes to the Right to Buy since April 2012.

From 6 April 2018, maximum discounts are £80,900 across England and £108,000 in London. Discounts increase in April every year in line with any increase in inflation.

You probably have the Right to Buy if you’re a secure council tenant and have spent at least 3* years as a public sector tenant. The 3 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 include 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.
* In May 2015, the eligibility criteria for Right to Buy was reduced from 5 years public sector tenancy to 3 years.

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

You might have. Most housing association tenants do not currently have the Right to Buy but if you were a secure council tenant and were living in your  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.

The Government has plans to voluntarily extend the Right to Buy to more housing association tenants, and a pilot to help develop details for this has recently finished. You can register for email updates on the development and implementation of the Voluntary Right to Buy.

Any period spent in armed forces accommodation can count towards the three 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.

Housing is a devolved policy, and it’s up to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to decide whether to offer schemes such as Right to Buy. You can find out more on their websites:

• Scotland
• Wales
• Northern Ireland

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.

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 Right to Buy applications.

The following discount levels will apply:

• 3 years – 35% discount for a house and 50% discount for a flat
• 4 years – 35% discount for a house and 50% discount for a flat
• 5 years – 35% discount for a house and 50% discount for a flat
• 6 years plus – add 1% per year for houses (up to 70% or the cash maximum – whichever is lower), add 2% per year for flats (up to 70% or the cash maximum – whichever is lower)

A mutual exchange is where a tenant of one property exchanges their home for that of another tenant. It can be with the same landlord or a different one, and can happen in council tenancies, housing association tenancies or between the two.

If you have had a mutual exchange, your current tenancy is treated as a new tenancy and you retain your own tenancy history (not the other tenant’s).

It is important to be aware that, if you move into a housing association property, you will not have any preserved Right to Buy that the previous tenant might have had, and, if you move to a property with a different landlord, you will lose any preserved Right to Buy that you may have had in your old property.

It is worth checking the terms of a mutual exchange with your old and new landlord before agreeing to it.

A pilot scheme to voluntarily extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants has recently ended. Five housing associations took part in the pilot and the first sales are now being processed. The outcome of the pilot will be important in the development and implementation of the main Voluntary Right to Buy.

You can find out more about this voluntary scheme here. We will update this website as soon as any further information becomes available.

Discounts, finances and costs

The longer you have been a tenant, the bigger the discount you could get, up to a maximum discount of  £108,000 in London and £80,900 in the rest of England: discounts increase each year in line with any increase in inflation (click here for a list of London Boroughs). The discount is set in law and individual councils cannot change it.

There are different discount levels for houses and flats.

Houses You get a 35% discount if you’ve been a public sector tenant for three years. The discount remains at 35% until you have five years public sector tenancy.

After year five, the discount goes up by 1% for every extra year you’ve been a public sector tenant, up to a maximum of 70% – or £80,900 across England and £108,000 in London boroughs (whichever is lower).

Flats You get a 50% discount if you’ve been a public sector tenant for three years. The discount remains at 35% until you have five years public sector tenancy.

After year five the discount goes up by 2% for every extra year you’ve been a public sector tenant, up to a maximum of 70% – or £80,900 across England and £108,000 in London boroughs (whichever is lower).

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 home ownership, not just the purchase price and mortgage repayments.

The maximum discount cash caps will also increase each year (on 6 April) by the percentage increase in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) published by the Office for National Statistics. Where there is no increase in CPI, or where there is a decrease, discounts will not change.

As of 6th April 2018, eligible tenants can buy their home at a discount of up to £80,900, or £108,000 in London.

Inflation is the rate of increase in prices for goods and services in the UK. There are a number of different measures of inflation in use and the most frequently used are the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH).

CPI and CPIH indicate changes to our cost of living. It shows how much higher or lower prices are compared to the same time the previous year.

No. The relevant discount level will be set at the date the application is made. If a tenant wants to have the increased discount, they will need to cancel their application and re-apply for the Right to Buy. Their property would then be re-valued based on the date of the new application.

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 home ownership and understanding the types of mortgages available visit the Money Advice Service or call 0800 138 7777.

You could also speak to an official Right to Buy adviser for impartial and unbiased advice on finances – they will be able to support and guide you through your application. You can also take a look at our handy factsheet Right to Buy Mortgages: Know the Facts (PDF) which should answer some of the more popular questions on mortgages.

You can also consult an Independent Financial Adviser, mortgage broker or mortgage 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 is available in our Right to Buy summary booklet ’Want to make your home your own?’ (PDF).

Many lenders will take the discount as a deposit, although some will not. You might want to talk to a mortgage lender / broker or an Independent Financial Adviser to find a mortgage that best suits your needs – always check costs before you appoint anyone.

If you take out a mortgage loan, you may have to pay for the cost of arranging it. You will also have to pay a valuation fee which can start at about £250 but may be substantially more.

When a sale is completed, you must pay the Land Registry to register you as the new owner. You can get more information on this from http://www.landregistryservices.com.

You may have to pay Stamp Duty, which is a tax that people pay when they become homeowners. Stamp Duty is worked out as a percentage of the price you pay for a property. More information on Stamp Duty.

 

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. The amount you pay back also depends on the value of your home when you sell it.

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

No, apart from the requirement to pay a proportion of the discount back to the local authority if you sell within the first five years. However, if you sell within the first 10 years, you will have to offer it to either your former landlord or to another social landlord in your area at full market value. If your offer has not been accepted within 8 weeks, you will be free to sell the property on the open market.

 

Being on benefits doesn’t affect your legal Right to Buy but you will need to make sure you can afford your monthly repayments. 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

The time limits for the application process are set in law. See our Applying page for a guide on the process and 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.

Your landlord has to value your home at the price they think it would sell for on the open market on the date of your application. 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 a free valuation by an independent ‘district valuer’. Information on how to ask for a new valuation will be on your offer notice from your landlord.

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 non-essential 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.

You should employ a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer to look after the legal side of buying your home. Your landlord or a Citizens Advice Bureau can advise on local firms, and your local public library should have a list of the solicitors in your area and the type of work they do. Before employing anyone, always ask how much their advice will cost.

You should have a survey of your home done. This can cost between £250 and £600, or

more if your home has any special problems. You can get more information about both of these from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at www.rics.org/usefulguides. Your lender may be able to arrange for its valuer to carry out the survey, which could save you paying for a separate valuation.

Owning your home

If you buy the freehold of your home, you will be responsible for all the costs of maintaining your home, including routine repairs, major structural repairs, and improvements.

If you buy the leasehold (usually the case with flats and maisonettes in larger blocks) you will be responsible for internal improvements and routine repairs. External repairs and improvements and major structural repairs to the whole block will be the responsibility of the landlord. You will have to pay service charges each year, and are likely to have to meet the costs of major repairs and refurbishment, which can be substantial.

It is a very good idea to buy home contents insurance to protect your belongings against theft or accident. If you are buying the freehold, you will want to get buildings insurance, to protect against the cost of major repairs, for example in the event of a fire. Many mortgage lenders will not lend to you if you do not have this. If you are buying a leasehold property, your landlord will almost certainly have buildings insurance on your property: check this with them.

Leasehold is a way of owning property (usually a flat) for a fixed term but not the land on which it stands or the block of which it is a part. You will have to pay an annual ground rent (for properties bought under the Right to Buy this cannot be more than £10) and service charges (which will be more expensive) to your landlord to pay for the upkeep and improvement of communal and external areas. When the lease expires, ownership of the property reverts back to the freeholder. Most Right to Buy leases are start at 125 years. But your lease may be less if properties in your block have already been sold under the Right to Buy.

It is contrasted with freehold, where you buy the building itself and the land it stands on in perpetuity (forever).

If you have a leasehold property, you will have to pay service charges each year, and may also have to meet the costs of major repairs and refurbishment which can be substantial. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) provides free, independent information and advice on being a leaseholder. See LEASE.

When you are a tenant, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help with your rent. You cannot claim this to help with a mortgage. However, you may be entitled to Support for Mortgage Interest to help with your mortgage costs and service charges. You will need to satisfy the conditions of entitlement, and there are restrictions on the help available. There is more information on this at https://www.gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest.

If your circumstances change and you fail to keep up mortgage or loan payments, you could lose your home. You also need to think about what would happen if you buy your home with other people, such as family, and their circumstances change.

If you are elderly and own your home, its value may be taken into account in assessing whether you are eligible for financial help with the costs of residential care.

Right to Buy Advisers

Right to Buy advisers offer a free, impartial service to help guide you through the Right to Buy process, including helping you check your eligibility, answering any questions and helping to signpost you to independent financial and legal advice. They can also help you complete your RTB1 application form and offer support throughout your application.

It is 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 advisers are here to provide additional help, support and advice if you need it.

Couple with keys

Housing association tenants

If you’re a housing association tenant currently not eligible for Right to Buy, you can get updates on changes that might affect you by signing up here.