What is Right to Buy?
Originally introduced in 1980, Right to Buy gives council tenants and some housing association tenants the opportunity to buy their homes at a discount.
Under the current system, the maximum discount you can get is 70% off the purchase price of your home, up to a total of £104,900 in London and £78,600 elsewhere in England.
Right to Buy housing association properties
In August 2018, the government announced that a pilot of Right to Buy for housing association tenants in the Midlands had been launched.
Eligible tenants have a month to apply for the pilot, with places allocated through a ballot.
The pilot is set to run until Spring 2020, after which the government will assess its success.
This means housing association tenants elsewhere in the country are unlikely to be able to buy their properties using Right to Buy any time soon.
The following housing associations are taking part in the pilot:
Right to acquire
As it stands, most housing association tenants can only buy their homes at a discount if they have a 'Preserved Right to Buy' or a 'Right to Acquire'.
The Preserved Right to Buy is for people who were previously living in a council property that was then transferred to another landlord, such as a housing association.
The Right to Acquire gives housing association tenants a discount of between £9,000 and £16,000 when buying their homes, depending on their circumstances and where they live in the UK. You can find out whether you're eligible on the government advice page on Right to Acquire.
Am I eligible for Right to Buy?
Under the current rules, if you have spent at least three years living in a council house or flat, you can use Right to Buy. If you've moved around a lot, don't worry, as the three-year period doesn't have to be continuous – although you do need to have lived in your current home for at least 12 months.
Joint applications are allowed, so you have the option of buying your home with a fellow tenant or partner. You can also apply with up to three family members, providing they have also lived in the property for the past 12 months.
The Right to Buy scheme only applies to tenants in England, and the government has set up an online questionnaire to help you find out if you're eligible.
While the vast majority of council houses can be purchased through Right to Buy, there are some restrictions, so check your property is eligible before applying.
What discount does Right to Buy give?
Your Right to Buy discount depends on the type of property you're buying and how long you've been a council tenant.
If you live in a house and have been a council tenant for at least three years, you can benefit from a 35% Right to Buy discount. After five years, this discount increases by 1% each year, up to a maximum discount of 70% off the purchase price.
Buyers who live in a flat get an initial discount of 50% after three years, which increases by 2% each year after five years. As with houses, the maximum discount for people buying their council flat is 70% off the purchase price.
If you sell your home within the first five years of your purchase, you will have to pay back some or all of the discount.
Find out more: costs of buying a house
Right to Buy mortgages
If you want to use your Right to Buy but only have a small deposit, you may still be able to get a mortgage. This is because many (though not all) lenders will accept the discount you get with Right to Buy as a deposit.
Normally you won't need to take out a specific Right to Buy mortgage - and, when applying for a mortgage, you'll be subject to the same affordability checks as other mortgage applicants.
This means that your income and spending habits will be assessed and you'll have to pass your lender's credit check too.
If you are self-employed, you may be asked to provide several years' worth of accounts to prove your income (see our guide to self-employed mortgages for more on this).
Some lenders will take certain types of benefits into account when calculating affordability for Right to Buy mortgage applicants. Housing benefit, however, will be excluded as it can't be used to pay a mortgage and you will stop receiving it once your mortgage has completed.
- For expert, impartial help getting a mortgage with Right to Buy, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 or fill out the form at the bottom of this page for a free call back.
How do I buy my home using Right to Buy?
To buy your home through the Right to Buy scheme you'll need to complete an online application form.
Your landlord will then have up to four weeks to confirm whether you have the Right to Buy (or eight weeks if you've been with your current landlord for less than three years).
Your landlord will then send you an offer within eight weeks (or 12 weeks for a leasehold property). This document will cover the purchase price, the discount and details of any structural problems.
Once you're happy with the terms and have arranged the finances, you can complete your purchase.
Alternatives to Right to Buy
If you can't afford to buy your home using Right to Buy, you could instead take advantage of other schemes such as Social HomeBuy.
Social HomeBuy allows you to purchase a share of your council or housing association property and pay rent on the rest of it.
This differs from Right to Buy because, if you use Social HomeBuy, you could receive a discount of £9,000-£16,000. You can find out more with the government guide to Social HomeBuy.
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