RIGHT TO BUY: As a council house tenant, you can usually apply to buy your council home providing:
- The home is your only or main dwelling.
- It is a self-contained property.
- You have a secure tenancy agreement.
- You had a public sector landlord for three (3) years (e.g. a council, a housing association, or the NHS trust).
Making Joint Applications
You can also make a joint application to buy your council home with:
- The person who shares your council tenancy.
- Up to 3 family members if they have lived with you for the past 12 months (even if they are not sharing your tenancy).
Preserved Right to Buy: Ex-council Homes
Some councils sell off their homes to another landlord even while you live in it. The properties are often sold to a housing association.
The ‘Preserved Right to Buy‘ scheme means you may still have the Right to Buy this type of home. Your landlord will confirm if this opportunity is available for you.
There are other ways you can buy your council home. What is you were not living in the home when the council sold it? In this case the ‘Voluntary Right to Buy‘ pilot might allow you to buy it.
Note: The Right to Buy website has an eligibility checker to find out if you can apply. But, different rules apply for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Council House Discount
Right to Buy council house qualification means you can get a discount when you buy it. The discount gets based according to the market value of your home.
In England, the maximum council house discount is £87,200. There are exceptions in some London boroughs where the top discount could be £116,200. Council house discounts increase in April each year. They usually fall in line with the consumer price index (CPI).
The amount of discount on council home purchase gets based on:
- How long your tenancy with a public sector landlord has lasted.
- The type of council property that you want to buy (e.g. house or flat).
- The market value of your council home.
If you make a joint purchase you count the number of years of the longest running public sector tenant.
Selling your council home within 5 years often means you have to repay a part, or all, of your discount.
Those who used the Right to Buy scheme in the past may get a smaller discount on any new purchases.
Calculating Council House Discount
Different levels of discount apply for council houses and flats.
Note: You can use the government Right to Buy calculator to work out how much discount you might get.
Discount on Council Houses
A discount of 35% is available for those who have been a public sector tenant for 3 to 5 years.
The discount increases by 1% after 5 years for every extra year you have been a public sector tenant. The highest discount is 70% which relates to £87,200 in England or £116,200 in London boroughs (whichever is lowest).
Discount on Council Flats
A discount of 50% is available for those who have been a public sector tenant for 3 to 5 years.
The discount increases by 2% after 5 years for every extra year you have been a public sector tenant. The highest discount is 70% which relates to £87,200 in England or £116,200 in London boroughs (whichever is lowest).
What if the Landlord Spends Money on Your Home?
Your landlord may have spent money building or maintaining your home. In this case, council house discount often reduces if:
- In the last 10 years: Your landlord built or acquired your home before the 2nd of April 2012.
- In the last 15 years:
- You are buying your council home through Preserved Right to Buy
- Your landlord acquired your home after the 2nd of April 2012.
Note: There is no discount if the landlord spends more money on the property than its market value.
‘Right to Buy’ Application for Buying Your Council Home
- Step One: Fill in the government Right to Buy application form RTB1 notice.
- Send the completed application form to your landlord.
- Your landlord must accept or deny your request within 4 weeks of receiving your application. This extends to 8 weeks if they have been your landlord for less than 3 years. Your landlord must give you a reason if they do not agree to sell.
- If they agree to sell the property they will send you an offer. They must make this offer within 8 weeks of agreeing to sell if you are buying a freehold property. This extends to 12 weeks if you are buying a leasehold council property.
Details of a Landlord Offer
Assuming your landlord agrees to sell the property, their offer will inform you of:
- The selling price they expect you to pay and how they calculated it.
- Any discount due and how they worked it out.
- A full description of the property including any land that is part of the deal.
- Any service charge estimates for the first 5 years (for a maisonette or a flat).
- Any structural problems that they are aware of (e.g. building subsidence).
If You Decide to Buy
You must decide if you want to buy within 12 weeks of getting your landlord’s offer. But, the landlord should send you a reminder if they do not get a reply from you about their offer.
If you fail to reply to their reminder within 28 days the landlord can choose to drop your application to buy. But, you can withdraw from the sale and continue paying your rent at any time you choose.
Disagreeing with a Landlord Offer
If you disagree with your landlord’s offer you should contact them and explain why.
You may feel that your landlord set the market value too high for your home. In this case you must write to them within 3 months of getting their offer. The next step is to ask your landlord to get an independent valuation.
HM Revenue and Customs will send a district valuer to visit your home. They will determine how much the property is worth. You then have another 12 weeks to either accept their valuation or withdraw from the sale.
Appeal to a Tribunal
What if you get stopped from the right to buy your council home? In some cases it happens because it’s deemed more suitable for elderly people.
You can appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber – Residential Property). Your appeal to the tribunal must occur within 56 days of having your application turned down by the council.
Delays by Your Landlord
Landlords must complete certain parts of your Right to Buy application within set time limits. You might get a sale price reduction if they delay the purchase completion.
Applying for a Price Reduction (due to a delay)
The first step is to fill in the ‘Initial notice of delay form RTB6‘ and then send it to your landlord. Your landlord must respond by moving the sale along within 4 weeks or sending you a ‘counter notice‘. A counter notice states they have already replied or it explains why they are unable to speed things up.
Fill in the ‘Operative notice of delay form RTB8‘ if your landlord fails to reply within one month of getting the form RTB6. This action results in any rent you pay while waiting to hear from them may get taken off the sale price.
Note: You can repeat this action each time your landlord delays their response to you.
Selling a Bought Council House
There are rules to follow if you sell your council home within ten (10) years of buying it through the Right to Buy scheme. If you decide to sell it you must first offer it to either:
- The landlord you bought it from.
- Any other social landlord in the nearby area.
You should sell the property at the full market price agreed between you and the landlord. A district valuer will value your home and set the price if you fail to agree.
As a rule, their independent valuation is free of charge. If the landlord declines to buy the home within 8 weeks, you can then sell it to anyone you choose.
Paying Back Council House Discount
Selling a Right to Buy home within 5 years of buying it means you have to pay back some (or all) discount you received.
If you sell it within the first 12 months you will have to pay back all the discount. Following that, the total amount that you pay back reduces to:
- 2nd Year: 80% of the discount
- 3rd Year: 60% of the discount
- 4th Year: 40% of the discount
- 5th Year: 20% of the discount
Note: The total amount you pay back will depend on the market value of your home when you sell it.
There are certain situations where you do not have to pay back council house discount. As a rule, transferring home ownership to a family member may exclude you from paying it back.
You must first agree this with your landlord and then you may need a solicitor to complete the sale.
Selling a Rural Home
Former landlords can limit who you sell your bought council home to. For example, if your home is:
- Situated inside a national park.
- Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
- In an area that the government says is too ‘rural’ for Right to Buy schemes.
An Example: You may need to sell to someone who has worked or lived in the area for at least 3 years. In some cases, this could make it difficult to secure a mortgage to buy your council home.
Note: Your landlord can confirm if this might apply to your home when you apply for Right to Buy council homes.
Further Help and Advice
You can apply to your council for the right to buy your council home. The council authority may also be able to help you complete the application form.
Right to Buy Agent Service
You can get free advice from the Right to Buy Agent service on things like:
- The Right to Buy process, eligibility criteria, and filling out your application form.
- Where to get financial and legal advice and what to do if an application gets delayed.