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Council Houses - Your Right to Buy

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 9 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Consumer Rights Council House Housing

For many years council or social housing was one of the backbones of British living. But since the middle of the 1980s there’s been a move to sell off much of the stock of council houses to the people who live in them as part of the movement towards private ownership.Since the big initial sell-off, which saw people who’d never dreamed of it before owning their own properties, it’s something that’s continued, and if you’re a council tenant, you may very well be eligible to own your house or flat. The really good news is that, if you qualify, you’ll be able to buy it at a discount.

Who Qualifies?

You have the right to buy your council property if you’ve been a secure tenant for more than two years (if you moved in after 18 January 2005 you won’t be eligible until 2010). The property must be self-contained and be your only home.

Housing association tenants might also have the same right, but that’s more dependent on circumstances. The property would need to have originally been a council property, with the ownership transferred to the association. You would also need to have been the tenant before and after the transfer occurred. Then, and only then, you may qualify for what’s called a Preserved Right to Buy.

There are some points that are worth knowing beforehand, though. If you’re on housing benefit to help pay your rent, you’d lose that if you were an owner-occupier. Income support might be possible, but it would take 39 weeks to come through.

If there’s a possession order against you regarding the home, if you’re an undischarged bankrupt or have a pending bankruptcy petition, or you have an arrangement with creditors but have paid all your debts, you’re not eligible under the scheme.

Something to remember is that if you buy a council house, you get the freehold. With a flat you obtain the leasehold, but you will probably also have to pay a service charge – how much will depend on the building and the council.

Discounts

To make the proposition of buying your council house more attractive, they’re sold at a discount. How much less you pay varies, and there are definite monetary limits. Understandably, the longer you’ve been a tenant, the less you’ll pay. The discount is from the market value of the house, which will obviously vary from area to area.

If you’ve been in your house or flat for five years, you qualify for a 35% discount – which is a very healthy figure. But it gets better; if you’ve spent 20 years in the property (and many have) the amount rises to 50%.

Each area has a maximum figure, and it can go from £16,000-38,000, but you’ll need to contact your own council for more exact percentages and figures. The discount might also be affected by the amount (if any) the council or landlord has spent on the house for repairs and improvements.

One thing you need to remember is that, if you buy the property and sell it within five years, you’ll need to repay part or the entire discount you were given. This discourages speculation, and makes sure there’s a continuity of residency. If you want to sell within 10 years you’ll need to offer it at market value to the council or housing association, or another body mandated by the Secretary of State.

Moving Ahead

The first step you’ll need to take is to fill out an application form, which can be downloaded or obtained from your council or housing association. After it’s been reviewed, you’ll receive a Section 125 notice if you qualify to buy. It will detail the market value, any structural problems, what discount you’ll qualify for, and what you might have to pay in service charges and improvements over the next five years, as well as any terms on conditions that might apply to the sale. If you disagree, you can appeal to the District Valuer. However, be warned: his decision is final, and if he comes up with a higher price for the house, that’s what you’ll have to pay.

After receiving the Section 125 notice (or the Valuer’s figure) you’ll have 12 weeks to decide whether you want to go ahead with the purchase. You should have the property surveyed and talk to a number of lenders before making your final decision.

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[Add a Comment]
If i had lived in my council house longer than my husband and earned the right to buy then we bought the house together on a joint mortgage,would he be entitled to a 50/50 split if we divorced or would the discount belong to me?
Karen - 9-Jul-17 @ 1:51 PM
Ellie1878 - Your Question:
Hi me and my partner live with my partners dad in his council house. He's the only listed tenant so could we still buy the house having my partner lived here all his life (27 years). Dad wants nothing to do with buy or mortgage but is happy for us to proceed

Our Response:
As the father is the tenant, but your partner has lived there (with the tenant) for more than 12 months, they may be able to buy the property jointly, so the father's name will need to be on the deeds. Check with your council's right to buy officer.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 20-Jun-17 @ 10:32 AM
Hi me and my partner live with my partners dad in his council house. He's the only listed tenant so could we still buy the house having my partner lived here all his life (27 years). Dad wants nothing to do with buy or mortgage but is happy for us to proceed
Ellie1878 - 18-Jun-17 @ 9:01 AM
mother lived with dad for 43 years in council house dad was tenent he died last year mum took over as tenent if mum bought housedoes 43 years she lived with dad count when gettingdiscount
johnny - 8-Jun-17 @ 6:47 PM
Hi, I bought 25% of an equity share property in 1982 which was built by the local council (within Greater London). I know that equity share type schemes are very different these days, but my question is if I want to now buy the rest of the property am I entitled to a discount on the 75% share and, if so, what percentage of discount might I get?My original lease did mention a right to buy at a discount, but I don't know if this is still valid? many thanks.
Tez - 31-May-17 @ 6:09 PM
Em21 - Your Question:
HiI am looking for help for my parents.They have been good council tenants for 36 years.I believe the house would be valued at around 140k.I would like them to get a better sense of security now they are growing old. Could you let me know roughly how much they would have to pay to own the property. They are 55 years old. Thank you in advanceMiss Emma lees

Our Response:
You need to know the type of house and the area in which you are living to calculate this. Try the government's right to buy calculator here
ConsumerRightsExpert - 30-May-17 @ 12:39 PM
Hi I am looking for help for my parents. They have been good council tenants for 36 years. I believe the house would be valued at around 140k. I would like them to get a better sense of security now they are growing old. Could you let me know roughly how much they would have to pay to own the property. They are 55 years old. Thank you in advance Miss Emma lees
Em21 - 27-May-17 @ 4:20 PM
Marjory - Your Question:
My sister bought my dads house but made it appear that he bought it to get the discount. She then charged him the same rent as he had paid the council till he died. My Dad had then left the property to her in his will which she then promptly sold and made a tidy proffit. It was done through a solicitor but I cannot believe it was legal.

Our Response:
There is nothing illegal about this that we are aware of.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 19-May-17 @ 2:31 PM
My sister bought my dads house but made it appear that he bought it to get the discount. She then charged him the same rent as he had paid the council till he died. My Dad had then left the property to her in his will which she then promptly sold and made a tidy proffit. It was done through a solicitor but i cannot believe it was legal.
Marjory - 19-May-17 @ 12:32 AM
Thekiz - Your Question:
Me and my partner live with her mum in council house she has done most of her life, we would like to buy the place for us to all live in, is it possible for me and my partner to do so?

Our Response:
Speak to the Council's right to buy officer. You can give the money to your partner's mother but if you need a mortgage, the lender might want the property to be in your name, which could present a difficulty.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 17-May-17 @ 12:22 PM
Me and my partner live with her mum in council house she has done most of her life, we would like to buy the place for us to all live in, is it possible for me and my partner to do so?
Thekiz - 16-May-17 @ 10:21 AM
Dooks - Your Question:
I purchased my council house last year however I have not had the paperwork through yet , I have since realised it is leasehold not freehold ? Can this be altered? I have just received a letter saying work to be carried out on the property ? Do I get it done or not ?

Our Response:
Some councils will let you purchase the freehold but you usually have to owned the property for a few years before they'll allow this. Contact them for more information.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 6-Apr-17 @ 12:14 PM
I purchased my council house last year however I have not had the paperwork through yet , I have since realised it is leasehold not freehold ? Can this be altered?I have just received a letter saying work to be carried out on the property ? Do I get it done or not ?
Dooks - 5-Apr-17 @ 9:11 AM
We have been living in our home that we have bought from the association for just over 5 years and can we sell without offering our property back to the association without legal problems?
Easy - 13-Mar-17 @ 10:13 PM
Hel123 - Your Question:
I bought my house in May 2012 under Right to Acquire from a housing association.I now want to let it out, I have received permission from my Mortgage company but they also need a letter from me stating that the housing association agrees to this.No where in the booklet which I received from my solicitor mentions letting the property out. Could the housing association say no and refuse to give me the agreement.Thanks

Our Response:
It's probably worth checking, but in general, people do exercise their RTB and then let their property out without repercussions.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 10-Mar-17 @ 11:13 AM
I bought my house in May 2012 under Right to Acquire from a housing association. I now want to let it out, I have received permission from my Mortgage company but they also need a letter from me stating that the housing association agrees to this. No where in the booklet which I received from my solicitor mentions letting the property out. Could the housing association say no and refuse to give me the agreement. Thanks
Hel123 - 9-Mar-17 @ 7:20 AM
Bash67 - Your Question:
Can someone help me,my uncle is in hospital awaiting to be moved to a care home.He was the tenant, I was his career.Is there any way I could purchase the property instead of handing it back to the council.

Our Response:
Was your name on the tenancy? How long have you lived there? We don't have enough information to advise you on this, but your council's housing department will be able to help.If you have been living there for some time, there's a possibility you could take over the tenancy and perhaps submit a right to buy application in the future.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 22-Feb-17 @ 11:06 AM
Can someone help me,my uncle is in hospital awaiting to be moved to a care home. He was the tenant, i was his career. Is there any way i could purchase the property instead of handing it back to the council.
Bash67 - 19-Feb-17 @ 1:24 AM
Hello me and my partner do not live together as her has his own house and i have mine i looking into buying my council house the only thing is im self employed and i dont think i would me able to get a mortgage as ive been told they dont like to offer people who are self imployed me and my partner were talking and with him having a good paying job and having his own house i would stand a better chance of getting a mortgage together but im not sure if we will be able to do that with him not living in the house.
shanti - 5-Feb-17 @ 2:52 PM
Hi, my mum has been living in her council/housing association home for just under 20 years after bringing me and my 3 sisters up on her own, she went back to work around 10 years ago but has no savings and only a very small pension and I am worried about how she will manage in retirement. She is currently 55 and earns c.£20k p.a. Whilst I am by no means rich, I am in a position to co-sign a mortgage with her and make the majority of the contribution (although I do not live with her and am not on the tenancy). Could you please advise if I would be able to take out a joint mortgage with my mother on the basis that she would be the sole applicant on the application form to the housing association. Also she currently owes around £6k in unsecured debt. I appreciate any advice you can give me :)
Alex - 2-Feb-17 @ 3:22 PM
hi there, i live with my grandma in her council house (have done for 12+ months); she is eligible for the maximum right to buy discount and we are going to purchase the house together, i will be the main person contributing towards the house (she will not be contributing any money towards the mortgage) however im being told by the council we will be unable to do this venture as she is too old to be listen on the mortgage. at my wits end with this and just wondered if there was any advice or anything we could do to still make this process work?
natasha - 31-Jan-17 @ 1:09 PM
I have inherited some money but not enough to buy my council house, can I buy an investment property where I can afford and let this out.Would the council evict me from my house, along with my daughter who lives with me and both work locally?
janiejane - 26-Jan-17 @ 1:14 PM
Nik - Your Question:
Hello, I brought my council property in 2013 so I about the enter the 5 year where we have to pay some money back to the council however we are in desperate need of a kitchen and I was wondering how I would stand on getting some Equity out of the property to help fund it with regards to the council?

Our Response:
Contact your lender about this. Some will not allow you to remortgage within the first few years. You only need to repay some of the discount to the council if you sell the property.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 24-Jan-17 @ 12:57 PM
My mum bought her property as a leaseholder through right to buy with me (her daughter) two years ago. Mum passed away recently so i would like to know what to do next, who do i notify and what happens to the lease?
Sarah - 22-Jan-17 @ 9:26 PM
Hello, I brought my council property in 2013 so I about the enter the 5 year where we have to pay some money back to the council however we are in desperate need of a kitchen and I was wondering how i would stand on getting someEquityout of the property to help fund it with regards to the council?
Nik - 22-Jan-17 @ 10:31 AM
I have lived in a council house since 1974. The tenancy was in my husband's name, We separated in 1993 and the tenancy was transferred to me before we divorced. Do I qualify for only the discount from my own tenancy or the discount from my husband's tenancy as well?
Spiderlegs - 20-Jan-17 @ 8:28 PM
I have had a tenancy for 5 years and my partners moved in with me.We are looking to add her name on the tenancy and Become joint tenants and buy the property. If I add her name and we come joint tenants do I lose my right to buy because I am creating a new tenancy.
John - 18-Jan-17 @ 9:04 PM
If we paid for extension, and/or, loft conversion on our council house, would we end up paying for that again if we bought the house? Would the council value the property as it stood there and then, or would the council give us a price for the original size of the home before we extended it?
Naomi - 28-Dec-16 @ 5:42 PM
spurs505 - Your Question:
We have been council tenants for a number of years and have accrued a fairly large discount. We have ruled out buying the flat where we live as it is only one bedroom, and due to my shift work we need a minimum of two bedrooms. If we were to find someone in a two bedroom house willing to swap locations with us, would our accrued discount move with us, or would it reset to zero?

Our Response:
Your discount will usually transfer with you if you move to another council property.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 14-Dec-16 @ 11:55 AM
We have been council tenants for a number of years and have accrued a fairly large discount. We have ruled out buying the flat where we live as it is only one bedroom, and due to my shift work we need a minimum of two bedrooms. If we were to find someone in a two bedroom house willing to swap locations with us, would our accrued discount move with us, or would it reset to zero?
spurs505 - 13-Dec-16 @ 3:07 PM
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