Finding a home - Conveyancing - First time buyer

The Right to Buy Scheme

5 min read

The Right to Buy scheme can help tenants become homeowners. If you're a council or housing association tenant, find out if you might qualify for the scheme.

  • Ellie-Mae Johnson Deputy Conveyancing Manager
    Ellie Mae Johnson

    Deputy Conveyancing Manager

    Published April 17th 2023

flats available to buy through the right to buy scheme

What is the Right to Buy Scheme?

Right to Buy is a government scheme that gives eligible council and housing association tenants the legal right to purchase their home at a discount. As of 6th April 2023, the maximum discount for properties outside of London is £96,010, due to the significantly higher property prices in the capital, this rises to £127,940 for homes within London.

The size of discount depends on the length of time you’ve been renting the house, type of property and its value.

Is Right to Buy still available?

The Right to Buy scheme is available in England and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Right to Buy scheme ended in July 2016, while it closed in Wales in January 2019.

the charming high street of Harrow on the Hill, Harrow, London England

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Who qualifies for Right to Buy?

There are a few criteria to be eligible for the scheme. You can buy your council home if:

  • It’s your only or main home, meaning you’re living in the property

  • It’s self-contained – you don’t share any rooms with people outside your household

  • You’ve been a secure council tenant for over three years – it doesn’t have to be three years in a row

  • You don’t have any legal issues with debt

  • You don’t live in sheltered housing or other housing particularly suitable for elderly or disabled people

Joint applications

You might be able to buy your home with:

  • Someone who shares your tenancy

  • Your spouse or civil partner

  • Up to three family members who’ve been living with you for the past 12 months – even if they’re not on your tenancy agreement

Right to Buy exceptions

You don’t have the Right to Buy your home if it:

  • Is suitable for occupation by elderly people

  • Was let to you for occupation by a person aged 60 or over – even if they weren’t tenants

  • Was first let before 1 January 1990

  • Is due to be demolished

For more information on other exceptions to Right to Buy you can download the government’s Right to Buy guide from gov.uk.

Do you qualify if you’re on benefits?

You can buy your council home while on benefits. However, owning your home means more responsibilities; you’ll need to find a way to finance this big investment. Make sure you research mortgages and ensure you can afford your repayments – taking into consideration the general living costs, as well as repairs and maintenance. And of course, keep in mind that circumstances, interest rates and house prices may change.

Another thing you need to consider is that if you purchase your house through the scheme, you won’t be eligible for housing benefits. Find out more about the cost of buying a house.

Unsure on whether Right to Buy is right for you? Explore your options and find free and impartial advice through the Right to Buy Agent service.

How much is the Right to Buy discount?

If you’re eligible for Right to Buy, you can get a discount of up to £96,010 across England and £127,940 in London. The size of the discount depends on various factors such as how long you’ve been a public sector tenant for, type of home and its value.

Here’s how to work out how much discount you could get:

Been a public sector tenant for between three and five years?

  • If you’re living in a house, you’ll get a 35% discount on your property’s market value – up to a maximum of £96,010 or £127,940.

  • If you’re living in a flat, you’ll get a 50% discount on your home’s house value.

Been a public sector tenant for longer than five years?

  • If you’re living in a house, your discount will go up by 1% for every extra year you’ve been a public sector tenant up to a maximum of 70% or £96,010 or £127,940 in London.

  • If you’re living in a flat, the discount will go up by 2% for each extra year you’ve been a public sector tenant, up to maximum of 70% or £96,010 or £127,940 in London.

How do I apply?

To get your Right to Buy discount:

  • Step 1: Fill out the RTB1 application form

  • Step 2: Print it and sign it

  • Step 3: Send your application by recorded delivery to your landlord

It’s recommended you keep a completed copy of the form for yourself.

The information you’ll need to fill out on the form includes:

  • The full address of the property you want to buy

  • The name of your landlord

  • The full names of everyone listed on the tenancy agreement

  • The full names of family members who wish to share the Right to Buy

  • Information about your current and previous tenancies

  • Details of any other properties you have bought at discount through any Government scheme, including Right to Buy

  • Details of any improvements you’ve made while living at the property

  • A signature from each tenant

Your landlord must make a decision within four weeks of getting your application. If your application is successful, they’ll send you an offer within eight and 12 weeks – depending on whether you’re purchasing a freehold or leasehold property. However, if your landlord doesn’t agree to sell, they must explain the reasons why.

Do I need a Right to Buy mortgage?

If you’d like to go ahead with Right to Buy, you’ll need to shop around and find a mortgage provider who’ll agree to lend to you. Most mortgage providers will understand your circumstances, as they might have helped with Right to Buy before – and some may even offer specialist products.

Do I need a deposit?

This is for the mortgage provider to stipulate, but in most cases a deposit will be required. The percentage of the home’s value this demands will vary from provider to provider.

How does Right to Buy affect conveyancing?

By the time you need a conveyancer, you’ll be well along with your Right to Buy purchase. After agreeing the terms of the offer notice you receive from your landlord, you’ll need to get your mortgage in place and instruct a conveyancer to transfer legal ownership, which is known as conveyancing. Your legal professional will manage your purchase from here, so you need to choose a conveyancer who’s experienced in dealing with Right to Buy transactions.

There are some differences compared to regular purchases, such as extra paperwork and dealing with the council. However, your conveyancer will be there to help sort out everything out, such as, the title deeds on your home and advising you on certain rights and obligations.

You also, don’t usually have to exchange contracts with your Right to Buy purchase, so your conveyancer will work straight towards completion. They’ll arrange for you to sign the transfer deed and help you settle any issues regarding outstanding or overpaid rent. They’ll also explain what would happen if you decided to sell your home within five years of buying it through Right to Buy, as you’ll have to repay the council a portion of the discount you received.

Find out more about what a conveyancer does or get an online quote for your conveyancing.

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