In recent years, the UK government has been proactive in helping people to become homeowners. Part of this drive is the Right to Buy scheme, available since 1980, which you might qualify for if you’re a council or housing association tenant. Read on for some more information on what the incentive entails, the criteria you need to meet to take advantage of it, and some advice on how it can affect the conveyancing process.
Is Right to Buy still available?
Yes, provided that you’re eligible for the scheme, you still have the opportunity to buy your council home with a discount. This reduction in the cost of buying your home could make a massive difference to whether you can afford it and help you to secure a suitable mortgage. Buying will allow you to properly settle into your home, make it your own, and invest in it for the future.
What is the Right to Buy discount?
The current Right to Buy discount stands at a maximum of £84,200. Due to the significantly higher property prices in the capital, this rises to £112,300 if your home is in London.
Is Right to Buy available throughout the UK?
No. 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 from January 2019.
Who qualifies for Right to Buy?
If you’ve been a council tenant for over three years, or you were living in a council home when its ownership transferred to a new landlord (like a housing association), you could qualify for Right to Buy. This timeframe was reduced from five years in 2015, making the scheme even more accessible. The property you live in must be your only or main home and must be self-contained, and you must be a secure tenant, free from legal problems with debt and possession orders.
Do you qualify if you are on benefits?
Yes, you can buy your council home while on benefits. But it is important you are aware of and understand how becoming a homeowner might affect any benefits you receive.
There’s an eligibility checker on the government’s website, which you can complete in a matter of moments. Simply submit a few basic details and you can sign up for more information on Right to Buy. If you’d rather speak to an adviser, there’s a telephone number to call along with an email address, contact form or call back option. The qualification criteria are a little different in Northern Ireland, so check the dedicated website.
Do housing associations offer Right to Buy?
Not through the government scheme. However, if you moved into your home when it was a council home and it later transferred to a housing association, you will be eligible for Right to Buy so long as you meet the other criteria. This is known as Preserved Right to Buy.
There’s another quick test to help you determine your eligibility for this, but even if you don’t qualify then you may still be able to buy your house with a smaller discount through the Right to Acquire scheme. With options to explore and plans to expand Right to Buy to more housing association tenants, you can still have hope that you’ll be able to purchase your home someday.
How to get Right to Buy
If you think you’re eligible, to get your Right to Buy discount, you’ll need to fill out the RTB1 application form. You’ll need to print, sign it and complete all the relevant sections before sending this by recorded delivery to your landlord. It’s recommended you keep a completed copy of the form for yourself.
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.
If this application is successful, you’ll then agree an offer notice with your landlord.
If you’re unsure whether Right to Buy is the correct way to go, and to understand more about what your options are, you’ll find free and impartial advice through the Right to Buy Agent service. They can be contacted by phone or webchat from 9:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays or emailed at a time that suits you.
Do you need a Right to Buy mortgage?
Yes, if you’d like to go ahead with Right to Buy, you’ll need to shop around and find a mortgage provider who will agree to lend to you. Most mortgage providers will have helped with Right to Buy before and will understand your circumstances. Some may even offer specialist products.
Do you need a deposit?
This is for the mortgage provider to stipulate, but in the vast majority of 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. 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, but as you’re already living in your home they shouldn’t cause you any additional stress aside from the odd extra bit of paperwork. Your conveyancer will deal with the council to sort out things such as the title deeds on your home and advise you on certain rights and obligations.
You usually don’t 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 to settle any issues regarding outstanding or overpaid rent. Your conveyancer can also explain what would happen if you decide 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.
Click here for more information on what your conveyancer does for you. We also have information on purchasing a new home with our handy home buying process guide, full of useful information to help you every step of the journey. Additionally you can take a look at our guides that cover the mortgage process and some of the key costs you can expect to see when buying a new home.
Disclaimer: The article above is only a rough guide to give you some idea of what’s involved with the Right to Buy Schemes and conveyancing.