Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

Right to Buy - what you need to know

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If you have a secure tenancy you may have the right to buy your home, under the Right to Buy scheme.

How to apply

The rules of the Right to Buy scheme are quite complex and each application has to be looked at individually. We offer free and independent advice to our tenants about the scheme, as well as help to fill in an application form.

Complete a Right to Buy application form 

You can also collect application forms from the Guildhall.

Who has the right to buy?

Secure tenants have the right to buy their homes. If you have an introductory or demoted tenancy you do not.

You need to have held your tenancy for 5 years to qualify.

The five years does not have to be continuous and you can add together any time you have spent as a public sector tenant. A public sector tenant is someone whose landlord is a public body such as a council, housing association or government department. 

Any period spent in armed forces accommodation can count towards the five year qualifying period for Right to Buy and the qualifying period for the discount.You can also count this time if your husband/wife/civil partner was a member of the armed forces and you lived with them in this accommodation. If you currently live in armed forces accommodation you do not have the Right to Buy.

Tenants in sheltered accommodation cannot apply to buy their property as sheltered properties are ineligible for the Right to Buy Scheme.  Tenants of properties that are suitable for the elderly may also be refused the Right to Buy depending on whether or not they were over the age of 60 when the property was let to them.

You cannot buy your home if your tenancy is held in connection with your job, you are a an undischarged bankrupt or if you have lost your security of tenure through a suspended possession order.

The Right to Buy is not available to people who part own their home with the Council. Your eligibility would be confirmed as part of the Right to Buy application process. 

The Government has announced plans to change the minimum eligibility period from five years public sector tenancy to three. This requires a change to the law. This is expected to be in place in late 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval. The Bill’s progress can be tracked at www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/draft-bills/

Can I buy my home if I am on benefits?

Being on benefits will not affect your legal Right to Buy, but you will need to make sure you can afford your monthly repayments. Becoming a homeowner may however affect your benefits. For example, you won’t be eligible for Housing Benefit once you become a homeowner. It is important you take time to work out all the costs involved.  

How much discount will you receive?

It depends on how long you have been a tenant. The longer you have been a tenant the more discount you will receive on the market value of your home. During 2012 the Government increased the maximum discount to £75,000, subject to cap of 60% of the market value.

Discounts for houses and flats are worked out differently: 

House: If you live in a house (or bungalow), discounts starts at 35% after 5 years' tenancy. Add 1% for each extra year that you have been a tenant, up to 60%.

Flat: If you live in a flat, discounts start at 50% after 5 years' tenancy. Add 2% for each extra year that you have been a tenant, up to a maximum of 70%.

Whatever percentage you are eligible for, the discount cannot be greater than the maximum cash discount.

For further information on eligibility and a Right to Buy calculator to help you work out the discount you could receive based on length of tenancy and average property prices for your area please visit the Government's frequently asked questions.

Future changes to the Right to Buy discount amount

The Government recently announced plans to increase the maximum percentage discount for a house to 70% and increase the maximum cash cap in line with inflation. This requires a change to the law and is due to be in place from spring 2014.

If you are due to complete your purchase after the changes are legally in effect and you qualify for the bigger discount, the Council will automatically apply the new maximum discount and you will not need to reapply. 

If you are due to complete before the changes come into effect, and the changes are potentially beneficial to you, then you will need to discuss the options with the Council. You may be able to access these changes but it will depend on your individual circumstances. 

How much will you have to pay for your home?

The sale price will be set to compare with other houses of a similar type for sale in your area. If you disagree with the price the District Valuer will be asked to value the property.

Freehold and leasehold

The majority of properties are sold freehold. This means you own the land the house is built on. Flats and maisonettes are sold leasehold. For these the council continues to own the land and the building but you have the right to live there for the length of the lease.

The costs involved

In addition to the sale price, you need to add on the cost of any bank or building society fees, survey fees and your solicitor's fees. You will also need to arrange for buildings and contents insurance in you have bought a house.

If you are a leaseholder (i.e., in the case of a flat or maisonette) the buildings insurance will be included within your service charges but you will still need contents insurance. The service charge is paid annually to the council to cover the cost of such things as the buildings insurance and maintenance of the building.  

Please remember
  • Once you own your home you will be wholly responsible for the costs of maintaining it
  • You will not be entitled to claim any Housing Benefit to help with the cost of your mortgage
  • If you are elderly and own your home the value will be taken into account in assessing whether you need financial help with the cost of residential care
  • A number of firms offer mortgages and other services to tenants who want to buy their homes. You do not have to use them.
  • Buying your home is the biggest financial decision you will ever make. To make sure you make the right decision get as much information and advice as you can first.

Tenants are always advised to seek legal advice before committing themselves to buying their property.

Selling your property

After the property is yours you can sell it whenever you wish. If you wish to sell your property on within a period of 5 years of the date you purchased it from the council, you will need to repay some of the Right to Buy discount. The amount will depend on what you sell at and how long you have been the owner. This also applies if you agree to transfer ownership to someone else.

After 5 years you can sell without having to repay any money to the council.

However if you sell within 10 years you have to offer the property back to the council before you you put it on the open market.

Interested?

For more information on the Right to Buy Scheme view the Government's leaflet

On the next page

Things to consider when buying a home