The right to buy gives council tenants the chance to buy their council home at a discount. Find out how to buy a council house.
Right to buy a council home
Under the council house right to buy, you may be able to buy your house or flat at a discounted price if you are a council tenant.
If you qualify for the right to buy, you can buy your council home:
- yourself if you are the sole tenant
- jointly with a joint tenant
- with up to three family members who have lived in your home for at least the last 12 months
Preserved right to buy for former council tenants
If you were a council tenant and your home was transferred to a housing association, you can apply to buy your home under rules for the preserved right to buy.
You apply to your housing association instead of the council.
Use form RTB1 to apply.
Right to buy discounts
From April 2015, the maximum discount on the sale price of a council home is:
- £103,900 in London
- £77,900 in other areas
The sale price is decided by a valuer who assesses what the property is worth.
The amount of discount you get depends on:
How much discount you get usually depends on:
- how long you've been a council tenant (including any time spent as an introductory tenant but not time spent as a demoted tenant)
- whether the property is a house or a flat
- the age and condition of the property
- the area of the country you live in
You have to repay some or all of the discount if either
- you sell your home within the first 5 years
- it is repossessed by your mortgage lender during that time
If you bought your home after January 2005, for 10 years after the purchase, the council also has the right of first refusal.
Homes that don't qualify for the right to buy
You may not have the right to buy if a council house or flat
- isn't your only or main home
- isn't self-contained (for example you share a kitchen or bathroom)
- has been designed or adapted for people with special needs or is sheltered housing
How to apply to buy a council house or flat
To apply for the right to buy, you'll need to complete and send form RTB1 to your council.
Or you can ask your council for the form. Use Gov.uk council finder to find details of your local council.
For the council right to buy, you must be a council tenant when you apply. You have to have been a tenant for at least 3 years in total (it doesn't have to be all at once).
You can count any time spent as:
- a council tenant
- a housing association tenant
- an armed forces tenant
- a tenant of a public body such as the NHS
You won't be eligible to buy if you are bankrupt or threatened with bankruptcy or have other serious money problems.
The council's decision
The council must write to you within four to eight weeks to let you know if you can buy your council house or flat.
If it decides you have the right to buy, the council must send you a formal written notice that describes the property and sets out:
- terms and conditions of the sale
- the property's value
- the discount and how it's calculated
- details of any structural problems the council is aware of
For a flat, the notice must also contain an estimate of the cost of service charges.
If you don't have the right to buy, the council has to give you a reasons in writing.
Get advice if your application is refused. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.
Costs of buying a council house or flat
To buy a home you usually need to:
- pay a deposit
- pay for surveyors reports and legal fees
- get a mortgage from a bank or building society
A mortgage is loan secured against your home. Mortgage costs vary over time as interest rates change or you take out new mortgage deals.
You can't get housing benefit to help pay for mortgage costs. You may be able to claim Support for Mortgage Interest if you claim certain benefits, but there's a waiting period of 13 weeks.
If you don't pay the mortgage, the mortgage provider can repossess your home.
Repairs costs and service charges for ex-council homes
If you buy a flat, you'll probably be a leaseholder. You usually have to pay service charges and repair costs for communal areas as well as for your own flat.
There are limits on how much the council can charge for service charges.
After you buy a council home, you might have to pay a contribution towards the cost of repairs and improvements to:
- communal lifts and stairs
- floors and paths
- windows and roofs
- gardens and play areas
You may need to budget for extra loans or mortgages to fund these types of repairs.
Your council has a legal duty to tell you about the cost of repairs and improvements before you buy a leasehold flat and anytime afterwards when repairs are planned.
Housing association tenants
If you are a housing association tenant, you have similar rights to buy under the right to acquire.
Discounts for the new housing association right to buy are likely to be higher than those for the right to aquire.
Housing associations also offer home ownership schemes.
Advice and further information
Call the Right to buy helpline on 0300 123 0913 to speak to a government Right to Buy adviser. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.