The right to buy gives council tenants the chance to buy their council home at a discounted price. Find out if you qualify and about paying for repairs and service charges after you've bought your home.
Right to buy your council home
The right to buy scheme gives council tenants the option to buy their rented home at a discounted price.
Housing association tenants may also qualify if they were originally council tenants and their tenancy has been transferred to a housing association.
If you qualify for the right to buy you can buy your home jointly with a joint tenant or with up to three family members who have lived in your home for at least the last 12 months.
Qualifying for the right to buy a council house
To be eligible to buy your council home, you must be a council tenant and must have been a social housing tenant for at least 3 years. The 3 years 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 may not be entitled to buy your home under the right to buy if:
- the property isn't your only or main home
- your home isn't self-contained (eg you share a kitchen or bathroom)
- you are bankrupt or threatened with bankruptcy or have other serious money problems
- you live in sheltered housing
- your home has been designed or adapted for people with special needs
Right to buy homes transferred to housing associations
You probably still have the right to buy if your home has been transferred from the council to a housing association since you moved in. This is called the 'preserved' right to buy.
Use form RTB1 to apply to your housing association instead of the council.
Housing association tenants have similar rights under the right to acquire.
Applying for the right to buy
To apply for the right to buy, download claim form RTB1 from Gov.uk or ask your council for the form.
After you apply, the council has to give you a decision within four to eight weeks.
If the council decides that you have the right to buy, it has to send you a formal written notice. This describes the property and explains:
- the terms and conditions of the sale
- the value of the property
- the discount you will get and how it is calculated
- if the property is a flat, an estimate of the service charges you will have to pay
- details of any structural problems that the council is aware of
The council has to give you a reason if it tells you that you don't have the right to buy. Ask for a more detailed explanation if you think the council's decision is wrong.
Get advice if your application is refused. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.
Right to buy discounts
When you apply a valuer assesses what the property is worth. You are offered the opportunity to buy it at a reduced price.
The UK Government sets the maximum discount on the sale price. From April 2015, the maximum discount in London is £103,900 and £77,900 in other areas.
The amount of discount you get depends on:
- how long you have been a council tenant
- if the property is a house or a flat
- the age and condition of the property
Costs of buying a council property
Most homebuyers have to get a mortgage from a bank or building society. You usually also need to pay a deposit and other costs involved in buying a home. The costs of your mortgage may vary over time as interest rates change or you apply for new mortgage deals.
If you buy a flat, you are probably a leaseholder. You may have to budget for service charges and repair costs for communal areas as well as for your own flat.
There are limits to how much the council can charge you for service charges.
Get advice if you think you're being charged too much. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.
Repair costs for communal areas
You may have to contribute towards the cost of repairs and improvements to the communal areas of your flat or house and sometimes on your estate.
These can include the cost of repairs and improvements to:
- communal lifts and stairs
- floors and paths
- gardens and play areas
If your council plans to do works to improve the standard of housing, you may have to budget for additional 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.
Selling a home bought using the right to buy
You have to repay some or all of the discount if you decide to sell your home within the first 5 years, or if it is repossessed by your mortgage lender during that time.
If you bought your home after the start of January 2005, your council also has the right of first refusal for 10 years after you buy your council home.
Advice and help on the right to buy
Get independent financial advice and be aware of the risks of home ownership before you buy.
You may wish to consider other ways to buy a home, such as home ownership schemes.
If you are not sure you have the right to buy, get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice or other advice centre in your area.
Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser in your area.