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Introduction

This content applies to England & Wales

Buying housing from a local authority, housing association, or other private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH), formerly known as registered social landlord (RSL).

The criteria and procedures for the right to buy are contained in Part 5 of the Housing Act 1985.

Right to buy

The right to buy enables secure tenants who meet the qualifying requirements to buy the freehold or leasehold of the property at a discounted price. The right to buy applies to secure tenants of councils, some non-charitable PRPSH, and some other public sector landlords. Some former secure tenants have the preserved right to buy. However, the right to buy does not apply if a non-charitable PRPSH is a co-operative housing association or has never received certain grants.[1] The government website Own your home provides information for anyone wanting to find out more about the right to buy, as well as shared ownership through the Homebuy scheme.

Rent to mortgage

Rent to mortgage was a scheme that allowed occupiers to make low mortgage repayments of about the same amount as their previous rent, in return for the landlord retaining a share in the property. The rent to mortgage scheme was withdrawn on 17 July 2005. All applications for the scheme received before that date will still be processed.

Cash incentive schemes

Cash incentive schemes allow council tenants to apply for a grant towards the purchase or renting of a property in the private sector. It is for individual local authorities to decide if and how to operate a cash incentive scheme. Tenants do not have the right to a grant. Similar schemes are available from some registered social landlords and are called tenants' incentive schemes.

Shared ownership schemes

Shared ownership schemes allow applicants to buy a share in a property owned by a local authority or PRPSH. Shared owners then pay rent to the landlord on the remaining share. The most common type of shared ownership scheme is HomeBuy, which enables tenants of local authorities and PRPSHs to buy a property of their choice on the open market. Applicants contribute to 75 per cent of the purchase price. The remaining 25 per cent is funded by a loan from a PRPSH. For more information on shared ownership schemes, see the section on Shared/low cost home ownership.

Right to acquire

The right to acquire enables tenants of PRPSHs to buy homes that were built or acquired after 1 April 1997 through a social housing grant. This right applies to tenants who meet the qualifying requirements and is dependent on when the property was built or bought, not on when the tenancy was created.

Voluntary purchase grant scheme

The voluntary purchase grant scheme is a discretionary scheme allowing PRPSH tenants to apply for a grant to purchase their home.

Fraudulent claims

A fraudulent claim for the right to buy or right to acquire is a criminal offence under the Fraud Act 2006.

From 6 April 2014 in England, and 28 March 2014 in Wales, local authorities can compel listed organisations to provide them with information where it is reasonably required for the purpose of preventing, detecting or securing evidence for the conviction of an offence of making a fraudulent claim.[2]

The listed organisations are:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • other providers of credit
  • telecommunications providers
  • utilities companies.

[1] Sch.5 Housing Act 1985.

[2] s.7(7) Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013; Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information) (England) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/899; Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Detection of Fraud) (Wales) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/826 (W.84).

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