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Conventional shared ownership

This content applies to England & Wales

Conventional shared ownership schemes involve the applicant buying a share in a property and paying rent on the remainder.

How the scheme works

Applicants for conventional shared ownership usually buy a 50 per cent share of a property from a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH) such as a housing association. Some schemes allow the purchase of anywhere between 25 and 75 per cent. The purchaser will need to arrange a conventional mortgage through a bank or building society for this share of the property. They will then pay rent to the PRPSH on the remainder. Generally, the larger the share of the property purchased by the applicant, the lower the rent they will have to pay, as the rent is calculated on the proportion of the share not owned by the applicant. The rent should also take into account the fact that many applicants will be responsible for repairs. If the applicant buys a leasehold flat, they will also have to pay a service charge.

After the initial purchase, applicants can buy further shares in the property, though as prices may rise, additional shares could cost more. In some rural areas, there may be a restriction on the option to buy further shares. Eventually, many applicants can own the property outright.


Applicants must be unable to buy a home outright and in a position to raise a mortgage. Priority is often given to existing social housing tenants, those who have applied for an allocation of such accommodation, key workers or first-time buyers.

Types of property available

Properties available to buy through conventional shared ownership will usually be properties that have been either newly built, or bought and refurbished, by an PRPSH. The purchase price of the property will vary according to type and location. The property must be suitable for the applicant's needs, for example, it should not be considerably larger than needed for the applicant and her/his household.

Rural Repurchase scheme

In some rural areas, the ability to buy further shares may be restricted or the PRPSH may reserve the right to buy back the property, at full market value. These arrangements are limited to rural areas and are intended to provide a means of keeping low cost housing for rural communities. The social landlord should inform the leaseholder if these restrictions apply. For more information about the Rural Repurchase scheme see the Homes and Communities Agency Affordable Housing Rural repurchase information.

Designated protected areas (England only)

Shared ownership leases in designated protected areas[1] are either excluded from enfranchisement (ie the right to buy the freehold of the property) because they allow staircasing only up to 80 per cent, or, if they allow staircasing beyond 80 per cent, must contain a requirement for the leaseholder to sell her/his property back to the landlord freeholder when s/he wishes to move out.[2]

Rent and security of tenure

Shared ownership properties are usually a combination of assured tenancy and leasehold owner-occupation. The assured tenancy has no rent controls applicable, apart from a few limited exceptions.[3] The PRPSH sets a rent for the property, which is subject to annual increases. Applicants are also granted a lease of the property, usually for 99 years.

See the sections Leasehold property and Assured tenancies for more information.

The lease

The lease will include terms and conditions, if the lease is for a house then the leaseholder will be responsible for all repairs and redecoration inside and out. The rent will include a service charge covering the costs of insuring the building, rent collection and a share of the cost of maintaining any other common areas.

If the lease is for a flat, the PRPSH will be responsible for all external maintenance and repairs, including exterior paintwork. The leaseholder would pay for this through the service charge, which would include her/his share of the cost of maintaining all common parts, and s/he may be liable for extra charges to pay for major repairs. The leaseholder is responsible for all internal redecoration, and will often be responsible for internal repairs, though the lease will set out all the leaseholder's obligations.

The Homes and Communities Agency has issued sample shared ownership leases, one for flats and one for houses. The leases can be adapted by PRPSHs.

The mortgage

Most applicants buying a share of a property will need to take out a mortgage. The mortgage is a contract between the leaseholder and the mortgage lender and is entirely separate from the lease. The mortgage lender and the terms of the mortgage must first be approved in writing by the PRPSH who must be provided with full details of the original mortgage and any subsequent loans. Both parties should liaise closely to deal with any problems quickly and avoid misunderstandings.

Increasing the leasehold share by staircasing

The leasehold share of a shared ownership property can normally be increased in blocks; this is known as 'staircasing'. The minimum share that needs to be purchased varies between schemes. Often, staircasing is prohibited during the first year of the term of the lease. There may also be restrictions on staircasing in designated protected areas[4] and in certain rural areas. The cost of staircasing is determined by the valuation of the property at the time staircasing takes place. Applicants will usually be responsible for the cost of the valuation, and the cost of their own and the landlord's solicitors. Applicants who staircase to 100 per cent may also have to pay stamp duty.

The landlord will not usually give consent to staircasing if there are any rent arrears on the property. If the property is a house, the freehold is automatically transferred when the leaseholder owns 100 per cent of the equity. However, in designated protected areas in England, certain leases must contain a requirement for the leaseholder to sell her/his property back to the original landlord or its nominee when s/he wishes to sell the property.[5] If it is a flat or maisonette a long lease at a nominal ground rent will be granted, usually 99 years for the first owner.

Downward staircase

It may also be possible to 'downward staircase', or request the registered social landlord to buy back shares, if the occupier has difficulty paying the mortgage. See the page Shared ownership: repossession for more information.

Buying the freehold

If all the leaseholders of flats in the same scheme have staircased to 100 per cent, the private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH) landlord may decide to dispose of its freehold interest. Disposal is likely to be to a management company formed by the leaseholders themselves who would then be responsible for the management of the properties and landlord obligations under the lease.

100 per cent leaseholders of flats in existing shared ownership schemes also have the right to collectively buy the freehold if they can satisfy the required conditions under the legislation[6] See the page Collective enfranchisement for details. Leaseholders with smaller shares would then have to lease back their properties from the new freeholders.

Selling the home

An applicant who wishes to sell the property can sell the lease at any time, but s/he must inform the landlord in writing that s/he wants to move. The applicant can either sell the share that s/he owns or buy the remaining share and then sell the property outright. The leaseholder will benefit from any increase in the value of the property according to the share s/he owns.

In some cases, it is possible to sell the property on the open market in the normal way through an estate agent but often there is a clause in the lease that prohibits this, and enables the social landlord to nominate prospective buyers and restrict the sale price to an independent valuer's valuation at the time of sale.

Moving house

Applicants who need to move to a more suitable property because of a change in household circumstances may be able to move to another shared ownership property, provided they are still eligible.

Variation of leases

Shared ownership leases cannot be varied without the consent of both the purchaser and the registered social landlord, unless they are varied by an order made by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) [7] or the county court.

See the page the terms of the lease for more information.

Subletting the home

Subletting the whole of the property is prohibited for shared ownership properties, although the landlord may consider a request to sublet in certain circumstances. These include:

  • the reason the shared owner needs to sublet is unavoidable and is not for speculation or gain
  • the sub-lessee meets the criteria for shared ownership
  • the shared owner is subletting the property on a fixed-term agreement.

The shared owner will also need the consent of the mortgage company before subletting the whole of the property.

Succession rights

If a person with a shared ownership lease dies, the part of the property that is owned passes to the beneficiary of the will. The rented part passes to any successor. Where these two people are different, the tenant will have the right to occupy and the beneficiary will have the equitable interest, which would only be realised when the property is sold. The beneficiary's position would be similar where there is no successor: the landlord would have vacant possession of the property, but the beneficiary would be more likely to succeed in obtaining an order for sale to realise the equity. If there is a successor but no will, then the laws of intestacy apply.

If there is no successor and no one to inherit the equity, then the landlord will obtain vacant possession and the equity will eventually pass to the Crown or the Duchy of Cornwall or Lancaster under the laws of intestacy.[8] Many shared ownership leases have a clause to clarify these potentially messy situations.

For further information on succession rights, see the section on Succession.

[1] Housing (Right to Enfranchise) (Designated Protected Areas) (England) Order 2009

[2] Housing (Shared Ownership Leases) (Exclusion from Leasehold Reform Act 1967) (England) Regulations 2009 SI 2009/2097.

[3] s.35 Housing Act 1988.

[4] Housing (Right to Enfranchise) (Designated Protected Areas) (England) Order 2009 SI 2009/298.

[5] Housing (Shared Ownership Leases) (Exclusion from Leasehold Reform Act 1967) (England) Regulations 2009 SI 2009/2097.

[6] s.1 Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

[7] Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Property Chamber) Rules 2013 SI 2013/1169; the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Amendment) Order 2013 SI 2013/1187.

[8] s.46 Administration of Estates Act 1925.

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