Are you a council tenant looking to buy your home? You might be able to purchase it for a lot less than you first thought with the Right to Buy government scheme. Find out whether you’re eligible, how it works, where to apply and more in this guide.

Right to Buy is a government scheme in England. It gives current council tenants and some previous council tenants the opportunity to buy their home at a discount, which can make it a lot easier - and cheaper - to enter the world of homeownership.

Sometimes people confuse this scheme with the right to buy the freehold. They’re completely different. The right to buy the freehold refers to your legal right to apply to buy the freehold on your leasehold house if you meet certain criteria. If this is what you’re looking for then see our guide on Freehold and Leasehold Properties.

If you want some more information and advice about the Right to Buy government scheme, simply keep reading.

Right to Buy Government Scheme

The main purpose of the Right to Buy government scheme is to help council and housing association tenants buy their homes at discounted prices. The discount is up to 70% or £110,500 in London and £82,800 outside London.

The discount you could potentially receive depends on:

  • How long you’ve been a tenant with a public sector landlord
  • The type of property you want to buy – e.g. a house or flat
  • The value of the property

You can use our Right to Buy calculator to figure out how much you could potentially save.

Are You Eligible for Right to Buy?

To apply for the Right to Buy discount, both you and your property need to meet the following requirements.

You must:

  • Be a council tenant or have been a council tenant when your property was transferred from the council to a housing association – in the latter case, you would instead apply for the Preserved Right to Buy which we explain below
  • Be a secure tenant, not an introductory or flexible tenant
  • Have had a public sector landlord for at least 3 years
  • Not live in sheltered or other housing suitable for elderly or disable people
  • Not have any legal problems with debt
  • Not have any outstanding possession orders against you

Your council home must:

  • Be your only or main home
  • Be self-contained
  • Not be due to be demolished

If the council used to own your property but now it’s owned by a housing association, you may qualify for the Preserved Right to Buy.

What’s the Preserved Right to Buy?

The Preserved Right to Buy is for people who want to buy their ex-council home. You may have the Preserved Right to Buy if you were a secure council tenant living in your home at the time it was transferred from your council to a housing association.

Even though the Preserved Right to Buy has slightly different rules and regulations about who can apply, it’s still a form of the Right to Buy scheme and works in the same way; you receive a potential discount when you go to buy your property.

Can You Make a Joint Application?

You can make a joint application for the Right to Buy scheme with:

  • Someone who shares your tenancy
  • Up to 3 family members who’ve lived with you for the last 12 months, regardless of whether they share your tenancy or not

What Kind of Mortgage Do You Need for Right to Buy?

You don’t have to take out a specific type of mortgage to purchase a Right to Buy property. However, securing a mortgage for a leasehold can be a little more complex, particularly if there isn’t long left on the lease. You can find more in our guide: Freehold and Leasehold Properties.

How to Apply for Right to Buy

So, you meet the eligibility criteria and you have the means to buy your home, but how do you apply for Right to Buy?

All you need to do is complete the RTB1 application form and take it, or send it by recorded delivery, to your landlord.

You’ll then have to wait for your landlord to confirm or deny whether you have the Right to Buy.

If your application is confirmed, you’ll receive an offer within 8 weeks for a freehold - typically a house - and 12 weeks for a leasehold property - typically a flat.

You’ll then have up to 12 weeks to accept your landlord’s offer. In this time, you’ll have to find a solicitor, arrange a mortgage and have the house surveyed. We can help you with each of these steps. Simply call us on 0330 433 2927.

Right to Buy Changes

The Right to Buy scheme was first introduced in 1980. It’s been around a while but has only undergone major changes in the last few years.

We’ve listed 3 of the biggest changes below:

  • In 2015, the number of years that you must have been a public sector tenant to be eligible was reduced from 5 to 3
  • In April 2018, the Right to Buy maximum discount was increased to £80,900 across England and £108,000 in London.
  • In April 2019, the Right to Buy maximum discount was increased to £82,800 across England and £110,500 in London.

The Right to Buy discount increases in April each year, in line with the CPI (Consumer Price Index).

Difference Between Right to Buy and Right to Acquire

If you’re not eligible for Right to Buy, you may be able to use Right to Acquire instead.

There are a few main differences between Right to Buy and Right to Acquire. These revolve around who’s eligible and the discount you can receive.

Right to Buy is a scheme which allows council tenants, or housing association tenants who were council tenants, to buy their property with a discount.

Right to Acquire is a scheme which allows housing association tenants, not council tenants, to buy their property with a discount. The discount is £9,000 - £16,000 which is significantly less than the discount available through the Right to Buy scheme. The amount of discount that you could receive through Right to Acquire will depend on where you live in the UK.


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