Can I buy my council house?

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Can I buy my council house?

  • No Deposit Required
  • Rates Based on Full Market Value
  • Bad Credit Ratings Accepted
  • Free Advice
  • 5 * service
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Author: Carl Shave - CEO and co-founder
Last updated: May 23rd, 2022

Can I buy my council house?

Have you ever wondered: can I buy my council house? Well, courtesy of the government’s Right to Buy scheme – established back in 1980 – it is possible for some tenants of council property to buy the homes they currently rent. The process can appear complicated so below is a step-by-step approach to look at some of the relevant stages.

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Am I eligible to buy my council house?

Here is where we start to answer the question: can I buy my council house?

The basic qualifying factor is that you must have been a council tenant for three years or more. If the property was sold by the council to another landlord, then you must have been the tenant at the time of that sale. (The three years’ tenancy do not have to be consecutive or in the same property.)

Next, some qualifying factors about you:

  • You must not have any legal problems with debt.
  • You must not have any outstanding possession orders against you.

And about the property:

  • The property must be your only, or main, residence.
  • It must not be specialist housing intended for disabled or elderly tenants.
  • It must not be scheduled to be demolished.

Assuming that is all okay, move on to the next steps below.

This is crucial to establish, and you are wise to look at the financial aspect early in the process. Any mortgage will be subject to affordability checks anyway, so you have to do the sums at some point.

Having the opportunity to purchase your council property is one thing but, for many, this will involve a mortgage and as such you will also need to establish if it is affordable for you. If you know the purchase and discount figures being offered to you (use your best estimate if not) these can be used to carry out some initial research for the monthly payments. Mortgage calculators can be a useful tool to do this or alternatively speak to a mortgage adviser. How does it compare to your rent?

Your other monthly bills will stay the same. However, there may be some additional costs to take into account, such as building insurance and possibly life insurance, if you do not already have it. Remember to add those into your costs.

You can now compare outgoings to income and see if it looks affordable on an ongoing basis.

Finally, work out the cost of the property purchase itself – remember, there will likely be survey fees, possibly stamp duty, mortgage arrangement fees – and check you have savings to cover those.

If you are asking yourself, “Can I buy my council flat?” remember that flats can have additional costs attached, such as annual service charges. These will also have to be budgeted for.

If you are eligible, and confident you can afford it, the next step is to put in an application, using the “Right to Buy application” form (RTB1 notice). You can complete it online or else get a paper copy from your landlord.

If you are the tenant, you can make a solo application. Joint applications can be in joint tenancy names, or the names of up to three family members who have lived at the address for at least a year.

You should get a decision from your landlord within four weeks – or eight, if you have been their tenant for less than three years. If they say no, they will explain why. If they say yes, they should go on to make you an offer.

If your landlord has agreed to sell, they will send you an offer notice (S125). That will take up to eight weeks to arrive for a freehold property, or 12 weeks for a leasehold property.

The offer tells you what the property is valued at and how much discount you will receive. It will also outline any known structural problems and any terms and conditions that will apply.

The amount of discount awarded depends on how long you have been a tenant, and whether the property is a house or a flat.

Discount for a house:

  • Basic discount: 35% (applies up to five years’ tenancy)
  • Additional discount over five years’ tenancy: 1% per year
  • Discount capped at: 70% or £87,200 (London £116,200)

Discount for a flat:

  • Basic discount: 50% (applies up to five years’ tenancy)
  • Additional discount over five years’ tenancy: 2% per year
  • Discount capped at: 70% or £87,200 (London £116,200)

Things to watch out for:

If your landlord does not reply by the deadline at any stage, or if you do not agree with the property valuation, you can appeal.

If you go ahead with the purchase, you will need to get a survey done (this is likely to be part of the mortgage application process if one is required) and, if you do not already have a solicitor, you will also need to appoint one.

You may also need to arrange a mortgage. If you are buying a property that needs some updating and asking how can I buy my council flat and put in a new kitchen as well, this is the time to see exactly how much you can borrow and confirm that you can afford the full amount.

The amount of discount awarded is dependent upon two things: how long you have been a tenant, and whether the property is a house or a flat. Different discount caps also apply to properties in London.

The initial discount offered to tenants with a minimum 3 year tenancy is 30% for a house and 50% for a flat. Additional discounts are offered for those whose tenancies have lasted 5 years or more – 1% per year for a house and 2% for a flat – up to a maximum total discount of 70%, or £84,200 (£112,300 in London) for both houses and flats.

 

Type of property House Flat
Discount due after 3 years’ tenancy (qualifying level) 30% 50%
Additional discount per year if you have over 5 years’ tenancy 1%

 

2%

 

Discount capped at 70% or £87,200

(London £116,200)

70% or £87,200

(London £116,200)

 

Assuming you have been a council tenant for 10 years and are buying a property worth £100,000, this would mean:

 

Type of property House Flat
Initial discount due £30,000 £50,000
Additional discount £5,000 £10,000
Total value of discount applied £35,000 £60,000
Final purchase price of property £65,000 £40,000

 

As far as securing a mortgage is concerned, a tenant purchasing a property under the Right to Buy scheme is in the same position as anyone else buying a property – they require a deposit (although some lenders will generally accept the Right to Buy discount in lieu), and they need to be able to prove they can keep up the repayments. However, if the property to be purchased is a flat in a high-rise building, there may be some additional requirements to take into consideration.

Some lenders can be reluctant to grant mortgages for the purchase of high-rise flats, for a number of reasons: older council blocks can be hard to maintain; they may have concerns about the resale potential of such properties; the communal areas may be dilapidated, which both pulls down the value and reduces their desirability; and they may be concerned about the mix of owner/occupiers and tenants.

Due to these factors and a drop in the value of such properties following the credit crunch, certain lenders will not consider mortgages for flats in a building higher than 7–10 storeys. In some cases, where mortgages are granted on flats in buildings with more than, for example, 10 storeys, they may only consider lending against flats on the bottom 8 floors. You should also be aware that high-rise flats are often classed as a non-standard building, so specialist insurance may be required.

Whether you are in a council house, flat or a high-rise apartment block, you can improve your chances of getting a mortgage by enquiring early in the process and obtaining a mortgage decision in principle. By working with an experienced mortgage broker, you will potentially be able to access lenders beyond the high street, with the added advantage that the broker will be able to advise on which lenders offer mortgages that will match your own circumstances and the property type.

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