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Together

Our top tips for navigating the Right-to-Buy scheme

Over the last thirty years we’ve helped many eligible people in council and housing association properties achieve their ambition of becoming a homeowner. Here we answer some of the questions we’re asked about the Right to Buy scheme.

What is Right-to-Buy?

It’s a scheme that gives some council or social housing tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the right to buy their home at a discounted price. The sale includes any land which is part of the property, such as gardens or garages.

The discounts are different depending on what part of the UK you’re in, and how long you’ve lived there.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Your landlord can tell you.

You probably qualify for Right-to-Buy if you’re a council tenant and have been for at least three years.

Those three years don’t have to be continuous, and you can add together any time you have spent as a public sector tenant. A public sector tenant is someone whose landlord is a public body, like the local council, a housing association or a government department.

There are some other eligibility criteria, relating to legal issues with debt and possession orders for instances. And some properties are exempt from the scheme.

I’m a housing association tenant. Do I have the right to buy my home?

Possibly.

A pilot scheme to voluntarily extend the scheme to housing association tenants has recently ended. Five housing associations took part, and the first sales are now being processed. The outcome of the pilot will decide whether the voluntary Right-to-Buy scheme is implemented.

If you were already living in your home when it was transferred from the council to the housing association, you may have what’s known as a ‘Preserved Right-to-Buy’. This means you can buy your home as if you were still a council tenant.

I’ve lived in Armed Forces accommodation, can I use this time for Right-to-Buy?

Yes. Any period spent in Armed Forces accommodation can count towards the three year qualifying period for right to buy, and the qualifying period for the discount. You can also count this time if your husband, wife or civil partner was a member of the Armed Forces and you lived with them in this accommodation. However, Right-to-Buy doesn’t extend to Armed Forces accommodation itself.

Can I make a joint application?

Yes. You may be able to buy with someone who is on the tenancy agreement with you, your spouse or civil partner or up to three family members who’ve been living in your home for the 12 months immediately before you make the application. They don’t have to be on the tenancy agreement but it must be their main home.

What discounts are available can I get?

The longer you have been a tenant, the bigger the discount you could get, up to a maximum discount of £108,000 in London and £80,900 in the rest of England: discounts increase each year in line with any increase in inflation.

If you have lived in your home for three, four or five years, you are entitled to a 35% discount for a house and 50% discount on a flat. If you’ve lived in your house for six years or more, you need to add 1% per year for houses, up to 70% (or the maximum discount). The increase is 2% per year for flats.

In Northern Ireland, the discount is capped at £24,000. In Wales, the cap sits at £8,000 (although the scheme is currently suspended in parts of Wales, and will end entirely in January 2019).

Can I get a mortgage for my Right-to-Buy property?

It’s important to do your research and look at all the costs involved, because you’re responsible for financing your Right-to-Buy home. Speak to a mortgage broker, an independent financial adviser or us. You’ll be given all the options available to you.

Will I need a deposit for my Right-to-Buy property?

Many lenders will take the discount as a deposit (although some will not), so you may not need a cash deposit. It may be worth talking to a mortgage lender, broker or financial adviser to find a mortgage to best suit your needs.

What happens if I see my Right-to-Buy property?

If you sell within the first five years, the landlord has the right to ask for repayment of part or all of the discount (expressed as a percentage), based on what it sells for. After five years, that right ends – and anything you make from selling the property is yours to keep.

Can I buy my Right-to-Buy house if I’m on benefits?

Being on benefits doesn’t affect your legal right to buy and some lenders, like Together, will accept benefits payments when calculating whether you can afford to pay back your mortgage. However, being a homeowner may affect your benefits. For example, you won’t be eligible for housing benefit if you own your home.

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