Do you have the right to buy your home?

Stewart Cork / 26 August 2016

Over 1.5 million council home tenants have bought the home in which they were living from their local council – could you join them?

The Right to Buy was introduced by the government back in 1980, and in the 35 years since over 1.5 million council home tenants have bought the home in which they were living from their local council. 

Recently, the government has extended this to housing association tenants.

What is the right to buy?

The original idea was that one’s home is one’s castle. As such, everyone should have the security that comes along with owning your own home.

The government offered to assist with this by allowing tenants to buy their council home, giving a discount against the market price to enable them to be able to afford the purchase.

This was a marketed as a win-win as it would generate revenue for the government through sales as well as reducing day to day running costs of social housing.

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Who is eligible?

The 1980 Housing Act gave all council tenants had a right to buy their home providing they had lived in it for at least three years. This right has been in place since then, with the eligibility and discount varying over time.

You can currently apply to buy your council home if you have had any public sector landlord – which means a council, housing association or NHS trust – for 3 years.

Housing is a devolved political issue and Scottish MSPs voted to end the Right To Buy at the end of July 2016. 

It is still active across the rest of the United Kingdom.

Extension of the right to buy

As of 2015, the UK government has been looking to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.

These tenants may have already been eligible under certain circumstances – if their home had previously been a council home, or if it was built using certain government grants. However, the majority of tenants did not have this right.

Housing associations were initially resistant to the extension as they could potentially be forced to sell valuable assets, but they agreed a voluntary trial which allowed them some discretion over which properties would be available.

Five housing associations are part of this trial and a target of 600 homes was set. 

Applications for the pilot are now closed, with the first sales starting to complete now.

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The future of the scheme

The trial will be evaluated in September and some adjustments may be made to the scheme but it is expected to be rolled out to all housing association tenants in due course.

If this happens, all social housing tenants who meet the criteria will be able to buy their home at a discount on the market price, with the housing association receiving the full value to spend on building further social homes as the government providing the difference.

If you're one of these people, the discount you'll receive means that the mortgage and therefore the deposit required will be less than if you had to pay the full purchase price. 

In other words, buying your own castle could be more affordable than you might think.

Helpful links:

How to buy your council home

How to buy your housing association home

To insure your home, contact Saga Home Insurance for a quote.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.