Right to Buy / Right to Acquire
Right to Buy and Right to Acquire are government schemes giving social housing tenants the opportunity to buy the home they are living in by offering them for sale at a discount. Right to Buy allows most council tenants to buy their council home; Right to Acquire is a similar scheme aimed at housing association tenants.
As housing is a devolved policy, the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have legislative power over the scheme which has resulted in significant regional differences in both eligibility requirements and the discount offered.
Right to Buy
Right to Buy was introduced in 1980 and gives eligible council tenants the right to buy the council home they are living in at a discount. To qualify you must be a secure tenant, have had a public sector landlord for three years and be living in the home you want to buy which must be self-contained, ie it has its own kitchen and bathroom.
In England (only) a number of changes have been made since April 2012, including:
- raising the maximum discount for a house to 70% (bringing it in line with flats)
- raising the discount ceiling to £77,900 (£103,900 in London)
- lowering the public sector tenancy requirement from five years to three years
These changes have proved popular: over 33,000 tenants have taken the opportunity and have successfully bought their home from their council.
But beware, in other parts of the United Kingdom the discounts are not so generous and the eligibility requirements can vary considerably. In Wales, the maximum discount available is £8,000; in Northern Ireland it’s £24,000 whereas Scotland is to end the scheme entirely on 1 August 2016.
For more information, please visit the Right to Buy page on the Government’s website.
Right to Acquire
Right to Acquire is a similar scheme, allowing most housing association tenants the opportunity to buy their home at a discount. To qualify you will need to have had a public sector landlord for at least three years and your property must either have been built or bought by a housing association or transferred from a local council after 31 March 1997. Eligible landlords include housing associations, councils, the armed services and NHS trusts and foundations; landlords must be registered with the Homes and Communities Agency.
In England (only), Right to Acquire may mean you are eligible for a discount of between £9,000 and £16,000 on the price of your property.
Although your current landlord may be a housing association, you may still qualify for Right to Buy rather than Right to Acquire. If your home was sold by the council to another landlord while you were living in it, you may have Preserved Right to Buy. If you weren’t living in it when it was sold you may still be able to buy it through the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot scheme operated by a number of housing associations in a (currently) small number of local authority areas.
For more information, please visit the Right to Acquire page on the Government’s website.
Should I apply?
Owning your own home brings many advantages – but it’s a big decision and one that needs very careful consideration. Property is a valuable asset, an investment for the future; ownership gives you the freedom to make changes to your home and, ultimately, you’ll be able to sell it. But, on the flip side, it brings financial costs and responsibilities that you may not be familiar with or be able to afford: you’ll probably need a mortgage; you’ll become responsible for maintenance and repairs (something your landlord probably provides at no cost) and, as an owner, you won’t be eligible for housing benefit.
How do I apply?
If, having thought about it, you decide that you do want to apply, the first step is to complete an application form and submit it to your landlord. If your landlord agrees to sell the property to you, they’ll make an offer which will tell you the price they think you should pay, the discount they are offering and how they worked this out. They’ll also tell you about the service charges you may face in the next five years and provide a description of the property and land along with any known problems. Having received the offer, you have 12 weeks in which to accept or decline it. If you chose to accept you’ll then need to go through the usual house-buying process and, probably, find a mortgage provider.
Selling your home
Once you’ve bought your home you’re free to sell it but, not surprisingly, there are several conditions to discourage tenants buying the property at a discount and then immediately selling it to make a profit. In both schemes, you have to give first refusal to the landlord you purchased it from and, if you sell your home within five years of buying or acquiring it, you’ll have to pay back some or, if you want to sell it within the first year, all of the discount you received.
Right to Buy and Right to Acquire gives an opportunity to many people to own their own home. Although that’s a good thing, it’s not without its risks and, as with any large financial transaction involving property, you must always get impartial financial and legal advice before making any form of commitment.
How can One Financial Solutions help you?
One Financial Solutions is here to help you no matter whether you’re a first-time buyer, thinking about ‘buy-to-let’ as an investment opportunity or wanting to know the pros and cons of equity release.
Buying a property is probably the greatest financial undertaking most of us will ever make; it’s a huge commitment and one that needs to be thoroughly considered, ideally with the help of an expert guide. As a truly independent firm of financial advisers we’ll make sure the mortgage we recommend to you is selected from the entire market and is the one that is best for you.
So, if you’re looking for a mortgage or just want advice on an associated subject, please call us on 020 3714 9565 or ask us to call you by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.