By Nic Hopkirk

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Right to Buy is a government scheme that offers council and housing association tenants help to buy the home they are renting. 

Right to Buy has been around for 40 years, after being introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980.

The scheme only operates in England and has been abolished in Wales and Scotland. 

It's still running in Northern Ireland, though far fewer people will be eligible to participate as of 28 August 2022, when it will close for tenants of registered housing associations.

Right to Buy means no deposit and big discounts

With Right to Buy, there’s no need to save for a deposit - and you can get a discount of up to £87,200 on your property, or up to £116,200 in London.

Every year, that discount increases in line with the consumer price index (CPI).

The size of discount you can get depends on:

  • how long you’ve been a tenant with a public sector landlord
  • the type of property you’re buying (ie, whether it’s a flat or a house)
  • the value of the home you wish to buy

Want to find out how big the discount you're entitled to is? 

Check out the government’s Right to Buy discount calculator

One thing to note: if you sell your home within five years of purchasing it through Right to Buy, you’ll usually have to repay some - or all - of your discount.

Tenants must pass certain eligibility criteria in order to qualify for the scheme.

Who qualifies for Right to Buy?

You can apply to buy your council home if:

  • it’s your only or main home
  • it’s self-contained
  • you’re a secure tenant (most council tenants are secure tenants, it means you have a lifetime tenancy and you can only be evicted in certain situations)
  • you’ve had a public sector landlord for three years, though it doesn’t need to have been for three years in a row
  • public sector landlords include:
    • councils
    • housing associations 
    • NHS trusts 
  • you must also have no legal issues with debt (for example a county court judgement)

If your home used to be owned by the council, but they sold it to another landlord (like a housing association) while you were living in it, you may still have the Right to Buy. 

This is called ‘Preserved Right to Buy’. You can ask your landlord if this applies to you.

Joint applications

You can make a joint application with:

  • someone who shares your tenancy
  • up to three family members who’ve lived with you for the past 12 months (even if they don't share your tenancy)

How do I apply for Right to Buy?

To apply, you’ll need to: 

Fill in the Right to Buy application form (RTB1 notice) and send it to your landlord.

Your landlord must say yes or no within four weeks of receiving your application. 

If you’ve been with your landlord for less than three years, they have up to eight weeks to respond. 

The government states that if your landlord says no, they must say why.

If your landlord agrees to sell, they’ll send you an offer. 

The offer must be sent within eight weeks if you’re buying a freehold property, or 12 weeks if you’re buying a leasehold one.

If your landlord agrees to sell

If your landlord is willing to sell, they’ll send you an offer showing: 

  • their asking price and how it was calculated
  • the level of discount included and how it was worked out
  • a description of the property and any land included in the price
  • estimates of any service charges (for a flat or maisonette) for the first five years
  • any known problems with the property’s structure, for example, subsidence

You then have 12 weeks to reply and either accept or decline the offer. 

If you don’t reply to the offer, the landlord will send you a reminder giving you 28 days to reply. 

If you don’t reply after that, the landlord may withdraw your offer.

What if the price is too high?

If you think the price is too high, you must reply within three months of getting the offer and you can ask for an independent valuation.

A district valuer from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will then visit your home and decide how much it’s worth. 

After that, you have 12 weeks to accept their valuation or you can decide to pull out of the sale.

Getting a mortgage for Right to Buy

Once you’ve accepted your Right to Buy offer, you’ll need to secure a mortgage to buy your home, just as you would with any other home.

You’ll need to think about all the costs involved with buying a home, including solicitors' fees, surveys and mortgage fees.

The cost of buying a home explained

Find out how much you can borrow, the different types of mortgages available and the questions you'll be asked in a mortgage interview with our guides.

Your most common mortgage questions answered

What types of mortgages are there?

Can I be refused Right to Buy?

Right to Buy can be refused to some tenants for the following reasons:

  • you don't have a secure tenancy
  • you have less than five years public sector tenancy
  • your home is under a possession order
  • you are an undischarged bankrupt, have a pending bankruptcy petition or you have made arrangements with creditors
  • you have a court order suspending your Right to Buy because of antisocial behaviour
  • your property is subject to a demolition notice

Some properties are also excluded from Right to Buy, they include:

  • properties on a long-term fixed lease of 21 years or more 
  • properties that are provided for specific purposes, for example, police houses 
  • properties let from a private landlord 
  • sheltered housing (homes that include a warden and common room for all residents) for older or disabled people 
  • properties that are particularly suitable for occupation by elderly people
  • properties that are owned by a charity which doesn’t receive public funds 
  • properties that are part of an agricultural premises or a business, such as a flat above a shop 
  • properties in the grounds of a public building, for example, a school 

Find out more about Right to Buy at the Government’s website OwnYourHome