Buying a council houseBuying a council property in the UK can be an excellent way to get onto the property ladder. If you are eligible, it offers you a chance to own your own home without the need for a large deposit or a high income. In this guide, we will take a closer look at how to buy a council house or flat, the Right to Buy scheme, the deposit required, the timeline for the process and some other considerations.
Yes, it is possible to buy a council house or flat in the UK. However, this does not apply to everyone. To be eligible, you must have been a council or public sector tenant for at least three years. You can also buy a council property if you are an armed forces member or a former member of the armed forces, or if you are a tenant of a housing association. Owning your own property is an attractive investment that gives you more freedom in the long run. However, it’s always a good idea to check whether you can afford it and double-check information around eligibility online before you consider buying your council property. There are plenty of sites, including Gov.UK that break down some of the conditions that you need to be mindful of.
The amount of a deposit required to buy a council house or flat in the UK can vary depending on a number of factors, including the purchase price of the property and the mortgage lender's requirements. However, typically, you will need a deposit of at least 5% of the purchase price. Also, it's worth noting that the larger your deposit, the better your chances of securing a mortgage with a low-interest rate. In that instance, sometimes it makes sense to spend a little more time saving before putting down your deposit.
When buying a council property, you may also be eligible for government assistance through the Help to Buy scheme. This scheme offers a government loan of up to 20% of the purchase price, which can be used towards the deposit. This can be a significant boost to those struggling to save for a deposit, but it's important to note that the loan must be repaid within five years.
The time it takes to buy a council house or flat in the UK can vary depending on a range of factors, including the availability of suitable properties, the speed of the conveyancing process, and the time taken to secure a mortgage. However, on average, the process can take between three and six months from start to finish.
The first step is to contact your local council to express an interest in buying a property. They will provide you with an application form to complete, which will include details about your eligibility and the property you are interested in.
Once you have submitted your application, the council will assess your eligibility and contact you to arrange a viewing if appropriate. If you decide to proceed with the purchase, you will need to instruct a solicitor to handle the conveyancing process and apply for a mortgage if required.
When exploring whether to buy your council home, you will likely encounter the Right to Buy scheme. The Right to Buy is a scheme in England (the scheme has different rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so it’s worth checking if this applies to you) which allows council tenants the right to buy their council property at a discount price. There are different discounts for different types of properties:
However, not everyone is eligible to qualify for Right to Buy the following criteria should apply to you:
Houses - You’ll get a 35% discount if you’ve been a tenant for between 3 - 5 years. After 5 years, it goes up 1% for every additional year, giving you a maximum discount of 70%
Flats - You get a 50% discount if you’ve been a tenant for between 3 - 5 years. After 5 years, it increases by 2% for every extra year, resulting in a maximum discount of 70%
It’s also important to remember that even though Right to Buy offers you a discount on the cost of your home, you’ll still be eligible for general maintenance costs so it’s worth checking that those costs are something you’re able to pay in the long term.
It’s your only property - This means the property is your main home where you currently live
The property you want to purchase is self-contained - You don’t share any of your rooms with anyone else outside of your household (for example, bathrooms, kitchens, toilets etc)
Secure tenant - This refers to whether or not you are currently a council tenant or were a council tenant when your home was sold to your current landlord
You’ve been 3 years in your home - If you’ve been a public sector tenant for 3 or more years
No legal issues with debt - If you’re being made bankrupt, have a pending bankruptcy petition, or have obtained a debt relief order you may not qualify
No outstanding possession orders - A possession order is made when your landlord takes you to court. This can be for outstanding rent or relate to whether you’ve breached your tenancy in some way
Significant money has been spent on the property - If any changes have been made to the property and the money spent by your landlord is higher than what the property is worth, you won't be eligible for a discount
If you qualify for Right to Buy you’ll need to fill in the Right to Buy application form (RTB1 notice) which can be found on the Gov.UK website. Before filling out the application it’s worth having any necessary details of the property (address of your home, information about your landlord) to hand to make the process as smooth as possible. If there are any elements of the form that aren’t clear it’s always worth seeking advice from an expert to help you.
Once you’ve completed the form you’ll need to send it to your landlord. Typically, they should reply within 4 weeks of getting your application. The landlord is also obligated to provide you with a reason for refusing your application should they say no. If they agree, your landlord will send you an offer which you can decide whether to accept and then the process of buying your home will continue.
The process of buying any home can take several months, so it's important to choose an estate agent and solicitor who are experienced and can work efficiently to ensure timely completion. If you’re looking to buy a property, it’s always a good idea to have an estate agent who has your best interests in mind. Sign up to Purplebricks to find houses on sale in your area, and get the latest property news, offers and services.