Voluntary Right to Buy
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government announced that it would be trialling a £200m Voluntary Right to Buy regional pilot, following on from a successful national pilot.
The pilot will run in the Midlands and will give thousands more housing association tenants the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.
It will allow the Government to test key features of the scheme, including the portable discount offer to tenants and one-for-one replacement aspect. This will provide important evidence to inform the design of the main scheme.
The pilot is open for interest from tenants via the Governments Gateway (https://midlands.righttobuy.gov.uk/) from 16th August 2018 until 16th September 2018.
So, what is Voluntary Right to Buy, and how could it affect you? We have answered some commonly asked questions below:
1. What is Voluntary Right to Buy?
In December 2015 the government launched a national pilot to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants. This was known as the Voluntary Right to Buy (vRTB). Five housing associations across the UK were chosen to take part. Aspire Housing was not part of the initial pilot.
The Government has now confirmed there will be a regional pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy within the Midlands.
2. How long will the pilot last?
The pilot will be funded by the Government with a £200m allocation agreed. It launched on 16th August 2018 and will run for two years.
3. Why is there another pilot?
The new pilot will test two important parts of the scheme that weren’t tested in the original pilot; one-for-one replacement and portability.
One-for-one replacement is the agreement between housing associations and government that homes sold will be replaced on a one-for-one basis at a national level through new supply.
Portability is when a tenant cannot purchase their current home, so they are offered an option to port their discount to an alternative property of their own or another willing housing association. Testing these elements will enable the Government to ensure a smooth experience for tenants once vRTB is rolled out nationally.
4. What is a “portable discount”?
The government has given housing associations the discretion not to sell a particular property in some circumstances.
In that event, housing associations will offer tenants the opportunity to use their discount to buy an alternative home from either their own or another association’s stock.
Full details of the properties Aspire has chosen to exclude and the options available through the portable discount is outlined in our Voluntary Right to Buy Policy.
5. Why is the new pilot taking place in the Midlands?
The Midlands has been chosen following discussions with the National Housing Federation to identify the most effective location for the pilot. The Midlands represents a large area with diverse conditions; large and small housing associations, urban, suburban and rural areas. There is a need to know how the scheme could work in all of these locations.
6. What if my home isn’t in the region of the new pilot?
The Government committed in the last General Election to extend the Right to Buy to housing associations across England in a national scheme. When the national scheme is launched, tenants form inside and outside of the pilot region can apply for a government Right to Buy discount.
7. If I’m eligible, will I be able to buy the home I’m living in now?
The intention of the scheme is to allow tenants to buy their current home, providing they meet eligibility criteria.
In some cases, Aspire are not legally permitted to sell your current home. Aspire Housing has published a Voluntary Right to Buy Policy outlining which homes we can and can’t sell and the reasons why.
8. Which homes won’t you sell?
Aspire has a Voluntary Right to Buy Policy which details the properties we have chosen to exempt from the scheme.
9. What is the eligibility criteria?
The eligibility criteria has been confirmed as three years, which means you must have been a tenant for at least three years before you can apply to buy your home.
Other eligibility criteria does apply, which would be discussed at the application stage.
10. What are the discount levels available?
The discount levels are in line with the Right to Buy discounts available to council tenants.
The discount available to tenants will start 35% for houses or 50% for flats for just three years of tenancy.
11. Why is the scheme called ‘Voluntary’?
The Government is extending the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants on a voluntary basis, which means that each housing association was given a choice to decide if they had the ability to support the scheme and which homes they wanted to sell.
Aspire Housing has chosen to support the scheme and we are developing a policy which clearly outlines the homes we are unable to sell.
12. If I currently have the preserved Right to Buy is the Voluntary scheme also available to me?
If you have the preserved Right to Buy then you would not be eligible to apply for the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme.
13. If I currently have shared ownership, can I purchase my house?
If you are a shared owner you are not eligible for Voluntary Right to Buy, but you can talk to us about buying a further share in your home.
14. Where can I access further information on the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme?
The Government’s Right to Buy website (https://righttobuy.gov.uk) or the Right to Buy agent helpline on 0300 123 0913.
How to apply
1. How can I apply for the Voluntary Right to Buy?
You can express your interest in applying for the scheme via the Government’s Gateway at https://midlands.righttobuy.gov.uk/ from 16th August 2018 until 16th September 2018.
Once the gateway closes the Government will carry out a ballot from those who have expressed interest and randomly allocate a Unique Reference Number (URN) to successful applicants. This URN then means you can apply to Aspire Housing to purchase your property.
Please note the process of allocating URNs to applicants is carried out by Government and out of the control of Aspire.
2. I have had confirmation I have been allocated a Unique Reference Number, what next?
Once you have been allocated your URN please contact Aspire Housing as soon as possible. Please contact Linda Morgan or Courtney Bullock in Aspire Housing's Property Law Team on 01782 635200 or alternatively email vRTB@aspirehousing.co.uk. We will then send you an application pack.
Please note that being allocated a URN does not necessarily mean you will be able to successfully purchase your home as detailed eligibility checks will need to be carried out on your tenancy and property.
3. What is the application process once I have my URN?
- Contact Aspire Housing as soon as you have received your URN and we will send you an application form to complete and return. Be aware that your URN is valid for four weeks – you must return your application before it runs out
- Within four weeks we will review your application form. Once we are satisfied that the property you live in is eligible to purchase under the Voluntary Right to Buy we will write to you confirming your application has been acknowledged
- If your property is excluded by our policy but you are eligible, we will offer you the opportunity to port to an alternative property
- If your property is available to buy we will arrange a face-to-face application meeting and request the necessary supporting information
- If we accept your application and your property is available to buy we will notify you and you will need to pay an application fee of £250 within four weeks which is only refundable if the sale completes
- As part of the request for the application fee you will be asked to select a surveyor to undertake the valuation of your home. We have a list of participating Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) qualified surveyors for you to choose from
- Upon completion of the valuation, we will send you an offer notice which will set out the valuation of the property, the discount and the price you’ll pay
- You will then have four weeks to decide whether you want to go ahead with the vRTB. Within this time you need to arrange a mortgage or loan if required, get a survey, instruct solicitors and get independent legal advice. It is important you understand all costs involved before you accept an offer
- If you do not respond within four weeks with the solicitor’s details then your application may be cancelled
- Once you are happy with our terms and have arranged payment for your home you can complete the purchase. The conveyancing stage should be completed within 12 weeks
4. What other costs are there to consider when buying my home?
As part of buying your home you will need to consider the following costs
- Legal Costs – Solicitors/Conveyance
- The £250 application fee
- A mortgage broker or an advisor may charge a fee if you take out a mortgage
- Land Registry Fee
- Stamp Duty (if applicable)
5. Once I’m a homeowner what responsibilities will become mine?
- Freehold purchasers are responsible for all maintenance and repair costs
- Leaseholder purchasers (flats only) are responsible for internal improvements and routine repairs. External repairs and improvements and major structural repairs to the whole block will be the responsibility of the landlord, but you may have to pay service charges each year, and are likely to have to meet the costs of major repairs and refurbishment, which can be substantial
- Home insurance
What are the next steps after the Voluntary Right to Buy ballot closes?
1. Will the ballot ever be reopened, or is this one month people’s only chance?
- There are no plans to reopen the ballot, but the government have advised that they will keep this under review, depending on the levels of demand and drop-out.
2. I haven’t heard anything about the ballot results. What do I do?
- Government are using a ballot because they believe this is the fairest way of allocating the limited number of places available in this pilot project.
- Firstly, check the timescales on the Government’s website to see when you should expect to be contacted about the ballot. Not everyone will be contacted at the same time, and as it takes time to administer the ballot you will not know your result straight away.
- If you have not received an email with your results after you expected to, make sure you check your junk mail folder.
- If you are still concerned, the Government’s Right to Buy agents will available to answer any queries, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm (except bank holidays). They can be called on 0300 123 0913 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Why haven’t I been selected by the ballot?
- A limited number of places are available on the pilot and not everyone who has entered the ballot will be able to participate.
- Applicants were selected at random by ballot after the Government Gateway has closed. This decision was taken by government, who believed this is to be the fairest way of allocating the limited number of places available in this pilot project.
4. I was unsuccessful in the ballot. Can I appeal
- Unfortunately not. The number of sales in the pilot is limited and URNs were allocated to entrants via a random ballot.