Voluntary Right to Buy

Right to Buy currently offers council and some housing association customers in England, the right to buy their current home at a discounted rate. Following the 2015 general election, the National Housing Federation signed up to a voluntary scheme to extend Right to Buy to all housing association customers in England.

This is called Voluntary Right to Buy, as housing associations are voluntarily working with the government to support the roll out of this scheme.  

Five housing associations took part in a limited pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy in 2016 which is now closed. The government launched a second pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy in the Midlands on 16th August 2018. The opportunity to register for this pilot closed on the 16th September 2018, but Home Group customers in the Midlands who were successful in the government ballot to take part may now be eligible to buy their current home through Voluntary Right to Buy.

Customers in Scotland are not eligible for the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme as the law is different in Scotland.

Find the answers to your most frequently asked questions about Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) below.

  • When will Voluntary Right to Buy start?

    • The government hasn’t decided when Voluntary Right to Buy will roll out in full across England, but there have been two pilot schemes so far. 

      The first pilot took part in January 2016 and involved five housing associations; it is now closed.

      A second pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy launched in the Midlands on 16th August 2018. The opportunity to register for this pilot closed on the 16th September 2018. This means some Home Group customers in the Midlands may now be eligible to buy their current home through Voluntary Right to Buy if they were successful in the government ballot. 

  • Has Voluntary Right to Buy already started in some places?

    • Five housing associations took part in a limited pilot of Voluntary Right to Buy in January 2016 which is now closed.

      The government launched a second pilot in the Midlands on 16th August 2018. The chance to register for this pilot closed on 16th September 2018, and those who entered the ballot to take part should be emailed by the government with their results before the end of October 2018.

      Home Group hopes that by taking part in this pilot, we’ll be supporting the roll out of Voluntary Right to Buy in full across England in the near future.

  • Why is there another pilot?

    • The new pilot will test other parts of the scheme that weren’t tested in the original pilot in 2016.

  • How does the pilot process work?

    • Please be aware the opportunity to register for the latest pilot has now closed. 

      Customers who were eligible and in the pilot area, were given the opportunity to register their interest in Voluntary Right to Buy on the government gateway which was open until 16th September 2018.

      Under rules set by the government, applicants will now be chosen at random to participate in the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot by ballot. If you’re successful you should be emailed with a unique reference number (URN) by the government before the end of October 2018. Home Group will then be in touch as soon as we can to help you complete a full application form. 

      Please note that your URN will only last for four weeks from the date of receipt, so you will need to complete and submit the application form within this four week period if you decide to go ahead. 

      During the application process you’ll also be required to pay an admin fee of £250, which is only refundable if the sale completes or if we have to turn you down. If you choose to leave the process e.g. for financial or practical reasons, this fee will not be refunded.

      We’ll also need to run some checks on your tenancy (you need to have been a customer with us or another social landlord for at least three years to be eligible) and your property (there may be some restrictions which mean you can’t buy your current home, but if that’s the case we’ll work with you to find another option).

  • How will I know if I'm eligible for the pilot?

    • Please be aware the opportunity to register for the latest pilot has now closed. 

      We wrote to our customers in the pilot area to let them know how to get involved in the scheme which the government decided to run as a ballot. To be eligible for a discount under the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot scheme, customers would need to meet the following criteria: 

      • You are over the age of 18
      • You have the Right to Reside in the UK (you’ll need proof of UK citizenship or immigration status)
      • You have been a public sector tenant (usually of a council or a housing association) for at least 3 years and have been the tenant of the property that you would like to purchase for at least 1 year
      • You are not eligible for the Preserved Right to Buy or Statutory Right to Buy schemes 
      • The property is your only home at the point of sale
      • You do not have any rent arrears on your current property or any former Home Group property, or you have a plan in place to repay arrears before any sale is completed
      • Your home is not due to be demolished or disposed of
      • You don’t have any outstanding possession orders
      • You are not subject to bankruptcy proceedings or unfulfilled credit arrangements
      • You are not subject to an anti-social behaviour order or notice of intent to seek possession for breach of tenancy conditions  
      • You don’t already own a property or will not end your ownership on or before the completion of the Voluntary Right to Buy. You don’t live in a property contained in a wellbeing, older persons scheme or other supported housing, or that is let under the following tenancies:
        • Rent to Buy
        • Mortgage Rescue
        • Market Rent
        • Starter/One year fixed term probationary
        • Assured Shorthold Periodic (young person’s temporary housing)

      You can find out more about eligibility on the government website righttobuy.gov.uk

      If you registered and were successful in the government ballot, we’ll also run a series of checks on both your tenancy and property to confirm your eligibility.

  • What if I’m not in the region of the new pilot or am unsuccessful in the government ballot?

    • Home Group is still committed to Voluntary Right to Buy and would like to offer all our customers the opportunity to own their own home. 

      Until the government rolls out Voluntary Right to Buy in full across England, you can explore Home Group’s other home ownership options here.

  • How many people are going to be let into the pilot?

    • The government has a budget of £200 million for the pilot, so they will need to determine how many people they can fund to take part.

  • I haven’t heard anything about the ballot results, what do I do?

    • Not everyone will be contacted at the same time, but if you’ve been successful in the ballot we expect the government to email you with your URN before the end of October 2018.

      If you haven’t yet received an email with your results, make sure to check your junk mail folder.

      If you’re still concerned, the government’s Right to Buy agents will be 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 enquiry@righttobuyagent.org.uk

  • If I’m successful in the government ballot, how long will I have to apply?

    • Your URN will only last for four weeks once you receive it, so it’s important that you complete and submit the application form within this four week period if you decide to go ahead.

  • What if I’m successful in the government ballot, but then change my mind about Voluntary Right to Buy?

    • Even if you’re successful in the government ballot, you’ll be able to choose whether you carry on with the process or not. 

      However, please be aware, if you change your mind after you’ve already paid the admin fee of £250, this fee will not be refunded.

  • Why haven’t I been successful for the ballot?

    • A limited number of places are available on the pilot and unfortunately not everyone who has entered the ballot will be able to participate. 

      Applicants have been selected at random by the government, as they believe this is the fairest way of allocating the limited number of places available.

      Until the government rolls out Voluntary Right to Buy in full across England, you can explore Home Group’s other home ownership options here.

  • I missed the window for entering the ballot, is there anything I can do?

    • There are no immediate plans to reopen the ballot after the 16th September 2018. However, any decision by government on this would depend on the level of demand. You can sign up for more information on the government’s Right to Buy website to receive any new information.

  • Is the ballot system not unfair?

    • The decision to allocate places on the scheme via a ballot was made by the government. The government decided to use a ballot because they believe this is the fairest way to allocate the limited number of places available on the pilot.

      The alternative would have been to allocate spaces on a first come, first served basis. The government felt that this would have disadvantaged tenants with accessibility issues or those who could not get onto the internet in the first few days of opening.
  • Which homes won't you sell?

    • We will not sell properties where:
      • There are legal restrictions preventing us from doing so
      • The property is not fully self-contained, for example when there is a shared kitchen or bathroom
      • The cost floor for the property is higher than the market value
      • The property is in a regeneration areas and regeneration is a viable option
      • Leasehold properties where there is less than 99 years left on the lease or where the property is a house, leasehold flats with more than 99 years left on the lease will not be affected
      • There are other reasons preventing the sale, for example in relation to financial impact on the wider housing scheme
      All properties initially assessed as ineligible for sale will be reassessed to see if action can be taken to remove barriers and allow a sale to proceed.
  • What costs will there be if I buy my home through Voluntary Right to Buy?

    • As part of buying your home, you will have to consider the following one off costs:
      • Legal costs – solicitor/conveyance
      • The £250 application fee
      • A mortgage broker or adviser may charge a fee, if you take out a mortgage
      • Land registry fee
      • Stamp Duty if applicable
      • Removal costs
      • Fees for additional property valuation or structural survey if needed (the initial valuation will be paid for by Home Group)
      Once you’re the homeowner, a number of responsibilities will become yours:
      • Freeholders: all maintenance and repair costs
      • Leaseholders (flats only): 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
      • You may wish to consider additional life assurance or insurance for if you have to stop working or are otherwise unable to pay your mortgage
      • You will no longer be able to claim housing benefits
      The government’s Right to Buy website has more guidance on costs associated with home ownership. You can also contact a government Right to Buy agent through the website, they can help with:
      • Finding out if you're eligible
      • Working out your discount
      • Looking at your funding choices
      • Guidance about the costs involved and whether you can afford it long term
      • Completing your application form
      • Finding a solicitor
  • What discount will I get on my home?

    • The discount is worked out in an identical way to the statutory Right to Buy for council tenants. You can use the government’s Voluntary Right to Buy calculator to work out the level of discount on your home.

  • Why are housing associations supporting Voluntary Right to Buy?

    • Home Group are committed to building customer independence and aspirations. Our research into this has shown a huge 87% of our customers want to own their own home, which is why we support Voluntary Right to Buy and other home ownership options.

      All the money we make through Voluntary Right to Buy will also be reinvested so we can build more affordable housing.

  • Why is the scheme called 'Voluntary'?

    • The government agreed to extend Right to Buy to all housing association customers in 2015. This is called Voluntary Right to Buy, as housing associations are voluntarily working with the government to support the roll out of this scheme, but they are not legally required to do so.

  • Why do we still not know who will be eligible/when the scheme will start?

    • The government is testing the scheme through pilots first, so they can make sure the new scheme works well when it’s rolled out in full across England.

  • Will Voluntary Right to Buy mean we lose social/affordable housing?

    • Housing associations will receive compensation for every home sold under Voluntary Right to Buy and Home Group is committed to a 2:1 replacement policy, helping us create new homes for tenants, while also supporting customers who aspire to get onto the property ladder.

      We want to tackle the housing crisis head on, which is why Home Group have a commitment to build 10,000 new homes by 2021. Any surplus we make is always reinvested so we can provide more affordable homes, support the repair and maintenance of our existing properties, and continue to grow our services, offering support to the most vulnerable.

  • If I currently have shared ownership, can I purchase my house?

    • If you’re a shared owner, unfortunately you won’t be eligible for Voluntary Right to Buy. 

      However, you can talk to us about buying further shares of your home, also known as staircasing, here.

  • Will the replacement homes be the same kind as those sold?

    • Housing associations will be able to replace affordable homes flexibly in a way that reflects what each local community needs. 

      Whether it is a home for shared ownership or a home for social or affordable rent, housing associations will be able to use their unique understanding of their communities to assess what is needed.

  • Where can I find out more information about Voluntary Right to Buy?

    • You can find out more information about the scheme at: