Right to buy: Knowing your rights

2 December 2011


If you are a tenant in a council house or housing association property, there are important recent changes to the law that may affect you, and the right you have to purchase your home.

The right to buy for council tenants is one of the defining acts of the Thatcher era, with many being given the change to own a home for the first time, at a discount price. It was a first step on the property ladder and allowed millions to benefit from the increase in value of the housing market. For those who benefitted, it would be seen as a positive scheme but there was also criticism that the money could not be re-invested in new social housing stock and a shortage in social housing for prospective council tenants was created.
In Scotland, that right came to an end on the 1st March 2011 – but it is important to note, not for all.
The statutory legislation that gives tenants the right to buy is specifically excluded for new tenants who enter into a Short Assured Tenancy with a council, housing association, or a water and sewerage authority after this date and ‘New Supply’ social housing where the property was let by a local authority or housing association since the 25th June 2008. However, tenants who were in their home before the date the legislation was enacted will not be affected and will still be able to exercise their right to buy, and importantly, if they were rehoused for a reason outwith their control, they retain the right too.
Also key to the reform of right to buy is the discounts available to those who are still eligible to buy. Previously, there were very generous discounts available - 32% after two years of living there and the maximum discount 60% after 30 years. This was the ‘original’ right to buy and the tenancy must have started before 30 September 2002, and the applicant must have been a tenant there for two years. Now, things have changed. The minimum discount is 20% after five years and the maximum discount is 35% after 20 years or £15,000, whichever is the lower figure. The tenancy must have started after 30 September 2002 and those applying must have been a tenant for five years.
If you are unsure of your position if you became a tenant before the new legislation came into force, particularly if you have moved during a tenancy, you should seek advice and make sure you know when your first tenancy began.




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