The right to buy your council home

The Right to Buy is a government scheme which allows council tenants to buy their council rented home at a lower price than the full market value.

Buying your home is a big step and you need to be fully informed. We have some information about the scheme, however we would recommend getting good quality professional advice.

You can apply for the Right to Buy if you have been a council or public sector tenant for three years (it doesn't have to be three years in a row, or with the same landlord). If you have lived in a property provided by a housing association, the armed services or a public body like an NHS trust, this also counts as a public sector tenancy.

The maximum discount available from April 2021 is £84,600.

How to apply for the Right to Buy

Information is available on the Right to Buy website.

For free, impartial advice, contact the government’s Right to Buy agent service, call 0300 1230913, e-mail, or web chat.

If you would like to buy your home, you can find out more information and fill out an application form online or download an application form. Completed application forms should be e-mailed to the Legal Team, or posted to The Legal Department, The Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted, RH8 0BT.

What happens next?

After we receive your application, we will contact you within four weeks to let you know whether your application has been successful.

If you have applied to buy a house or bungalow, we will let you know the purchase price within 12 weeks.

If you are applying to buy a flat or maisonette, we will give you details of the purchase price and service charges within 16 weeks.

Useful links

What is a long lease?

A long lease is a legally binding document which sets out the terms of the sale of a property on a leasehold basis. Leases are usually issued for flats or maisonettes, where the property is in a block containing more than one dwelling. The lease usually runs for between 99 and 125 years and sets out the responsibilities of each party to the lease (the purchaser, who is the leaseholder, and the freeholder, which in this case is us, the Council).

How long will my lease be?

If you buy a flat or a maisonette, you will purchase a long lease. The first flat sold in a block will have a lease for 125 years. For all subsequent sales in the block the lease date and term of 125 years will start from the date of this first sale. The flat can be bought and sold during that term. The lease (your leasehold agreement) is a legal contract that contains your rights and obligations as a leaseholder and our rights and obligations as the owner of the freehold.

What discount am I entitled to?

The discount you get is dependent upon the valuation of the property and the length of your tenancy. The maximum discount available from April 2021 is £84,600.

The increase in discount takes effect on 6 April each year.

Am I responsible for repairs and maintenance within my own property?

Yes, you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of everything inside your home or which relates solely to it. Responsibility also extends to ensuring the health and safety of your own appliances and you should ensure that your gas appliances (boiler, fires etc.) are serviced on a yearly basis by a registered engineer. A qualified NICEIC electrician should carry out electrical repair checks.

The lease also requires you to gain our permission before you carry out any alterations or major works inside your own property and will prohibit any works to the fabric or structure of the building or its communal areas (including lofts) which still belong to us.

What is the Council responsible for?

We are responsible for maintaining the fabric of the building, its common areas and its estate. This includes such things as the roof, the lofts, the structure of the building and its communal grounds. Any expenditure incurred by us in maintaining the building or common parts is recharged back to leaseholders in accordance with the lease provisions during the financial year end reconciliation process.

What are service charges?

Service charges are payments by the leaseholder to the landlord for all services provided to your block of flats, including your contribution to the communal lighting, cleaning of communal areas and grounds maintenance. Service charges are payable yearly in arrears for the invoice period of 1 October to 30 September and should be paid immediately upon receipt of the invoice. 

What do estimates and actual service charges mean?

As detailed in the right to buy s125 offer letter, at the beginning of each new financial year the Council estimates how much it will spend in the provision of the services necessary to maintain and manage its blocks and estates. It is not possible at the beginning of every financial year to know what it will actually cost to provide all the services to your block or estate.

Therefore, we will send you an initial bill estimating your service charge during March of each year. The estimate is usually based on the actual costs in earlier years or the budget we have set for the service.

Following the end of each financial year, the Council then reconciles its actual expenditure for that year for each block and estate. The reconciled accounts are then apportioned between all the properties within that block or on that estate, and the result is compared to the estimated figure issued at the start of the year. The difference is then applied to your service charges account by way of a debit or credit adjustment and each leaseholder will receive either an invoice or a credit note.

Some freeholders may also have to pay service charges for the repair and maintenance of shared communal areas on an estate-such as pathways, play areas or gardens. This might also extend to works to your home if you share a continuous roof or other attributes with your neighbours.

What is ground rent?

Ground rent is the rent due for the land your property is situated on. Ground rent is invoiced annually for the invoice period of 1 October to 30 September each year. Ground rent invoices are payable with immediate effect. It is written into your lease as a fixed sum of £10.

Do I have to get building insurance?

We insure the building against loss or damage by fire and other risks as necessary to the full rebuilding cost (buildings insurance). The cost of the buildings insurance is recoverable from you on an annual basis in advance under the terms of your lease, with the invoicing period of 1 January to 31 December. A premium for buildings insurance is included in your estimated service charges, as this insurance is arranged by us.

We do not insure your furniture and belongings against theft, fire, vandalism, burst pipes and other household risks, so it is important you take out home contents insurance.

Can my property be repossessed?

If you are unable to meet the costs of being a homeowner, you may lose your home.

If you cannot maintain your mortgage payments, your lender may repossess your home and sell it to recover the cost of your loan.

If you breach the terms of your lease, for example by causing a nuisance or failing to pay service charges, we may seek to take possession of your home through forfeiture of your lease. This means you might lose the property and receive no compensation for the loss.

Both forfeiture and repossession are used as last resorts, but they do happen.

Can I remortgage my property?

We need to be notified of any mortgage or remortgage relating to your property. You will need to e-mail the Legal Services Team with the details of the solicitors or mortgage company dealing with the mortgage.

Can I resell my property?

You may sell your home whenever you like. You should inform us of your intention to sell, although you do not need our permission. You must inform us of the change in ownership and the purchaser’s solicitors must send a notice of transfer giving the new owner(s) details, together with a payment of £100 for the registration fee. This should be e-mailed to our Legal Services Team.

All sellers are required to get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), showing how energy efficient a property is, within 28 days of putting their home on the market.

If you applied for the Right to Buy on or after 18 January 2005 and sell within five years of buying you will have to repay some or all of the discount that you received.