Can Council Houses Be Bought?

As a basic rule, anyone who is above 18 years of age, low on income and savings can apply for council housing. Some councils also require a “local connection” of the applicant. This means that either they have lived in the vicinity for a number of years or they have a family or job in the area.

To apply for council housing, candidates are required to apply to their local council (mostly online), who will then consider it based on their criteria for awarding priority to those from certain demographics and or social classes. 

Can Council Houses Be Bought?

Yes, council houses can be bought under the Right to Buy by local council tenants scheme but there are certain basic conditions to be met. These include the following:

  • The council house is the applicant’s main home
  • The property is self-contained
  • The applicant is a secure tenant
  • The applicant has had a public sector landlord for at least five years

There is also an option of buying your council house under a joint application. In this case, it is essential for the applicant to either file their council house application with someone as their joint owner and be willing to share their responsibilities as a house owner or have up to three family members (who have lived with them for at least 12 months) willing to share ownership rights.

Under “Preserved Right To Buy” you can purchase a council house that you lived in but the council sold it to a housing association landlord.

In case, you are a housing association tenant, you can apply for the purchase of your council house by filling the  Right to Acquire Application Form To be eligible, your must spend at least three years as a council house tenant and fulfil all the eligibility criteria that apply to local council tenants. However, you should not apply under the Right To Buy or Preserved Right To Buy schemes.

Voluntary Right To Buy allows you to purchase a council house that you may not have lived in.

To Find out if you’re eligible for Right to Buy – Own Your Home contact your local council.

To learn more about the topic, we will help you answer the following questions through this article:

  • Can I Get A Discount On Purchasing A Council House?
  • Can Home Improvements Be Done In Council House?
  • Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?
  • Can You Swap Council Houses?
  • What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?
  • Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

Can I Get A Discount On Purchasing A Council House?

Yes, if you are eligible for the Right To Buy scheme you will get a discount on purchasing a council house to a  maximum limit of £84,000 across England (except for certain boroughs in London where it is £112,800). The amount keeps increasing with the rise in the rate of inflation every year.

The discount that you may avail on purchasing a council house is primarily is based on the following factors:

  • The number of years that you’ve been a council housing tenant
  • Whether you intend to purchase a flat or a house
  • The monetary value of the property you intend to purchase

In the case of purchasing a council house, you may be able to get a 35 per cent discount; while in the case of a flat, it will be 50 per cent if you’ve lived in a council housing facility for between three to five years.

However, if you have applied under the Right To Aquire scheme, you will be able to get a discount of around £9,000 to £16,000 on the price of your property; depending upon where you live in the UK. This discount may reduce if you have previously applied for under a Right To Buy or Right To Acquire scheme.

The Right to Buy calculator can help you learn more about the discounts you are eligible for.

Can Home Improvements Be Done In Council House?

In case of home improvements to be carried out in a council house, you may have to seek permission from the council authorities prior to work commencing on the property. The expense of most of the following may be reimbursed by the council:

  • Toilet, bath, shower, wash-basin
  • Kitchen sink and work surfaces 
  • Storage cupboards 
  • Heating equipment 
  • Radiator valves
  • Insulation
  • Draught-proofing 
  • Double glazing or other window replacement
  • Rewiring, fixing of electrical fittings (including smoke detectors)

Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?

Yes, someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you intend to ask someone to live with you as a carer or a joint tenant, or you intend to sublet your council house, you must consult your tenancy agreement and discuss with your landlord/local council office prior to making any commitments.

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.

Can You Swap Council Houses?

Yes, you can swap your council house; however, the amount of time it takes will depend upon finding another property and the terms on which you are leaving the previous council house.

When a tenant is looking for another council housing tenant who is also intending to move, it is called “mutual exchange” as the decision to swap council houses depends upon a mutual agreement between both parties involved. You can either look for a swapping partner through your local council or through a mutual exchange website.

It must be kept in mind that you are required to first inform your local council or social housing landlord about your decision to move and then register yourself through council/housing association/private websites such as HomeSwapper or Home & Property Markets | House Buying & Improvements | Property Market & Estate Agents to search for your future property

Once you and your landlord/council are in agreement, you can register yourself on the council’s website and list your council house as available for mutual exchange. You can easily find a swapping partner through the same website (if you haven’t already found one before making the decision to swap).

Your tenancy type and your eligibility for priority housing will play a very important role in the amount of time that it will take to find another council house to swap with.

What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?

A tenancy agreement serves as a legal agreement bound by terms and conditions that the undersigning parties agree to while a living space is rented out. Tenancy agreements for council housing may be classified as below:

  • Introductory Tenancy: This is considered to be a 12 month trial period for tenants during which their rights to exchange property or make modifications to it are limited. 
  • Secure Tenancy: This form of tenancy secures your occupancy in the council house for life; unless you break any tenancy rules stated in the agreement. In this case, you may sub-let rooms in the property but not the entire premises. 
  • Flexible Tenancy: This type of tenancy is usually for a fixed term of 2 to 5 years; at the end of which the council may decide to offer you a renewed contract on similar terms, offer a secure tenancy or not renew at any terms at all. 
  • Joint Tenancy: Under this contract, you and the joint tenant both become liable for rent payments and become eligible for all the privileges under secure tenancy jointly. 

Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

Applicants will need to check with their local councils whether a place of residence will be chosen and assigned by the council or the residents be given the option to choose. In the case of the latter, once the application is approved, the local council may share an online platform where the process of “bidding” takes place.

If a candidate finds a suitable home and prefers it as their residence, they may inform the council of their intent by applying for it online. This is called “bidding”. The council may then direct them on how to proceed with the next steps in the bidding process.

A bid is merely a show of interest from the candidates’ side and does not guarantee that they may be assigned the premises. Depending upon the priority band and the time taken as part of the waiting list, the council decides whether the property is to be assigned as a housing facility to the bidding candidate or not.


While council houses can be bought by tenants, it is essential for them to have lived as a tenant for council housing for between three to five years. Then, depending on whether they’ve been local council tenants or council housing association ones, they can apply under the Right To Buy or Right To Acquire scheme to purchase council property. This will determine the scale of discount that applicants are eligible for on the purchase of a council house or flat. Additionally, the choice between a council house or a council flat also determines the applicable discount for council house buyers.

Interested applicants are advised to apply for the purchase of council property by filling an online form. They should expect to hear from their council office or social housing landlord within 4 to 8 weeks which will take them to the next step of their purchase.

FAQs: Can Council Houses Be Bought?

Are the council stopping Right to Buy?

While there has been much debate regarding the Right to Buy scheme which was first introduced in the 1980s, there is currently no announcement by the UK government to stop the scheme.

Can my son buy my council house for me?

Yes, your son or any other family member can buy your council house for you. However, it is essential that either they have their name on the tenancy agreement or have lived in the property with you for at least 12 months.

How long after buying a council house can you sell it?

If you sell your council house within 5 years of purchase, you may have to give up on the discount that you received while buying it. If you intend to sell it within a 10-year time-lapse of purchase, in this case, you must offer the property back to the council or housing association for sale before you list it on the open market.

Can I be refused the Right to Buy?

Yes, you can be refused the Right to Buy if you do not fulfil the desired eligibility criteria under the scheme or if you move into a housing association property rather than a local council one.

Do I need a solicitor for Right to Buy?

Yes, it is advisable to hire a solicitor to deal with the legal requirement of your purchase under the Right to Buy scheme.


Council housing: Buy your council home – GOV.UK

Right to Buy: buying your council home – GOV.UK

Right to Acquire: buying your housing association home – GOV.UK

How house buyers can get a £110,000 discount by buying their home off the council – Mirror Online

Can I Afford It: Right to Buy calculator

Repairs and maintenance in your council house

Get help with decorating your council home

How to go about a council house exchange –

Council housing: Types of tenancy