Can You Buy A Council House If You Don’t Live In It?

Buying a council house has certain conditions for interested buyers to meet before they can be considered for sale of property. Through the content of this article, we aim to learn whether or not someone can buy a council house if they don’t live in it. In addition to this, we will also explore the ways to buy a council house and whether you can get a discount when you make the purchase.

Can You Buy A Council House If You Don’t Live In It?

No, you cannot buy a council house if you don’t live in it as it is one of main prerequisites of buying a council house that the intended buyer has been living in the council house as their main home.

However, under the Voluntary Right to Buy Scheme, you can buy a housing association property even if you don’t live in it. This is possible as long as certain essential conditions are met. For instance (a) the scheme needs to be offered at the time that they are looking to buy a council house.

So far there have been two pilot projects run under the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme that allows housing association tenants to buy a property that they don’t live in. The first pilot project was launched in 2016 and the second one in 2018. Under this scheme, limited housing association properties were put on sale for tenants to make a purchase and that too at a discount in price.

Although there have been recent talks about a relaunch of this scheme so as to meet the increasing demand for social housing, most housing associations have shared the concern that allowing the purchase of such homes reduces the residential stock that they currently have which means that claimants on the waiting list will have to continue waiting to be allotted a social housing accommodation.

According to data shared by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, there were 1,839 homes sold under the Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands pilot in 2018. This project was spread across 42 housing associations with net receipts from the sale of these homes estimated at £192.2 million. This amount is now going to be used to build replacement homes for claimants listed on the Housing Register and waiting for allotments.

How Can You Buy A Council House?

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, you 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.

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 (or a housing association property) 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 yourself 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 percent 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 Acquire 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 be reduced if you have previously applied 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.


The discussion in this blog post has clearly indicated that even though you may not be able to buy a council house that you’ve not lived in, properties under the housing association can be bought. However, the Voluntary Right To Buy Scheme should be offered by the government at the time that you are looking to buy such property and the project applies to the council district that you are aiming to purchase the property in.

FAQs: Can You Buy A Council House If You Don’t Live In It?

How long have you got to live in a council house before you can buy it?

You should have lived in a council house for at least three years before you can buy it. This time period does not have to be continuous and could have taken place at different periods of your council house tenancy.

Can you buy a council flat in the UK?

Yes, you can buy a council flat in the UK if you meet the eligibility criteria. You can also avail a 50% to 70% discount on the price of the property.

Can you mortgage a council house?

Yes, you can buy a council house with a mortgage. Your income and savings will be assessed in the same way as any other mortgage applicant and you will have to clear the lender’s credit check.

Can I rent out my council house after I buy it?

Yes, you can rent out your council house after you buy it. In fact you can do this as soon as you buy it but you will need to share updated contact details with your local council office.

Can I buy a house on Universal Credit?

Yes, you can buy a house on Universal Credit and even apply to get a mortgage for it.


Right to buy for council and housing association tenants

Right to Buy: FAQs

Right To Buy: Buying your Council House – HomeOwners Alliance

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

Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands pilot annual data release