The nature of purchasing a council maisonette or flat is slightly different from that of purchasing a council house as the former entitles buyers to ownership of the property through leasehold and not freehold and is for a fixed period of time (after which the lease needs to be renewed). Through this blog post, we will assess the pros and cons of purchasing a council maisonette and the process involved in your buying decision. In addition to this, we will also discuss other options of purchasing council property, how to finance the purchase and whether or not you can resell it in the future.
Should I Buy My Council Maisonette?
Before making a decision regarding the purchase of a council maisonette, you may want to consider the following:
- Flats and maisonettes are bought on lease. This means that even if you buy the property, you will have ownership over a limited period of time (usually 125 years); after which the lease needs to be renewed.
- You will own the maisonettes space itself but the building, communal areas and land will remain under the ownership of council authorities.
- Any repair and maintenance of communal areas or the building structure itself will remain the council’s responsibility. However, they can ask you (and other leaseholders) to contribute to any significant maintenance or repair work in the building.
- As a leaseholder, you will pay a nominal rent of £10 to the council; however, you will have to pay certain service charges.
- You can sell your council maisonette; should you prefer and the next buyer can continue with the remainder of the lease period.
One of the most common ways to purchase council property is the Right To Buy Scheme. Under this, council houses can be purchased by local council tenants by fulfiling the following conditions:
- 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
However, the Right To Buy Scheme only allows council tenants to purchase the property that they are living in and not any other council house that they may be interested in. In some cases, council housing tenants are eligible for the Cash Incentive Scheme or easy Home Purchase Scheme; but to avail of any of these, they will be required to forfeit their council accommodation and purchase a house in the open market. Their purchase will be supported by local council authorities.
Should I Buy My Deck Access Council Flat?
Should you intend to purchase your deck access council flat, do keep the following points in mind:
- It is quite difficult to find a mortgage lender in the case of a deck access flat
- If you intend to sell your council flat in the future, a resell will also be equally difficult
The main reason that some people tend to cite for the problems regarding obtaining finance to purchase a deck access property as well as reselling is the very nature of its structure. As you would know, deck access flats are made in such a way that there is a continuous inset balcony onto which the front door of each flat on that floor level opens. While some residents appreciate the access, most buyers deem the access risky.
However, should you be willing to fulfil the below conditions, you may find it easier to buy a deck access council flat:
- Purchase the council flat using cash if a mortgage is not easily accessible
- Search for an appropriate mortgage lender (this may take some time)
- Be prepared that a resell may be time-consuming
What Is The Right To Buy Scheme?
The Right To Buy scheme was originally introduced in the UK around 40 years ago with the aim to provide discounts to council housing tenants who wish to purchase the property that they have lived in for a certain number of years. Although the scheme is now abolished in Wales and Scotland, council housing tenants in Northern Ireland and England continue to benefit from it as long as they can prove the following to confirm eligibility:
- they are currently living in the council home and it is their main residence
- none of the rooms is being shared with anyone else other than household members
- the applicant is under a secure tenancy agreement with their council housing landlord
- the applicant has been a council housing tenant for a minimum of three years
- there are no pending debt disputes against the applicant
Joint tenants are also required to fulfil the above criteria if they wish to apply for council house purchase under this scheme. In fact, applicants can apply with up to three family members who have lived with them for up to 12 months.
How Can I Apply For Right To Buy?
Under the Right To Buy (RTB) scheme you will be required to follow the below steps in order to purchase your council house:
- Fill out an online RTB application form by providing the desired information.
- Save a copy of the online form, print it and send it to your landlord.
- Wait for your landlord’s response. (This may take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks).
Your landlord may either choose to refuse by stating their reasons; which you can choose to appeal should you not agree with the decision.
In case of their agreement to sell, the landlord’s response will include their offer as well as the following:
- their asking price for the property
- the amount of discount that they are willing to offer
- a detailed description of the property along with any land that is part of it
- details of any structural problems with the property or any service charges due
How Else Can I Buy My Council House?
In addition to the Right To Buy Scheme, 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.
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 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 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 under a Right To Buy or Right To Acquire scheme.
How Long After Buying A Council House Can You Rent It Out?
You can rent out your council house immediately after buying the property as there is no legal restriction on renting the place out once the process of transfer of ownership and other legal documentation is complete. In fact, according to some estimates, nearly 40 per cent of council property is rented out after it has been bought by tenants.
Your local council may charge a one-time subletting fee which can be discussed with their legal team once you’ve made your decision to tent out the property and informed the council authorities.
How Long After Buying A Council House Can You Sell It?
Although you can legally sell your council house anytime after the purchase and completion of documentation for transfer for ownership, however, if you sell it before the end of a five-year term, you will have to repay the discount that you availed under the Right to Buy Scheme.
Similarly, if you sell your council house before the end of a ten-year term, you will first have to offer it for sale to your council authorities or social housing landlord before you list the property for sale in the open market. If the landlord does not agree to buy the property or there is a conflict in the price that you offer versus the one they are willing to pay and there is no settlement between both the parties within 8 weeks, you can list your council house for sale in the open market.
If you intend to sell your council house after purchasing it, you may not be able to do so without foregoing the discount you availed through the Right To Buy scheme until you’ve lived in the property for a minimum of 5 years after the purchase.
This means that if you sell the property within the first year of purchasing it from the local council authorities or a social housing landlord, you will have to repay the entire amount of the discount that you availed during the purchase.
The discussion in this article highlights the fact although council property is comparatively cheaper than private property and is considered to be more sturdy in structure, potential buyers will need to keep in view that buying a maisonette only gives them ownership of the space they live in, not the building or communal areas. Such purchases are made on a leasehold basis which means that the lease will need to be renewed at the end of the lease period.
FAQs: Should I Buy My Council Maisonette?
Do you have to pay a service charge on a maisonette?
Yes, you (and other leaseholders) will have to pay a service charge to your council authorities if you have purchased a maisonette. These are monthly contributions made by all the residents of a council building to manage its upkeep and maintenance.
Does a maisonette count as a flat?
A maisonette is like a two-storey flat where your front door is your own and leads to the external part of the building. In the case of a flat, you will still need to use a common hallway to exit the building.
Which is a better option between council housing and the housing association?
Housing associations offer their properties through the council office as well. While there are no major differences, council properties are usually cheaper and more spacious in comparison.
Are council houses cheaper to buy?
Yes, council houses are generally cheaper to buy than properties listed on the open market. In fact, while purchasing a council house, you may be able to avail certain discounts as well to make the purchase affordable and convenient for buyers.
Can I buy my council house for cash?
Yes, you can buy your council house for cash. In fact, it is the buyer’s choice to decide whether they choose to purchase their council house with cash or through a mortgage.