Some Question and Answers on VRTB

Here are some answers to some questions you may have about the Midlands VRTB Pilot.

  • What is the Midlands Voluntary Right to Buy pilot?

    The Voluntary Right to Buy is a scheme agreed between the Government and the National Housing Federation to give housing association tenants the chance to buy their homes at the same discount level as council tenants have under the Right to Buy.

    We, along with nearly 50 housing associations in the Midlands, are taking part in a major pilot to test some technical aspects of the scheme that will address issues that housing associations face but councils do not.

  • I am one of your tenants - can I register to buy my home under the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot?

    That depends. We need to ask you a few questions to find out:

    • Which local authority area do you live in? (Your local authority area is the council you pay your council tax to.) See Table of participating local authorities.
    • Do all of these apply to you?
      • You are over the age of 18
      • You have the right to reside in the UK
      • You have been a public sector tenant in social or affordable housing (usually of a council or a housing association) for at least 3 years (this need not have been with the same landlord, or continuous)
      • You have been the tenant of the property that you would like to purchase for at least 1 year (and anyone hoping to buy your home with you has been living there 1 year as well)
      • You are not eligible for the Statutory Right to Buy or the Preserved Right to Buy scheme (which could be the case if your home was owned by your local council and was sold to us while you were living in it)
      • The property is your only home at the point of sale, and you do not own another property anywhere else
      • You (and anyone hoping to buy the home with you) occupy the whole property; that is, you are not occupying a room or rooms in a shared house or flat
      • You do not owe any outstanding money to Midland Heart, and can keep clear accounts with us until you have bought your home
      • You are not currently subject to the mortgage rescue scheme
      • You don’t have any outstanding possession orders
      • You are not subject to bankruptcy proceedings or unfulfilled credit arrangements, and nor is anyone else hoping to buy your home with you
      • You are not subject to an anti-social behaviour order or notice of intent to seek possession for breach of tenancy conditions 
      • You are subject to any legal proceedings
      • Your home is not let under the following tenancies:
        • Rent to Buy / Shared Ownership
        • Starter / One year fixed term probationary
        • Assured Shorthold Periodic Temporary
        • Assured Shorthold (except Localism Act Fixed-Term Tenancies)
        • Licence (i.e. you are a “Licensee”)
    • Is your home outside the scope of the pilot? If so, you cannot register for the scheme. The following are outside the scope of the pilot:
      • Almshouses
      • Housing co-operatives

    If you live in supported or sheltered housing, you may be out of scope. We are taking part in a mini-pilot of the VRTB by giving customers at four of our extra care schemes, (Broad Meadow, Lime Gardens, Willowfields, St Crispins) the opportunity to participate in the pilot. This should help us to identify and address any specific challenges, which can inform a possible future rollout for supported housing customers.

    We may have to decline to sell other homes as well, for a number of reasons. If we cannot not sell you your home but it is not one of the properties above, you may be able to “port” your discount to buy another property in your area. [See “Portability” below.]

  • What costs are involved in the purchase:

    Remember to think very carefully about how you will afford this purchase. You need to ensure that you look at all the costs of home ownership, not just the purchase price and mortgage requirements.

    If you are successful in the ballot, as part of the application process you will need to provide your housing association with evidence of your current income and your ability to fund the purchase.

    You will also need to think about the cost of stamp duty, legal fees and possible removal costs.  And there will be ongoing costs for repairs and maintenance after you have bought. The Money Advice Service can help you work out what these costs might be for you.

    If you purchase your home under the scheme, and then sell or sublet it within five years, you may have to re-pay all or some of your discount.

  • How do I register?
    1. Visit the Government’s Right to Buy website at http://midlands.righttobuy.gov.uk. The gateway for registering your interest will be open from 16 August to 16 September inclusive.
    2. Complete the online form to register your interest, and to enter the ballot for a unique reference number (URN). You cannot contact us to go any further with the purchase unless you are successful in the ballot and are given a URN. To register, you will need to provide your name, full address, local authority, and the name of your landlord. You will receive an email confirming that your registration has been received.
    3. Because this is a pilot, the number of sales is strictly limited. Not everyone who enters will be able to receive a URN. Successful entrants will be selected at random through a computer ballot.
    4. Shortly after the ballot closes, you will receive an email informing you if your entry has been successful in the ballot.
    5. If successful, you will be emailed within 4 weeks with a URN, which you will need to make your application to us. Your URN will last for 4 weeks from the date of receipt. After this it will no longer work.
    6. If successful, you can apply to us, quoting your URN, to start the process of buying your home. You cannot apply to your housing association unless you have a valid URN.
    7. To apply to us please visit www.midlandheart.org.uk/vrtb and follow the link for the application form. This form will not be available until the ballot has closed on 16 September 2018.
    8. Please note that you will have to pay us a £250 administration fee. This will be refunded either when the sale is completed or if we have to turn you down because you do not meet the eligibility requirements. You will not be refunded if you decide to stop proceeding with the sale – for example, due to difficulty of raising the funds.
    9. Please note that having a URN is no guarantee that you will be able to buy your home. You as a tenant and your home must also be eligible [see above], and you will need to have the finances available to buy your home.
  • I was unsuccessful in the ballot. Can I appeal?

    Unfortunately not. The number of sales in the pilot is limited and successful applicants for URNs were selected by a strictly random ballot.

  • You have said you won’t sell me my home. Why not?

    Only “general needs” housing is in the scope of the pilot. If you live in specialist housing for older people or those with additional needs, you may not be able to apply - We are taking part in a mini-pilot of the VRTB by giving customers at four of our extra care schemes  (Broad Meadow, Lime Gardens, Willowfields, St Crispins) the opportunity to participate in the pilot. This should help us to identify and address any specific challenges, which can inform a possible future rollout for supported housing customers.

    We are allowed to decline to sell other homes as well. You can find a list of the types of homes that we have chosen not to sell by contacting us. These can include those built with charitable funding, those which have to remain affordable in perpetuity because of planning conditions, and some properties in rural areas. Housing associations will also exclude the sale of leasehold houses.

  • What is “portability”/“porting a discount”?

    If you are eligible but we have declined to sell you the home that you live in, we will offer you a portable discount to buy another property owned by us or another housing association in your area at a discount.

    We have called this “porting” your discount.

  • Can I appeal your decision not to sell me my own home?

    You cannot appeal against the policies we have set up about exclusions and portability, but you can complain to the Housing Ombudsman if you think we haven’t properly followed those policies.

    More information about the Housing Ombudsman can be found at www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk. You can call them on 0300 111 3000 or write to them at: Housing Ombudsman Service, PO Box 152, Liverpool L33 7WQ

  • Why are you asking me for £250? Will I get it back?

    All housing associations taking part in the pilot are charging a £250 administrative fee. This will be refunded either when the sale is completed or if we turn your down. You will not be refunded if you decide to stop proceeding with the sale – for example, due to difficulty of raising the funds.

  • I missed the window for entering the ballot for URNs. Is there anything I can do?

    There are no immediate plans to reopen the ballot. However, any decision by Government on this would depend on the level of demand. You can sign up for more information on the Government’s website at https://righttobuy.gov.uk/am-i-eligible/housing-association-tenants/ and you will receive any new information.

  • Why are you picking people by ballot? That’s not fair.

    The decision to allocate places on the scheme via a ballot was made by the government. Government are using a ballot because they believe this is the fairest way of allocating the limited number of places available in this pilot project.

    The alternative would have been to allocate spaces on a first come, first served basis. Government felt that this would have disadvantaged tenants with accessibility issues or those who could not get onto the internet in the first few days of opening.