BBC You and Yours Interview – discussing Right To Buy
The Right To Buy scheme has been extended, as announced in the Queen's Speech 2015. The government scheme gives people the chance to buy the council house they are currently renting at a discounted price. Unfortunately, for some homeowners, the scheme has gone horribly wrong.
June 4, 2015
Around two and a half million tenants have bought their council houses since Margaret Thatcher promoted the Right To Buy in the 1980’s. Now, the Conservatives are extending the Right To Buy to tenants in housing associations. However, we warn homeowners about the potential pitfalls of buying a council flat.
People who have bought in council blocks have no say over when or how the council maintains the block, or how much they’ll have to contribute to the costs.
Taking the case to a tribunal
One of our members discusses her experience of taking her case to a tribunal. Anita Heaton bought her flat in Rotherham in 2002, buying from someone who had bought the flat under Right To Buy. She then inherited the agreement with the council.
“Our local council decided to carry out major works and originally we got an estimated bill that the cost of the work would be around £2,500. That was withdrawn because of some legal processes that hadn’t been followed and then when we received the final estimations, it was £6,100.
I was quite alarmed because we hadn’t had a lot of time to save up to pay for this work, so we started questioning the estimates. The only explanation that we did get was that they’d found extra work but we couldn’t get any detailed explanation that told us exactly what the extra work was.
Our final step was that we actually took our case to the Leasehold Valuation tribunal. The tribunal found that whilst the price of the roof was reasonable, the balconies [and] the quality of the work was poor so we didn’t have to pay for those. And they also had commented on the fact that information wasn’t produced at an early enough stage, and that had they produced it earlier, we may not have had to go to the court.
Well, the work’s been done, we’ve got the final bills in, which are around about between £4,500 and £4,900 and we’re going to have to start paying for this work. It was very frustrating to have to go to the tribunal because we’d made many attempts to get information from the leasehold officers. We really didn’t want to go down that route but we were left with no option. We didn’t have a solicitor to work for us so we had to represent ourselves. And, to be quite honest, although the Leasehold Valuation tribunal is a valuable service, it’s a very frightening thing to go through on your own.”
“[Right To Buy homeowners] have got very little control and very little say, any mechanism to talk to the council about what they should pay and when… More needs to be done to communicate and to get people’s rights and voices heard.”
– Paula Higgins, HomeOwners Alliance CEO