Right to buy applications

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at council tenants who are experiencing problems with their right to buy applications and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I am unhappy about the way the council is dealing with my right to buy application. Can the Ombudsman help me?

Yes, in some circumstances. We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your right to buy application which has caused you problems.

But, if you are complaining that the council is delaying in processing your application, we would usually expect you to use the ‘Tenant’s notice of delay’ procedure instead. This was put in place specifically to compensate tenants for any financial loss caused by unreasonable delay. Sometimes we might consider it unreasonable to expect a tenant to have used the procedure because of illness, disability or other personal issues. Then we might look at a complaint. 

We cannot normally look at disagreements about the purchase price of your home, because you can ask the District Valuer to determine the price. In some cases, tenants can ask the Department of Communities and Local Government to get involved if they are having problems using their right to buy. Other disputes can be dealt with by the County Court and First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber Residential Property) and we would usually expect you to use these alternative remedies.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

For more information on how to complain, visit our contact page or complete an online complaint form.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

Some of the issues we might be able to look at are if the council:

  • gave you wrong advice on your right to buy your home
  • made a mistake in deciding whether you can buy it, or
  • failed to tell you information you need to know.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

It depends on what went wrong and how that affected you. If we find that something has gone wrong in the way the council dealt with your right to buy application we can ask it to:

  • take action to put the matter right
  • pay compensation for any financial loss
  • review or improve its procedures to make sure the same problems do not happen in future, or
  • vary the discount repayment period.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mrs A complained that the council had wrongly refused her application to buy her home and that, when it did accept her right to buy, it then took too long to deal with the application. It also used a valuation for the property based on current market values which had gone up since the date of her original application. The council accepted that it had used the wrong grounds for refusing her first application; it took too long to accept that she was eligible to buy her home and then used the wrong valuation. The council agreed that things had gone wrong, and it offered to progress Mrs A’s purchase on the basis of the correct valuation date, to pay her back the rent she had paid in the meantime, and to pay her £500 in acknowledgement of the avoidable distress and inconvenience caused.
Mr and Mrs W complained that the council did not tell them when it became the freeholder of their block of flats, even though this happened shortly after they had enquired about buying their flat. Mr and Mrs W did not find out about the change until four years later by which time the valuation had increased. We found that the council was at fault. It was aware of Mr and Mrs W's interest in buying and it should have told them they could apply. The council agreed Mr and Mrs W should not have to pay the increase in purchase price that resulted from the four year delay.

Other sources of information

See the Communities and Local Government leaflet on Your Right to Buy Your Home at www.gov.uk/government/publications/your-right-to-buy-your-home-a-guide--2

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

September 2016