A number of companies in Northern Ireland provide “rent to buy” schemes. Only one of these is backed by the government. This government-supported scheme is managed by Co-Ownership Housing Association. This scheme gives people an opportunity to move into a new build home as private tenants with an option to purchase the property. Tenants live in the property for a maximum of three years under a fixed term tenancy agreement before either buying the property from or moving on.
Only certain people and certain properties will be eligible for this scheme. The scheme will match people who have a reasonable prospect of benefiting from the scheme with properties that should be affordable for them at the end of their three year tenancy term.
Which people and properties are eligible for Rent to Own?
You may be eligible for the scheme if you
- are working, including temporary work, or are self-employed
- manage your money well and can afford the rental payments on the property
- are not entitled to housing benefit
- do not qualify to buy a property through co-ownership
- do not qualify for a mortgage to purchase a home outright.
OwnCo Homes will consider purchasing properties through this scheme as long as the property
- is a new build with a 10 year warranty
- is ready to occupy now or in the near future
- has a purchase price under £165,000
- is not a one bedroom property or an apartment
- has a turnkey finish but does not include any extras or add ons to the builder’s basic specifications.
Properties will be provided with white goods but tenants will be required to provide their own furniture.
How much money will tenants get towards their purchasing deposits?
The amount of money that you will receive back at the end of your tenancy if you decide to purchase the home you’ve been renting depends on
- how much your rent is and
- how long you’ve been renting the property.
As long as you've kept to the terms of your agreement with co-ownership, you will receive 25% of the rent you’ve paid back if you decide to buy the property. This money will be added to your down payment and your tenancy deposit giving you a useful lump sum that can be used to cover some of the deposit you’ll need to buy the property.
You rent the property for three years. After this period, you can apply to buy the property. However, if your circumstances change for the better before the three years are up, you may apply to buy the property at any time after the first year.
Where a tenant decides to buy the property, Co-ownership will pay the lump sum directly to the solicitor who is handling the purchase of the property on the tenant’s behalf. A tenant who elects to buy after renting for 3 years at a monthly rent of £500 and a tenancy deposit of £500 should receive £8,500 to put towards the purchase of the property. This will be made up of their £500 deposit, the £2,500 down payment and £4,500 in rent rebates.
How to apply
Start by using the online enquiry form on Co-ownership’s website. A Co-ownership adviser will then contact you and go through what you need to do to make an application. If your application is successful you will have to pay OwnCo Homes a £2,500 down payment. You will also have to pay a tenancy deposit for your new home and will have to pay rent each month.
Co-ownership will use market rates to set a fair rent for the property. This rent will not increase during your tenancy. Co-ownership will be your landlord while you are a tenant in the property and will be responsible for paying rates, service charges and any ground rent associated with the property.
Your legal status while renting
While you rent the property you will remain a tenant and will have no ownership rights. Your rights will be set out in your tenancy agreement, in your rent book and you will also be protected by the provisions of the Rent (NI) Order 1978 and the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006 as well as other pieces of legislation which protect private tenants in Northern Ireland. Co-ownership will be responsible for carrying out repairs to the property. Your tenancy agreement will be for a three year term, so you can only have your tenancy ended during that period if you break the terms of the agreement or if Co-ownership agrees to release you from the contract before the end date.
Buying the property
You can buy the property at any point after your initial one year tenancy, but the longer you wait the larger your rent rebate will be.
The scheme is designed for a 3 year period, to put tenants in a position where they will have a sufficient lump sum amassed to enable them to purchase the property.
You will need to arrange a mortgage and may need to save additional money to put towards your deposit. If you cannot get a mortgage to purchase the property at the end of the three year term, Co-ownership may consider porting your lump sum towards the purchase of another property.
You may also want to consider opening a Help to Buy ISA or Lifetime ISA if you are planning on purchasing a home soon. You can get a bonus of up to £3000 tax free to put towards the purchase of a new home if you are a first time buyer with this type of ISA.
What happens if you can't buy the property or change your mind?
This scheme is intended to help people buy their own properties. If your circumstances change and you no longer want to buy or are no longer in a position to be able to take on a mortgage, you will have to leave the property at the end of your three year term. If you do not keep to the terms of your tenancy agreement, Co-ownership may seek to terminate your tenancy earlier than this.
You will receive your full down payment back from Co-ownership and should receive your deposit back, minus any deductions for rent owed or damage caused to the property during the tenancy.
Your deposit will be protected with an approved scheme, and you can ask this scheme to adjudicate if you believe that any of the deductions were unfair.