Shared Ownership is a government backed Part Buy/Part Rent scheme designed to help you take that first step on the property ladder. The properties sold under this scheme are usually new build apartments or houses; you can purchase shares from 25% up to a maximum of 75% on the initial purchase.
As this scheme is designed to be the first step onto the property ladder you cannot own another property or land in the UK or abroad.
All applicants are expected to purchase the maximum share they can afford; this will be dependent on your income and savings which you will need for your deposit, and any financial commitments you may already have. You will need to use some of your savings for legal fees and the rest of your savings will be required for your deposit. You will need to arrange a mortgage for the share you want to buy you will also have to pay a discounted rent to your landlord on the share you don’t own and a service charge
Am I eligible?
If the following statements apply to you then it is very likely that you will be eligible:
- Your annual gross household income is less than £80,000, £90, 000 in London
- You do not currently own a home
- You have no outstanding credit problems
- The monthly mortgage, rent and service charge payments on the property are less than 45% of your household income after tax
Some other restrictions may apply on certain properties such as a local residency requirement or minimum household size.
Your general eligibility can be confirmed once you have filled in the application form and you have a specific scheme in mind. You will also need to register with your local Help to Buy Agent.
Financial assessment and property suitability
We will then assess both the make-up of your household and your affordability in relation to the home you are interested in.
- In terms of household make-up the general guideline is that you can apply for a home with one more bedroom than you need eg a single person or couple can apply for a home with up to 2 bedrooms, and a household with at least 1 child (or other dependant) may apply for a 3 bedroom home.
- Regarding affordability we must be sure that your current income is sufficient to sustain the financial commitment involved. Please note that we will carry out a credit search before offering you a property.
- We require and will arrange for a specialist financial advisor to contact you and carry our an affordability assesment. This will help us establish the share you will be required to buy.
What is leasehold?
Leasehold ownership of a flat is simply a long tenancy, the right to occupation and use of the flat for a long period – the ‘term’ of the lease. This will usually be for 99 or 125 years and the flat can be bought and sold during that term.
The leasehold ownership of a flat usually relates to everything within the four walls of the flat, including floorboards and plaster to walls and ceiling, but does not usually include the external or structural walls.
The structure and common parts of the building and the land it stands on are usually owned by the freeholder, who is also the landlord. The freeholder is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the building. The costs for doing so are recoverable through the service charges and billed to the leaseholders.
A leasehold ownership of a house usually relates to the whole building both internal and external and possibly a garden and driveway. Typically a leaseholder of a house would be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the whole building.
The landlord can be a person or a company, including a local authority or a housing association.
What is a shared ownership lease?
In addition to the usual leasehold property there is a form of leasehold property referred to as a shared ownership lease where the leaseholder can purchase a share of a property (house or flat) and pay rent on that part of the property retained by the landlord. The leaseholder will have a right to purchase additional shares in the property until they own 100% of the equity. At this point the property is no longer a shared ownership property.
Most shared ownership leasehold properties are granted by housing associations as part of their home ownership programme. Such leases are almost always in a format approved by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA, formerly the Housing Corporation). The intention is to provide a first step into home ownership for those who are currently renting and cannot afford to purchase a home at the full market value.
What are the differences between a shared ownership lease and an ordinary long residential lease?
A shared ownership lease of a house does not qualify for the right to purchase the freehold ,under the provisions of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, if there is a provision in the lease for the freehold to be transferred on the purchase by the leaseholder of the remaining share in the property (referred to as the final staircasing). Other exemptions apply if the leasehold house was provided for the elderly or within a designated area referred to as a protected area.
A shared ownership leaseholder of a flat only qualifies for the statutory right to extend their lease as the holder of a “long lease” if they have “staircased” up to 100% ownership. However, the landlord may have their own policy of allowing lease extension where there is less than 100% ownership. Leaseholders would need to check with their landlord.
As rent is paid on that part of the equity not owned by the leaseholder, a landlord can take action to repossess the property for rent arrears in the county court in the same way that a landlord of an assured shorthold tenancy can under the provisions of the Housing Act 1988. If the property is repossessed in these circumstances no compensation is payable to the leaseholder to take into account the balance, between the leaseholder’s debt and the market value of the leaseholder’s share in the property.
If the landlord does not exercise their pre-emption rights within 8 weeks the leaseholder can sell in the open market, subject to conditions .
Where there is a shared ownership lease of a house, the leaseholder will be responsible for maintaining and repairing the property and the only service charge payable will be in respect of buildings insurance.
There is an exception to this general rule where a leasehold house is located on a private estate; in this case a service charge may be payable for the maintenance of the common parts of the estate such as pathways, private roads and other amenity areas. An obligation to pay towards these costs would typically continue if the leaseholder acquired the freehold of the house.
The conveyancing solicitor acting on behalf of the buyer is required to forward a copy of the mortgage to the landlord for approval and must obtain and deposit with the title deeds after completion of the purchase an undertaking from the landlord to the mortgage lender confirming that they will notify the mortgage lender if they intend to repossess the property or forfeit the lease.
Because of this requirement, earlier shared ownership leases, typically granted by local authorities, which do not contain a mortgage protection clause, are difficult to sell. This is because mortgage lenders appear reluctant to lend in the absence of a mortgage protection clause.
If you own such a property you should consider asking the landlord to provide a deed of variation to include a mortgage protection clause in the lease. If they refuse, a leaseholder should consider contacting the HCA who may bring pressure to bear on the social sector landlord to provide the deed of variation.
There are some shared ownership leases of houses in protected rural areas that restrict the right of the leaseholder to purchase shares to 80%, or where the leaseholder is allowed to staircase to 100% of the equity/he is under an obligation to sell the property back to the landlord or nominated purchaser, which may be another housing association.
In addition to the rural area exception a shared ownership leasehold property for older persons can limit the equity share to 75%.