Case Study 36: Right to Buy - Formally Resolved

Mr G complained about the handling of his Right to Buy application, and in particular about the amount of compensation offered to him during the complaint procedure.

Mr G had moved into his home following a mutual exchange. The previous tenant had been a council tenant and then transferred with the property to the current landlord, a housing association. As such this tenant had a Preserved Right to Buy. When the mutual exchange was completed for Mr G to move into the property, the landlord mistakenly told Mr G that the PRTB had been transferred to him.

The landlord sent an offer to Mr G to buy the property in April 2013. However a month later the landlord withdrew the letter after it received legal advice confirming that the Preserved Right to Buy does not pass from one tenant to another following a mutual exchange, and that it would not be legal for the landlord to sell the property to Mr G by way of the Right to Buy process and applying the relevant discount.

We cannot make legally binding decisions about the status of a tenant’s tenancy agreement, therefore our focus was on the landlord’s administration of the Right to Buy application process.

Mr G complained to the landlord about its decision to withdraw the offer and asked for compensation to cover the costs he said he had incurred in making the application. This included the cost of his time at various meetings, his rent since the start of his application and credit rating fees (over £4000). The landlord initially offered over £300 to cover some of the meetings and fees. However it did not refund any rent as Mr G had continued to live in the property and receive the services from the landlord that would be covered by the rent.

We concluded that this offer was reasonable as the landlord had identified what had gone wrong and offered to put this right by amending the Deed of Assignment and by providing the correct advice to Mr G about the Right to Acquire (instead of the Right to Buy). It also offered compensation which was proportionate with the administrative failure and in line with its compensation policy.

The landlord later offered an additional £1000 as a goodwill gesture. This was not a result of any intervention on our part but the result of the landlord’s legal considerations and separate from the complaint procedure.

The dispute had undermined the parties’ relationship and could not be resolved locally between Mr G and the landlord. Our final decision and additional explanation allowed both parties to draw a line under the complaint.