Living as a Shared Owner

Answers to frequently asked questions

Important Notes

Should any of the information below conflict with your contract with Rural Housing Trust Limited or current legislation, then the contract and legislation take precedence over this guide. This information is correct as at January 2012.

About Rural Housing Trust

RHT is a housing company specialising in rural shared ownership housing.

Our aim is to help people on modest incomes who wish to remain living in the rural area where they have strong connections by building affordable shared ownership housing to help maintain healthy and vibrant village communities. RHT has 443 shared ownership houses in 99 village locations from Sussex on the South Coast to North Yorkshire.

Who can own a shared ownership house?

Our commitment is to local people who cannot afford to buy on the open market.

Local means one or more of the following:

  • Current residence in the parish
  • Previous residence in the parish
  • Close relatives currently in the parish
  • Current permanent employment in the parish
  • About to take up permanent employment in the parish

There may be more specific local connection requirements in the local planning agreement. Sometimes we also have to consider applicants on the Council waiting list, so long as they fulfil our criteria.

We do our best to match the household size to the size of the available property. It is unlikely therefore that a single person would be approved for a three bedroom house. Childless couples and single people will be considered for two bedroom houses.

We do not hold waiting lists.  When there is a re-sale, we encourage Parish Councils to advertise as widely as possible in and around the village where the house is located, so as to attract local people to apply.

All prospective purchasers must complete an application form. The details are used to confirm eligibility to occupy the property; and to confirm income is satisfactory for repayment of the mortgage, rent and other outgoings.  We may telephone applicants to clarify some details on their application form. Some local authorities also require us to obtain their approval of the shared ownership sale.

All applicants must notify us on the application form if they are in any way related to anyone who serves on the Parish Council. This will not prejudice the treatment of the application, but it must be declared so that we can defend against accusations that successful applicants got the house because of their family connections

Where there is more than one prospective purchaser able to proceed with a purchase, preference will be given to the applicant with the strongest connection to the local area. This is normally the parish where the property is located or an adjacent parish. While unsuccessful applicants may enquire about the reasons for their application not being approved for a property, we never reveal details about other applicants. The usual reason for lack of success is that another applicant had a greater need or a stronger local connection.

We have an Equal Opportunities policy which ensures that every applicant’s case is judged on housing need and local connection.

People of all ages may apply and we consider all kinds of households including single people and childless couples.

How long can I remain a shared owner?
You can live in your home for as long as you like. For many people, the house is likely to be a starter home and you may wish to move to an open market home when your circumstances permit. Some people start in a 2 bedroomed house and later – as their family grows – consider moving to a 3 bedroomed house in the same development, if one becomes available for sale. Usually, applicants who apply to move into a more suitable house on the same development are given priority.
What happens if I want to leave my home empty?

Our houses can only be occupied by people who own them as their only residence and they must not be left empty for more than 28 days without our permission.

Under the terms of your lease or transfer, if you cease to live in the house you must report this to Rural Housing Trust. Failure to do so can result in forfeiture of your home. If you do not observe these terms of your lease, you can be sure a neighbour will notice and inform us

What insurance cover do I need?

You are responsible for insuring your home for the full re-instatement value. The insurance policy must be jointly in your name and Rural Housing Trust Limited and a copy of the current certificate of insurance sent to RHT

For more information please see insurance webpage on RHT’s website.

Can I build an extension?

It is important to note that rural shared ownership housing is built to enable people to live in a village where they have a close connection but cannot afford to buy in the open market. For this reason Rural Housing Trust does not normally allow extensions or major changes to the property because this will increase the value and hence the price for the next purchaser.

You must get permission first if you wish to make any alterations to your home or to add any extensions. All applications for an extension or major change are carefully assessed by the Board and permission will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

  • In the event of an extension being allowed, it will not set a precedent for other houses in the same development.
  • We will look carefully at each request. Original drawings should be checked to ensure there are no problems, such as underlying drains etc. Local authority planning consent will also be needed and, occasionally, the consent of a third party such as the original landowner.
  • Please contact us if you are considering an extension and we will send you the Extension Questionnaire and Guidance.
  • You are advised not to incur any architect’s or other fees before you have sought our consent.
  • In addition to RHT’s and the Local Authority’s planning (if required) permissions, many alterations  will need approval under the Building Regulations or for the works to be notified or certified to Local Authority Building Control by a qualified contractor and in Conservation Areas, Conservation Area Consent. It is up to you to establish what consents are required, normally the Local Authority for your area will advise if you are in any doubt and we would strongly recommend that you use a fully qualified contractor.
  • Remember to keep records of any planning consents, Building Regulation approvals for alterations, Conservation Area consents; contractor’s reports/ certificates/guarantees etc. which a buyer and their solicitor will need to see when you want to sell.
Can I build a conservatory?

In principle we have no objections to modest size conservatories at the rear of your property, but we need to know the exact position, we need to approve the drawings, size, materials etc. and we need to know that a qualified builder/conservatory constructor will be carrying out the work.

Subject to size, you may also need to obtain planning permission and we need to see copies of letters from the Council confirming that its consent is given or not required. We also need to know that your immediate neighbours are not unhappy with your proposal.

If you would like us to consider your request for a conservatory, please send Rural Housing Trust details of the proposed building as outlined above.

If you need to take out an extra loan secured on your house, you must contact Rural Housing Trust first. If you don’t do this, it will hold up matters.

What about other additions and improvements like satellite dishes?

You must get RHT’s permission first

Some of our schemes are in Conservation Areas and in certain cases the addition of satellite dishes is forbidden in the planning agreement or by the original landowner (for example where the site is in a National Trust village). In all cases, local planners have specific requirements with regard to the position and size of dishes.

If structural changes are requested, we make a charge of £375 + Vat towards the cost of a surveyor examining the original drawings and for each visit to your home to ensure that the work is carried out satisfactorily, if we approve the plans and/or a visit to your home is required. There may also be other costs for legal fees and our administration.

Procedure:
So, whether it’s a shed, new windows, central heating, a porch, or any other addition, alteration, improvement or new structure, write to Rural Housing Trust first with details!

If you need to take out an extra loan secured on your house, you must contact Rural Housing Trust first. If you don’t do this, it will hold up matters.

* All prices given are those that apply at December 2011 and are liable to periodic review.

How do I know if a garden fence belongs to me?

The plan attached to the Transfer or Lease when you purchased your home has marks showing which fences are your responsibility.

If in doubt, contact your solicitor or building society who can consult your deeds.

If you experience problems, Rural Housing Trust keep copies of the plans of most plots. A fee of £50 + Vat is payable towards Rural Housing Trust’s costs in retrieving archived files, photocopying and sending to you.

Are there rules on parking?

When you purchased your home, you will have been allocated a specific parking space or spaces. The space:-

  • may be part of your property; or
  • may be part of a general, shared parking area;
  • can only be used for private motor cars or light vans (up to 35 cwt load capacity);
  • cannot be used for parking larger vans, lorries, caravans, trailers, boats etc – other than vehicles stopping briefly to deliver items.

There is usually a visitors’ parking area where visiting vehicles can park temporarily, but no-one may use this as a permanent parking space.

Am I responsible for looking after my home?

Every shared owner is responsible for looking after his or her home. Clearly it is in your interest to do so, as, when you eventually come to sell, a well looked after home will have a higher value than one that has been poorly maintained. Regular painting of exterior woodwork will prevent rotting and save you money in the long term.

You are responsible for keeping your property, both inside and out, in good and substantial repair. This means in good decorative order, regularly repainting external paintwork and timber window surrounds, (recommended at least every 5 years) and redecorating internally on a regular basis (recommended at least every 6 years).

You should ensure your electrical wiring and plumbing are kept in good working order and that your boiler is regularly serviced. Externally gardens should be kept neat and tidy and boundary fences in repair.

Can I remove trees or hedges in my garden?

No The Local Council required Rural Housing Trust to plant or retain certain trees and hedges as a condition of the planning permission, to ensure the overall attractiveness of the scheme. This is particularly important, as usually the houses are on sites on the edge of villages where exceptional planning consent has been given (because the houses are for local people).

In some of our schemes, the trees are also subject to conservation orders and special consent must be sought from the local authority before even pruning them.

Like your home, you should aim to keep your garden as well maintained as possible as this can affect the value of your home when you want to move.

  • Be very careful not to plant any trees too near your home as their roots could cause major damage to your property and/or that of your neighbours.
  • Always seek specialist advice before deciding what tree(s) to plant and where.
  • We strongly recommend that you do not grow fast growing conifers for hedging, such as leylandii, as they can quickly grow out of control and lead to endless problems.
  • All hedging should be kept below 2.5m in height and away from the border with a neighbour, so that the hedging does not encroach on your neighbour’s land.
  • Any trees, hedges, plants or other vegetation on your property are your responsibility and therefore you will need to look after these.
  • Any trees, hedges, plants or other vegetation on the neighbouring properties are the responsibility of the owner of that property and any issues should be discussed between you to resolve the situation amicably.
Fences – what do I need to know?

Fencing must be kept below 2m in height and may need planning consent from your local authority.

In most developments, fencing is not permitted in front gardens, which have to be left as open plan.

Do I have to pay council tax?
Yes As the occupier of the house, you are responsible for the full council tax that applies to your property and for informing your Council of any circumstances which would reduce your bill (e.g. single people may qualify for a discount).
Is there a service charge?

For some schemes, there is a service charge to cover such matters as the servicing of a foul drainage pump, tank or sewage treatment plant, the maintenance of common landscaped areas, and the creation of a sinking fund for the repair/replacement of a private access roadway (and common parking area, if any) and/or a treatment plant.

Your solicitor should have explained this to you before you agreed to buy the house.

Where a service charge applies, you will receive an annual statement from the housing association that is responsible for other properties on the site and for looking after the common areas and services.

What do I do if I have problems with a neighbour?

Neighbour disagreements are fortunately rare but obviously they can occur.

  • By far the best approach is to try to talk to your neighbour to resolve matters amicably. You will probably be living next door to one another for several years and it is in no-one’s interest if relationships are soured.
  • Do bear in mind that children will be children and, especially during the warmer months and lighter evenings, a little extra noise might be heard outside. Be tolerant, but if you have to mention it to your neighbour, choose a moment when you are not het up about it.
  • Also be sensitive. If your own children are inclined to be a bit noisy, think about others living near you. Families with babies or shift workers trying to sleep during the day might not enjoy the sounds of your little angels if they are excessively boisterous.
  • If the dispute is over noise and – after discussion with your neighbour – it continues to be a problem, your local Council’s Environmental Health Department should be able to provide advice.

Remember that if you fall out with your neighbour, you have to declare this when you come to sell your home and this could make your home difficult to sell.

I am separating from my partner but wish to stay in the house and have it transferred into my name. What do I need to do?
  1. Be sure that you will be able to meet the mortgage repayments alone (speak to your lender).
  2. Get the consent of your former partner in writing. (Your partner will need to sign a legal document further down the line.)
  3. Contact Rural Housing Trust to seek our consent.
  4. We will send you a Transfer of Equity Request Form to complete.
  5. When we receive the form from you, we check your request against the Planning Agreement that we signed and check your financial details to confirm the mortgage can still be paid. If approval is agreed, we pass your details to our solicitors who will contact your solicitors to arrange for a Transfer to be drawn up

We charge a fee of £175 + Vat * for processing these requests and you will also be responsible for our solicitors’ costs of £300 + VAT*.

* All prices given are those that apply at November 2015 and are liable to periodic review.

What happens to my home when I die?

However young you are, it is always recommended that you make a will to avoid prolonged legal complications when you die.

The value of the share in a property becomes part of the estate of anyone who dies while they own that share. Only a solicitor can advise you about how that part of the estate will be disposed of.

If the will leaves the entire estate to a named person, Rural Housing Trust would still need to be notified of the details of the proposed new owner. If that person did not qualify to live there, under our criteria, then the house would have to be sold and the proceeds would be part of the deceased’s estate.

The overriding consideration is that the occupier of any of our houses must be unable to afford to meet their housing needs in any other way and they must have a close connection to the local community. It may well be that someone who had been living with the deceased before their death can meet these criteria, but if the will does not leave the deceased’s interest in the property to that person, we cannot intervene.

A solicitor’s advice is essential

What do I do if I want to remortgage my property?
  1. Write to or email Rural Housing Trust.
  2. We will send you Guidance Notes and a Remortgage Request Form.
    We have to be certain that the new mortgage will not in any way affect the share of the equity that we own. In addition, not all lenders will provide mortgages on fixed equity shared ownership housing and we have to provide them with full details and check their mortgage offer carefully.
  3. We make a charge of £175 + Vat * for processing remortgage requests towards our own administration costs.
    In addition, if all goes ahead, you will be responsible for your solicitor’s costs in drawing up the new Mortgage Deed. If we need to consult our solicitors, you will also be responsible for these costs.

* All prices given are those that apply at November 2015 and are liable to periodic review.

What should I do if I get behind with my mortgage repayments?

Prospective purchasers should think carefully about whether they can afford the mortgage repayments, together with the other costs of homeownership.

You should contact RHTL immediately if you are getting into financial difficulties.

Am I allowed to sublet my home?
No. Your Deed of Trust or Lease describes how your home must be used as your only home by yourself and your immediate family, and forbids subletting.
Can I take in a lodger?

These properties were built as affordable housing for local people so the lease restricts occupation to the shared owner and their family. Unfortunately, you will not be able to take in a lodger or allow anyone else to live in your home who is not a member of your family.

What happens if I wish to move?

Please contact RHTL by email or in writing if you are considering selling. We will send you a letter that sets out the procedure to sell your shared ownership home.

Moving house can be stressful. The process can appear to take an inordinate amount of time but we all have procedures to follow and we do our best to complete these quickly and efficiently.