Tenants rush to beat March 4 right to buy deadline

Council tenants hoping to buy their home could save up to £22,000 on the purchase price if they get their application in to the town hall before March 4.

For many tenants it could be their last chance to join the ranks of the nation's home-owners as new discount curbs to be imposed by the Government from March 5 will force up the cost of buying.

Currently tenants can claim a maximum discount of up to £38,000 towards the cost of buying their home under the right to buy scheme introduced in 1980. This will fall to just £16,000 on March 5.

With many council properties now valued in excess of £100,000 the new discount level will be of little use to the vast majority of tenants. Even with the current level of discount three out of four applicants drop out because they cannot afford to go ahead with the purchase.

Cabinet member for housing Martin D Johnson said home ownership advisers had taken hundreds of calls from worried tenants:

"The best advice we can give is to get your application in before March 4. Then at least you have a chance of qualifying for the full £38,000 discount. After that and you may find that the chance of buying your council home has gone forever.

"The council is trying to get ministers to change their mind. We have been arguing for years that discounts should be increased to keep up with rising property prices in London. Sadly it seems the Government is determined to bring right to buy to an end for all but a handful of well-off tenants. For anyone interested in buying either now or in the future time is running out."

Officials are now writing to more than 18,000 council tenants alerting them to the new March 4 deadline.

Right to buy application forms are available for personal visitors from the home ownership unit reception in the town hall - or over the telephone on 020 8871 6012. The home ownership unit is open from 9am to 5pm Monday - Friday with a late-night opening on Thursdays to 7pm. It will stay open until 8pm on March 4, 2003 to receive last minute applications.