Frequently Asked Questions


What is Co-Ownership?

Co-Ownership is a Do It Yourself Shared Ownership scheme (DIYSO) which exists exclusively for Northern Ireland. If you hope to purchase your own home but can’t quite afford it, Co-Ownership may help you onto the home ownership ladder. Co-Ownership has been running very successfully since 1978 and has helped more than 25,000 households to date purchase the homes of their choice through shared ownership. Purchasers take as large a share as they can afford to start with, between 50% and 90% (known as the ‘starter share’). They can then increase that share at any time (‘staircasing’). Co-Ownership purchasers are known as leaseholders because they receive an equity sharing lease on their properties.

Do I need a deposit on the property?

We don’t insist on an automatic property deposit, but some lenders may do so. You may be able to fully or part fund a deposit by way of a cash gift, perhaps from relatives. To avoid delay when you apply please ensure you declare all relevant savings/other cash available to you and how you propose to finance the purchase of your chosen property.

If my Co-Ownership application is turned down, what can I do?

We have an appeals process for unsuccessful applications, in some circumstances.  You can find out more from our leaflet “Reviewing our Decision”. To consider appeals, we use a panel whose members were not involved in the initial assessment or decision. We will need to see independent written evidence (original(s) will be required) in support of any statements you make in the appeals process.

Can I apply to Co-Ownership if I have savings?

Yes.  If you have more than £6,000 in savings, you must put the amount above £6,000 towards the purchase.

What are my starter share options?

You can start with as much as you can afford. From a 50% share and upwards, 55%, 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85% or a maximum of 90% depending on circumstances. We set your initial equity share at the maximum percentage we consider is sustainable in each case.

What is ‘Staircasing?’

Staircasing is an option available to buyers which allows you incrementally increase your share size relating to the purchased property.  More shares can be purchased incrementally or all at once.

I am filling in my application form and have a question about the education section. What is the nearest equivalent to my highest qualification?

The options on our application form are those used in the census.  Here are some additional examples of qualifications for each box below:

No qualifications: No academic or professional qualifications

Level 1: 1-4 O Levels/CSE/GCSEs (any grades), Entry Level, Foundation Diploma, NVQ level 1, Foundation GNVQ, Basic/Essential Skills

Level 2: 5+ O Level (Passes)/CSEs (Grade 1)/GCSEs (Grades A*-C), School Certificate, 1 A Level/ 2-3 AS Levels/VCEs, Intermediate/Higher Diploma, Intermediate Diploma, NVQ level 2, Intermediate GNVQ, City and Guilds Craft, BTEC First/General Diploma, RSA Diploma

Apprenticeship

Level 3: 2+ A Levels/VCEs, 4+ AS Levels, Higher School Certificate, Progression/Advanced Diploma, NVQ Level 3; Advanced GNVQ, City and Guilds Advanced Craft, ONC, OND, BTEC National, RSA Advanced Diploma

Level 4: Degree (for example BA, BSc), Higher Degree (for example MA, PhD, PGCE), NVQ Level 4-5, HNC, HND, RSA Higher Diploma, BTEC Higher level, Foundation degree; Professional qualifications (for example teaching, nursing, accountancy)

Other qualifications: Vocational/Work-related Qualifications, Qualifications gained outside the UK (Not stated/ level unknown)

Can I get a translation of the Take Ownership Pack for Co-Ownership applicants?

Yes.  Check the downloads section on our website for the translations currently available.  If the language you need isn’t already there, ask us and we will get a translation for you.

Translated Documents

Does Co-Ownership look at my credit history?

We will check every applicant’s credit history, as will any mortgage lender.  We ask you to include your credit report along with your application. The report you supply must be for the most recent month available, fully open to view all entries, with no missing sections or pages. It must include your current address.

You may have a satisfactory overall credit score and yet be turned down for Co-Ownership. Read your credit report carefully. Check it does not record any missed or late payments in the 12 months before you plan to apply to Co-Ownership. Also check there are no unpaid balances on old or inactive accounts. If you believe there may be inaccurate information on your credit report, have it corrected before you apply.

I have had some debt problems in the past. Can I apply to Co-Ownership?

Yes.  You must have satisfactorily completed any payment arrangements at least 12 months before applying, for example:

  • debt management plans
  • debt relief orders
  • bankruptcy
  • voluntary arrangements
  • money judgments.

Co-Ownership Housing will need to see satisfactory evidence of the completed arrangements. Unsettled balances on old accounts are not acceptable.

 

Can I rent my property out?

Your home was purchased to be your home, and not for any other purpose.

If you are thinking of renting out your home because of a change in your circumstances please contact the Housing Department to discuss and to find out what other help might be available to you.  Permission may be given in exceptional circumstances and for a limited period, subject to terms and conditions.  Please note – if you have a mortgage you will also need to seek permission from your lender.

How much are my legal costs?

Your legal costs are made up of two things – the professional fee for your solicitor and the amount for costs and outlays.

The Co-Ownership legal package is for applicants who use the same solicitor as Co-Ownership Housing to buy the property. You choose the solicitor, but they must be on our solicitor panel. The legal package includes a fixed rate £210 professional fee. Your £400 application fee to Co-Ownership Housing includes £210 for the legal package fee.

We’ll fully refund the £210 if we turn down your application or you change your mind before we have issued an offer letter to buy the property. After this point, meaning after the solicitor has started work on the case, we’ll pay what is due to the solicitor and refund the rest to you (subject to any rights we may have in these circumstances).

Separate from, and as well as, your solicitor’s professional fee you are responsible for paying your solicitor’s costs and outlays, which you pay direct to the solicitor before the purchase can go ahead. Costs and outlays vary with the particular property. Your solicitor will give you a quote once they have seen the title documents. Stamp Duty Land Tax may be payable through your solicitor at the time of purchase and/or when later staircasing. If so, you have options as to how or when duty may be assessed, and we recommend that you get independent legal advice.

If you do not or cannot use the Co-Ownership legal package, you are responsible for finding your own solicitor, agreeing the amount of their professional fee and paying this directly to the solicitor, along with all of their costs and outlays.  We refund the full £210 to you after your property purchase has completed.

 

Can you deal with my application if I use an out of date form?

No.  We can only assess applications on the current form to ensure everyone is treated consistently.  The current application form is available from our website.

Will Co-Ownership require proof of income?

Yes.  You must provide evidence for all income that is relevant to you, including income from employment, self-employment, tax credits, benefits and savings.   Examples of evidence are included in our “Qualifying Criteria” leaflet and in the pull-out forms to be completed by your employer (or, if you are self-employed, your accountant) that are part of our application booklet.  If you are unsure about what we might look for in your case, please contact us to check before you apply.

How can I apply?

There are two routes to making an application to Co-Ownership:  Co-Ownership Daily and Co-Ownership Share.

Only one will be in use at any given time – currently, it’s Co-Ownership Daily.

Under Co-Ownership Daily you can send in your application any day, Monday to Friday, throughout the month.  We will register your application and contact you for payment of your £400 application fee.

Our leaflet “When and How”, part of the Take Ownership Pack, tells you more.

When can I apply to use Co-Ownership if there is a Share running?

Qualifying periods for receipt of applications are published on our website.  Shares are usually set monthly and the qualifying period is two consecutive days in that month.  The applications received during the qualifying period are then put into random order and we deal with them in that order until that month’s share of qualifying applications is filled.  Our leaflet “When and How” has more details.

Can I apply to Co-Ownership if I am a second time buyer?

Yes, if you have previously owned a home (or had your name on title as owner of a home) you may still apply providing you meet the general qualifying criteria.  In addition, you must have:

no mortgage
no unpaid debt from any previous mortgage
no property to sell
no interest in any property, in this country or abroad
concluded any settlement arrangements from any previous relationships.

Also, the sale of your previous property must have completed at least 12 months before you apply.

How can I be sure the Share is fair?

Every application is registered on receipt, and given its own unique number. It is this number that goes forward, not any details about the applicant.

Is my employment status relevant to my application to Co-Ownership?

Our leaflet “Qualifying Criteria”, part of the Take Ownership Pack, has more details on how we look at different types of employment.  Here are a few general points though:

  • We will need evidence of earnings for at least 3 months before you apply, and potentially for up to 12 months beforehand if your income is variable.
  • Your employer must confirm the details.
  • We may also need to see a copy of the terms and conditions of your employment if these are not typical.
  • If your employment terms have changed in the last 6 months or you know they are about to change, we will need a written explanation from your employer.

If you are self-employed, you must complete and return the self-employed form in the application booklet, with the paperwork required, in order for us to assess your income.

Can I send in more than one application at the one time?

If an applicant is connected with more than one pending application each of the applications involved will be cancelled.

How do I choose a property?

When out househunting, how can you decide whether a particular property will fit your needs?  By looking out for the right things and asking a few questions you can avoid unnecessary problems.  Ultimately, you choose a property because you want to make it your home and you are investing both time and money in making that choice.

You can find more information on choosing a property in our “Stepping Onto the Property Ladder” leaflet, and there’s also a viewing checklist that can help you compare one property with another.

When I apply, will Co-Ownership require any references?

We will need written evidence to support the statements you make in your application. There are pull-out forms in our application booklet for you, your employer and landlord to use. You will also need to provide (as appropriate) evidence of your:
• identity
• current accounts, credit accounts, loans and payment history
• savings and income

When applying to Co-Ownership, what proof of identity is acceptable?

Each applicant must provide two separate ID documents from the list below, one with your name and photograph on it and one with your address. Original documents or good quality copies (if certified by your solicitor, financial adviser or accountant) are both acceptable.
Documents for photo ID
• current valid passport
• current UK photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
• current EU photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
• current full old-style UK driving licence
• EU national ID photocard
• electoral ID card (NI)

Documents for address ID must be dated within last 3 months:
• utility bill or correspondence from utilities supplier
• rate Collection Agency correspondence
• bank/building society/mortgage/credit union/credit card statement
• HMRC correspondence, e.g. tax coding notice
• original vehicle registration document
• NI Housing Executive/registered housing association tenancy agreement or correspondence
• insurance certificate/policy for home address

Are there any limitations on the type/price of property I can purchase?

There is a property price cap of £150,000 in place throughout Northern Ireland, effective from April 2016 to March 2017.

All property purchases are subject to contract and title, and a surveyor’s inspection for condition and market value as part of the application assessment. Qualifying criteria for purchasers also apply, and these are regularly reviewed. Keep up with any changes through our Email Alerts.

Please see the Qualifying Criteria booklet for more information.

What happens once I have submitted my application to Co-Ownership?

We will process your application and give you a decision as quickly as possible. We carry out an initial screening of your application to check if we have the information we need to take your application forward for assessment.   If the information is there to work with, we’ll ask you for your application fee.  Then we start to work in detail on your application.  We’ll arrange to have your chosen property valued. We’ll keep you informed if any queries arise or further investigation is needed about the property. And we’ll be in touch to help you to get together any further information/evidence needed to support your application.  Getting your information ready before you apply can greatly speed up this process.

What will dictate the outcome of my application to Co-Ownership?

All applications to purchase a property through Co-Ownership are made subject to:
• you meeting qualifying criteria at the time,
• you being able to fund your starter share
• property valuation, contract, title and funding.
You have to apply using our current application booklet and give us a range of supporting documents to prove your circumstances.

How/when will a decision be made on my application?

We will give you a decision letter after the property has been valued, you have given us the supporting evidence we need, and we have completed our assessment. If your application is successful your decision letter will be an offer to purchase the property through the scheme on your behalf, subject to contract and funding. Your letter of offer sets out the details and terms of the purchase. If your application is not successful your decision letter will explain why.

What are my financial options if my application to Co-Ownership is successful?

We always recommend you get independent financial advice about the financial aspects of buying a home generally, such as insurance and how best to help you staircase (increase your ownership share) in future, before you commit yourself.  Check out the range of mortgage products available to you before making your choice. Your financial adviser/mortgage lender may ask for a copy of your Co-Ownership offer letter.

My mortgage is coming to an end. Do I need to sell my house or pay you more money?

 No – your property will remain a Co-Ownership property even after your mortgage has finished and you can continue on, paying your rent to Co-Ownership, unless and until you buy us out.

I want to make improvements to my house. Do I need your permission?

Not if you are funding the works with your own savings, although you must give us the documentation in respect of planning or building control if this is applicable.

If you are funding the work by way of a further advance you will need our permission. Certain criteria must be satisfied prior to consent.  Our Housing Department will be able to help with what you need to do.