There are lots of places you can get help with finding somewhere to live after leaving the Armed Forces, or if you are trying to get on the property ladder as recently transitioned ex military or Veteran. Whether renting for the first time or buying for the first time or thereafter there are lots of things you need to consider regarding deposits, tenancy agreements and affordability.
In our Housing section we have pulled together some useful information and links to further resources to help you with your perfect next home.
The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO)
The JSHAO is available to all services as a first port of call for housing information for military personnel and their families who are wanting to move onto civilian housing at any point in their career. They also provide housing advice to those during Armed Forces Resettlement to support with the journey to civilian life. The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) also looks after the Referral Scheme run by the MOD that supporting Social Housing in conjunction with Local Authorities and their agents.
The JSHAO run briefs for Personnel and partners/families where relevant at any point of their career but become more important when a member is two years or less away from leaving the service and haven’t finalised their future housing.
The JSHAO also runs the Ministry of Defence Referral Scheme. This scheme may be able to help you if you are looking for social housing when you decide to leave the service. They have a relationship with Local Authorities and Housing Associations within the UK, who have available housing for allocation to Service Personnel.
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, is a national charity that supports Veterans and their families on a range of issues including housing. SSAFA has expert Housing Advisors who can offer impartial advice on all housing matters. Their guidance includes getting housing benefit, facing homelessness, accessing social housing, legal rights of tenants, struggling with mortgage payments and repossession and eviction.
Private rental sector
You can find accommodation to rent from the property websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla. There is also a website called SpareRoom if you are looking to just rent a room in a shared house.
If you are single and about to be discharged, Single Person Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services, (SPACES) may be able to help you find somewhere to live. They are a housing placement service and work with single Service Personnel regardless of rank and length of service to find suitable housing. The team at SPACES can also make referrals to the single person accommodation available at The Beacon, Catterick and Mike Jackson House, Aldershot.
Most landlords in the UK will use an Assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement of six months to let out their properties to private tenants. After this initial agreed period, the landlord can evict the tenant without a legal reason. They will normally ask for a deposit (this is usually between a month and 6 weeks deposit) and will also expect you to sign an inventory which notes the condition of items in the property, especially important if you are renting a furnished or part furnished home.
There are various housing schemes available ranging from full support (Social Housing) to joint ownership/affordable housing and various organizations that help service leavers and veterans with their housing. For example Haig Housing is a charitable housing trust for ex-military personnel and their families that can offer family properties at affordable rents and is associated with Help for Heroes.
Rent to Buy
The government scheme ‘rent to buy’ is designed to help with moving from renting to buying a house through subsidised rent. Homes are made available to rent with a shorthold tenancy at a reduced rate of 80% of local market rents. The expectation (although not obligation) is that this shorthold period of paying less rent gives the opportunity to save a deposit so you can apply to buy a share of the home later. Once the tenancy ends, you can purchase the property on shared ownership terms, or move. Be aware there is very limited availability under this scheme. The exact number varies by local authority and you will need to search to see what schemes are available or coming soon in your area.
A lease period can last anywhere from six months to five years, depending on the property in question. You are free to make an outright offer, or investigate a part rent part buy scheme, at any time during your lease.
Some associations that run these schemes use different terms to rent to buy such as ‘Try Before You Buy’, ‘Rent Save Buy’, ‘Rent to Own’ and ‘Intermediate Market Rent.’ Make sure you understand the scheme you are taking on before you go ahead.
Schemes for First Time Buyers
Help to Buy – A Government Shared Equity Scheme
The government will lend up to 20% of the value of a property in the form of an equity loan or 40% in London. It covers new build properties only up to £600,000. It is available to first time buyers as well as existing homeowners who wish to move.
Help to Buy for first time buyers and home movers is ending on 31 March 2021. To qualify for this equity loan you must legally complete buying your home by 31 March 2021. A new Help to Buy scheme for first time buyers only starts on 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023. Find out more at https://www.ownyourhome.gov.uk/
Shared Ownership (New Build)
This scheme allows you to buy part of a new build property and rent the other part. Over time you can buy more of the property, until you own the whole thing. The scheme is designed for people who would not be able to borrow enough to purchase a property or could not afford to put a large enough deposit down on a mortgage.
Shared Ownership (Resale)
The shared ownership resale scheme allows you to take over an existing shared ownership property that the current owner has put on the market. Over time you can buy more of the property until you own the whole thing.
Right to Buy
If you live in a council house or flat, you may be able to buy your home at a discount under the right to buy scheme. The discount depends on where you live, how long you have lived there and whether you live in a house or flat.
HOLD or Home Ownership for people with Long term Disabilities
Affordable Home Ownership Schemes
Service Personnel and (ex-Service Personnel within 12 months of discharge in England and Wales, 24 months in Scotland) have priority status to government affordability housing initiatives. Please note that no priority exists in Northern Ireland, these Schemes include Shared Ownership and Equity Loans.
Affordability calculator and savings
You can use a Lifetime ISA (Individual Savings Account) to buy your first home or save for later in life. You must be aged over 18 but under 40 to open a Lifetime ISA. You can put in up to £4,000 each year, until you are 50. The government will add a 25% bonus to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 per year.
Forces Help to buy – what happens
The Forces Help to Buy scheme enables servicemen and servicewomen to borrow up to 50% of their salary, interest free, to a maximum of £25,000 to buy their first home or move to another property. This may be due to assignment or due to family needs changing. You will need to have more than six months left to serve at the time of application. This can be used towards a deposit and other costs such as solicitor and estate agent fees.
If you take out a loan under this scheme but you then leave the military before you have finished your repayment, the outstanding balance will need to be cleared. The government has confirmed that your terminal benefits can be used to help clear any outstanding loan.
Find our more, scheme running until December 2022. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/joint-service-housing-advice-office-leaflet-index/forces-help-to-buy-scheme
Understanding Stamp Duty
DutyStamp duty is a tax that you pay to HM Revenue & Customs when you are buying a home. It is paid by the person buying a property and how much you will pay depends on how much you are paying for the property, where the property is (there are different rates for Scotland and Wales) and whether it is your only property.
The government have announced some stamp duty relief effective from 8th July 2020 – 31st March 2021. If you are purchasing a property worth less than £500,000, unless it is a second home or buying an additional property, then you pay stamp duty of 3% on properties worth up to £500,000 (and higher rates above this value).
You may qualify for stamp duty relief as a first-time buyer or you may have to pay a surcharge because you are purchasing a buy-to-let or second home.
You have 14 days after you complete on the purchase of a property to file a return to HMRC and pay any stamp duty that is due.
Your solicitor or conveyancer will usually calculate and pay your stamp duty bill on your behalf. They will normally submit your return and pay the stamp duty on completion day, having collected the money from you in advance.