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Your Homes Newcastle is warning tenants to be wary of private companies operating across Tyneside and encouraging them to apply to buy their council properties and take up discounted life insurance offers.

We have received a significantly increased number of “Right to Buy” applications, which were submitted by a private company.

Jen Vinton, head of assets and regeneration at YHN, said: “We are very concerned about the involvement of a private company in these Right to Buy applications, particularly as customers have told us that they are claiming to represent YHN and even have paperwork that looks as though it has been produced by us. Many of our customers have provided private companies with their bank details when believing they were acting on our behalf, which is of course very worrying.

“We would never send representatives out to knock on doors and discuss Right to Buy and we have certainly not given any other organisation permission to do so. We know that one of these companies is offering two years’ worth of free life insurance, discounts and assistance with debts as well as favourable financial deals to help the tenants get a loan and / or mortgage.

“We expect there may be many hidden costs included in this offer and are very concerned that our tenants might take it up without thinking about the long-term consequences – they would then need to keep up with repayments and their home would be in danger of being re-possessed if they didn’t. By signing documents you have not read properly, you may be entering into a legal agreement in which you may have to pay the company thousands of pounds.

“I would like to reiterate that YHN would not knock on tenants’ doors with a view to discussing Right to Buy and to strongly advise tenants not to give personal details to anyone they don’t trust. All YHN members of staff should be clearly identified by a photographic badge and their identity can be checked by calling our main office on 0191 278 8600.

“If any of our tenants would like to find out more about their Right to Buy we would advise them to contact the Right to Buy Team on 0191 278 7725. There is no charge for any of our customers to take up this service so there is no need to use a private company.”

YHN is aware that a private company has been operating across various areas in Newcastle.

Tenants are normally contacted by door-to-door representatives from private companies offering to help them buy their council homes. They may offer a mortgage, legal services or an “all-in” package that may include home improvements after buying. In some cases tenants do not want to buy their home but feel pressured into signing forms just to get rid of the salesperson.

In the past, similar companies have typically charged thousands of pounds in admin fees which they lump into the financial package and provide as a hidden charge. In many cases, buyers are unable to keep up with repayments and their property is repossessed and then sold on at a later date at full market value or rented out privately.

Northumbria Police Chief Inspector Darren Adams said: “We would always urge people to be very cautious when it comes to doorstep callers and sellers.

“Anyone like this who turns-up unannounced, whether they’re claiming to be carrying out work or selling something, should always be treated with caution.

“Please be vigilant and always check the identities of these people and the company’s credentials before agreeing to anything or handing any information over.

“Genuine callers will not mind being asked to come back at a different time so their identification can be checked or while arrangements are made for a relative or friend to be present when they return.

“We would also like to ask members of the community to look out for elderly or vulnerable neighbours who could be targeted by doorstep callers and report any suspicious people or vehicles they see in their community to us. If in any doubt, then close the door and contact police.”

Your Homes Newcastle has a team that can help any council tenant wishing to exercise their Right to Buy, which is referenced above, and more information can be found here.