Wealden District Council
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Carrying Out A Mutual Exchange/House Swap

In addition to transferring home another way of trying to move is to look for an exchange.

A mutual exchange is when council or housing association tenants swap homes. It allows you to swap and move to a different part of the country if you chose.  Two or more households can be part of the mutual exchange.

You can apply if:

  • you have a Secure or Flexible Fixed Term tenancy agreement
  • the properties being swapped meet everybody’s needs
  • you are up to date with paying your rent
  • you do not have a notice seeking possession on your property
  • you have not broken tenancy conditions or have not been guilty of criminal or anti-social behaviour.

How to find someone to exchange with

You do not have to be registered for a transfer in order to carry out a mutual exchange but may want to consider both. In order to register for a transfer, you must meet our eligibility criteria. Further information can be found on our Housing Register – Applying for Social Housing through the Council page.

The Process

Once you have found someone to exchange your home with, you can request an application form from us by phone 01323 443322 or email at housing@wealden.gov.uk

We have to notify all applicants within 42 days of receiving all the relevant information that enables us to make a decision, on whether or not permission to exchange is granted.

Before we can make a decision on whether to allow the exchange we must have received completed applications from all of the exchanging partners.

We will then:

Make some investigations to see if we will allow the exchange to go ahead. This will include getting references from landlords and checking whether there are any rent arrears. We will also need to be sure that exchange partners are moving into a home that is suitable for their family size and needs e.g. this includes whether or not any of the properties have adaptations.

Arrange to carry out an inspection on your existing property. This will highlight any works that we expect you to undertake before you exchange your property such as repairing any damage or removing any unauthorised alterations . We may also arrange a further follow up visit to check that any necessary works required by you have been completed.

We will also arrange for a gas and/or electricity safety check on the property that you are moving out of.

Once all landlords have confirmed that the mutual exchange can go ahead, the legal paperwork called the deeds have to be sent to our legal department. Once they are ready we will arrange for these to be signed by you and the exchanging household, we will do this by sending you the paperwork to sign and have witnessed. The households involved can then agree amongst themselves on what date the mutual exchange will take place.

What happens if one tenant has a secure tenancy and the other a flexible fixed term tenancy?

Mutual exchange is usually by way of each tenant giving (legally known as assigning) their tenancy to the other so that each effectively takes over the others tenancy, including its status e.g. as Assured (for housing association tenancies) or Secure (for council tenancies) and its rent level. It does this by each tenant surrendering their tenancy and the landlord granting a new tenancy.

However, provided that they held their tenancy before 1 April 2012 Section 158 of the Localism Act 2011 provides protection for ‘lifetime’ tenants, i.e. Assured and Secure tenants. This protection applies where these tenants want to exchange with tenants who have a flexible tenancy (a local authority tenancy type) or a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy (housing association equivalent). This is so the existing lifetime tenant will still have a ‘lifetime’ tenancy following the exchange. In these circumstances we will offer the tenant with a ‘lifetime’ tenancy at their current home a new secure tenancy.

Things you need to know with regards to the property you are exchanging into

You take the property as seen.

This means:

  • any rechargeable works such as damage caused by the outgoing tenant you will become liable for e.g. doors broken due to being kicked, damage caused by hanging pictures, shelving etc.
  • you take the property’s decoration as it is and the Council will not undertake any decoration works or give you any decoration vouchers towards the cost of doing so.
  • if the tenant you are exchanging with have erected a shed, greenhouse etc. you are responsible for the cost of maintaining, improving or repairing these.
  • although we inspect all properties prior to a mutual exchange taking place damage can happen between this date and the date when you move in and you could become liable for this. You will also be responsible for removing and disposing off any rubbish left by the outgoing tenant/s.

Unlike a new tenancy, with a Mutual Exchange the tenancies are swapped between the two parties, and as such the property is never classed as being empty. Therefore, works that social landlords would normally undertake between tenancies do not happen. However, a gas and/or electricity safety check will be done.

It is therefore important that you carry out a thorough inspection of the property for yourself, to ensure that you are happy with its condition before agreeing to move. If any repairs are needed by the existing tenant, make sure these are completed before the exchange takes place. If landlord repairs are needed make sure these have been raised even if they are not completed before the move takes place.

You can leave things such as carpets, sheds etc if you have agreed this with your exchange partner. You should make a list of what will be left in each property and both parties should sign it. These are called “gifted items”. Your exchange partner will become responsible for them.

The Council will be responsible for:

  • Any outstanding repairs raised by the tenant that you are exchanging with that have not been completed before the mutual exchange takes place e.g. leaking tap.
  • All repairs detailed in our Tenants Handbook which the Council are responsible for and which occur once you move into the property. As well as repairs which the tenant you are exchanging with failed to report (provided it is not caused by neglect, misuse or wilful damage or isn’t excluded as detailed above).
  • Carrying out any planned improvement works e.g. new bathroom or kitchen etc.   This will be in accordance with the Council’s planned programmes of work timescale.

Seek Advice

If you have any concerns over the condition of the property that you are exchanging out of or into speak to your current Housing Officer.

If you are unsure of how the mutual exchange will affect you including the type of tenancy you will have or your rights and responsibilities that have not been addressed in this factsheet, speak to your current Housing Officer.

It is always advisable to check the tenancy conditions of the exchanging tenant by asking them for a copy of their tenancy agreement as well as reading a copy of the landlord’s Tenant Handbook, if you are moving to a different housing provider.