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How to go about a council house exchange

How to go about a council house exchange

If you are a housing association tenant or council tenant and wish to move home, you may be able to do this via a mutual exchange, whereby you exchange your house with another housing association or council tenant. Whether you live in a flat, a house or a bungalow and wish to move from one council house to another, from a council house to a housing association, or vice versa, you will find all the information you need here. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about exchanging and will also provide useful links to help you begin the process right away. For ease of use we have split this guide into several sections, as follows:

  • Applying For A Council House Exchange
  • How to Exchange Your Council House
  • Hints and Tips on Exchanging Your Council House
  • Important Changes to the Housing Mobility Schemes
%What size house?%

What size property am I entitled to?

Please be aware, as a council or housing association tenant, you cannot exchange for a house that is bigger than you need. Some councils may allow you one extra bedroom than you need but this is depends on availability and you may be subject to bedroom tax. Based on the size of your family the biggest property you can move to is:

  • 1 person - 1 bedroom property
  • 2 people (couple) - 1 bedroom property
  • 2 people (single / parent and child) - 2 bedroom property
  • 3 people - 2-3 bedroom property*
  • 4 /5 people - 2-3 bedroom property

How is bedroom entitlement calculated?

Parents/ couples are entitled to 1 room, and where they have just one child, they will be entitled to nothing bigger than a 2 bedroom property. In addition to the parents' room entitlement, *siblings are expected to share a room as per below, therefore entitlement differs;

  • Sisters under the age of 16 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brothers under the age of 16 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brother and Sister, both under the age of 10 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brother (11) and Sister (7) (entitled to 2 rooms)

*Up to 2 siblings per room

If you are in a housing association / council property with more bedrooms that you are entitled to, you will be subject to pay bedroom tax, or have his deducted from your housing benefit which is 14% of your rent. New court rulings mean that disabled tennents will be exempt from this charge, allowing an extra room for their carer.

Applying for a Council House Exchange

There are many reasons you may wish to exchange your council house and, as a council or housing association tenant, you have as much right to move as anyone paying rent to a private landlord. You may wish to move house because:

  • You have changed where you work.
  • You want to be in the catchment area of a particular school.
  • You wish to live near to friends or relatives.
  • Your family is growing and you need a bigger place.
  • Someone is moving out and you need a smaller place.

Whatever your reasons for moving, in order to apply for a council house or mutual home exchange you must first contact the local authority where you live, as they all have slightly different regulations. The government has provided an excellent online search service where you can enter your details as post-code, street name or, if you know it, the name of your local authority. Go here to enter your details and find out more (this particular service is only available in England). If you live somewhere else in the UK then you can find out more about your Local Authority via the following links: Find your Local Authority in Scotland Find your Local Authority in Wales Find your Local Authority in Northern Ireland

How to Exchange Your Council House

Having decided that you really want to move house, the next step is to find someone who will be willing to exchange with you. Luckily there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of council or housing association tenants in the UK who are in the same position as you. As such there are a number of ways in which you can get into contact with other people looking for a houseswap. There are two mains ways to go about a council house exchange:

  • Through your Local Council
  • Through an Exchange Scheme

Exchanging Your Council House Through Your Local Council

Most councils provide housing exchange schemes. Secure council tenants and tenants of Registered Social Landlords have the right to exchange homes with other secure tenants - this is subject to the consent of the council however. If you move without consent, you may have to return to your original home. If you wish to exchange, you must make sure that your new home and the one you are vacating is in an adequate state of repair. Legally, the council can refuse permission to move if any of the following problems are present:

  • There are Rent Arrears.
  • If any of the exchanging parties have received a notice for anti-social behaviour.
  • If one of the houses is unjustifiably large for the new exchanging party.
  • If one of the houses is unjustifiably small for the new exchanging party or will not suit any special needs they may have.
  • Where one of the houses has been specially adapted to suit someone with special needs and the new tenants do not fit those needs.
  • If a court order has been granted giving ownership of the house to the landlord.
  • If the property is tied.
  • If the landlord is a registered charity and the proposed exchange would conflict with their stated aims.

Some of these conditions may need to rectified before the exchange can take place, e.g. rent arrears and any damage to the property which requires fixing. If you have a furnished tenancy then you are responsible for the condition of all fittings and furniture and you must ensure these remain in an acceptable state of repair. An inventory will have been compiled at the beginning of your tenancy and will be re-checked before you move out. The council's local area office will carry out this inspection and they will also need to check the property’s electrical wiring for safety.

What to Do If You Are Refused Permission to Exchange

Your council is legally obliged to tell you in writing the reasons why they are refusing your request for a council house exchange. If you disagree with their decision, you have the right to refer the decision to county court.

Exchanging Your Council House Through An Exchange Scheme

If your local council does not operate a council house exchange scheme, do not despair! You still have the right to exchange if you wish and there are organisations set up to help you do exactly that. Most of these council house exchange schemes charge a small fee for their services, some are free and almost all will offer an online forum where you can register your details and your requirements. It is much like placing an advert - interested people can then get in touch with each other. There are two main types of scheme available:

  1. Free Council House Exchange Schemes
  2. Paid for Council House Exchange Services

Free Council House Exchange Schemes

The internet really comes into its own when looking for a house swap. The following websites all provide services to people wishing to exchange their council house. As you can see there are quite a few to choose from!

  • Homeswapper - With over 500,000 social housing tennents registered, it's the largest and quickest exchange service avaialble in the UK.
  • Exchange UK - Database covering the entire UK. Free restricted access, or the option to pay for a premier membership account.
  • House Exchange - Database and forum covering a limited number of areas across the UK.
  • Northwards Housing - An online scheme solely dealing with house exchanges in the North Manchester area, organised by Manchester City Council.
  • SwapHouse.co.uk - Mutual Homeswap Council Exchange Advertising Service for UK Social Housing Tenants living in Council and Housing Association Homes.
  • Exchange Locata - A direct, online social housing exchange service for tenants and landlords.

Paid for Council House Exchange Services

The following website offers a premium service, but you must pay to register. There are benefits to subscribing to a paid for service; for one thing, you expect fewer time-wasters or speculators if they have had to pay money just to post on the forums.

UK Homeswap - Claims to be the UK’s busiest council house exchange, housing association exchange and homeswap website.

Hints and tips on exchanging your council house

Finding the right house can be a time consuming process, so finding the right house exchange can only be doubly so! To help you in your quest, we have compiled a list of handy tips to help make sure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Consider the following:

  • Know your time-scale. Landlords of housing association and council properties must complete all paperwork for a mutual house exchange within 42 days of receiving a receipt for your exchange paperwork.
  • Try to be as flexible as possible about the types of property and areas you will consider. This will increase your chances.
  • Be realistic about the type and size of house that you need. Do not accept a property that is too small for your needs, thinking that you will transferred to a larger property in the future. This will not work.
  • If you cannot find a single mutually agreeable swap then you may wish to consider entering into a three or even four-way house exchange.
  • Always make sure you know what type of tenancy it is that you will be taking on. There are several differences between housing association and local authority tenancies. Be sure to check this with your landlord.
  • Can you afford the expense of moving? If you are receiving income support and having difficulty with this, you might be able to apply for a Social Fund loan.
  • If you find someone who is interested in an exchange, you should arrange a mutually convenient time for viewing.
  • If you are interested in one day purchasing your property under right to buy, check that this will be possible. Not all housing association homes can be purchased by tenants.
  • Do not offer any prospective exchange partners cash as an incentive. This is viewed as illegal bribery and you and could find yourself being removed from your house by the council or housing association.
  • Remember! All parties in an exchange must obtain the permission of their respective landlords to move. If you do not get the landlord's permission to exchange, you risk losing your tenancy.

Government supported mobility services

Seaside and Country Homes

If you or your partner are at least 60 years of age, live in social rented housing in the Greater London area, and would like to register for the Seaside and Country Homes scheme which offers opportunities to move to homes and flats in the south of England and the Midlands contact 08450 21 20 20 or your local council.


This landlord referral scheme is designed to assist households move out of London to other areas in the UK. If your local council offers a Lawn service you can contact your local housing office to register your interest in a move. Although they might not call their scheme "Lawn" many will offer similar schemes that are aimed at helping you move. You can contact 08450 21 20 20 for more information on lawn moves on visit their website.

Changes to Previous Housing Mobility Schemes

Previously there were a number of council house exchange schemes that were operated under the name of ‘moveUK’. Unfortunately, Communities and Local Government - the department that ran these schemes in conjunction with Scout Solutions Projects Ltd - has ended the agreement. Be careful if you are looking for information on, or are registered under the following schemes:

  • Homeswap (The UK-wide mutual exchange register)
  • Homes Mobility Scheme

What do I do if I am registered on Homeswap or The Homes Mobility Scheme?

If you are registered with Homeswap or the Homes Mobility Scheme (HOMES) then you need to be aware these schemes have effectively ceased to exist and your registration is void.