Tenancy exchanges or mutual exchanges
A tenancy exchange is when you swap your home legally with another council or housing association tenant. It is often called a mutual exchange.
You need to:
find someone to swap homes with
get written permission from your landlords
complete the legal paperwork
Do not swap homes without permission or the right documents. This could put you both at risk of eviction.
Getting a tenancy transfer is different. This is when you apply to move to another council or housing association home. You usually have to go on a waiting list unless you have a very urgent need to move.
Who can exchange their tenancy
You can usually exchange homes with your landlord's written permission if you have a:
assured shorthold tenancy (AST) with a housing association - only fixed term ASTs of at least 2 years
You do not have the right to exchange an introductory tenancy but some councils might agree to grant new tenancies for introductory tenants who want to exchange.
Your rights when you exchange
If you have a secure or assured tenancy which began before 1 April 2012 and you swap with a fixed term council or housing association tenant, you should get another lifetime tenancy.
If you have a secure or assured tenancy which began on or after 1 April 2012 and you swap with a fixed term council or housing association tenant, you could lose your lifetime tenancy.
How to find a tenancy exchange
Use a tenancy exchange website to help find another tenant to swap with. For example:
It's free to register with some sites but others charge a fee.
When you register, you are asked about your current home, the kind of home you're looking for and where you want to live.
When you register, you can get details of properties, make contact with other tenants and arrange to view their homes.
Paying for a tenancy exchange
It is illegal for you or the other tenant to charge a fee as part of the tenancy exchange.
You could be evicted if you charge or receive any money to swap your home.
Ask your landlord for permission
Ask your landlord for permission to exchange when you find a tenant who is happy to swap.
You must get permission and follow the proper process.
The tenant you are swapping with must also get permission from their landlord.
Put your requests for a swap in writing. Your landlord has 6 weeks to respond in writing.
You could be evicted if you try to exchange your tenancy without permission.
If your landlord refuses permission
Councils and housing associations can only refuse permission for an exchange on legal grounds, including if:
you work for your landlord and your home comes with your job
your home is adapted for a person with special needs and nobody in the new tenant's household has those needs
the home you want to move to is larger than you need
the home you want to move to is too small and your household would be overcrowded
Your landlord must write to you within 6 weeks explaining their reasons if they refuse permission for the exchange.
If they miss this deadline, they cannot legally refuse permission for the exchange, but you must still get their written consent before you swap homes.
You may need to go to court to force your landlord to give consent.
Landlords usually insist that rent arrears are cleared before an exchange goes ahead. They can add this condition after the 6 week deadline for a response.
Last updated: 3 April 2023