Tenancy exchanges

Council and housing association tenants can often swap their homes with other tenants.

What is a tenancy exchange?

A tenancy exchange – often called a ‘mutual exchange’ - is when you swap your home with another council or housing association tenant.

It's different to a tenancy transfer where you ask to move to another council or housing association home when one is available.

With an exchange, you must:

  • find someone to swap homes with
  • get written permission from your landlords
  • complete the legal paperwork

If you swap homes without permission or without the necessary documents, you will both be at risk of eviction.

Who qualifies for an exchange

You can exchange homes with your landlord's written permission if you are:

If your tenancy is demoted you won't qualify for an exchange during the demotion period.

Your rights when you exchange

If you have a ‘lifetime tenancy’ – a secure or assured tenancy – which began before 1 April 2012 and you swap homes with a fixed term council or housing association tenant, you should be granted another lifetime tenancy when you swap.

If you have a lifetime tenancy which began on or after 1 April 2012 and you swap homes with a fixed term council or housing association tenant, you may lose your lifetime tenancy unless you’re granted another one.

How to find a tenancy exchange

Use a tenancy exchange website to help find another tenant to swap homes with.

For example:

It's free to register with some sites but others charge a fee.

When you register online to use a tenancy exchange service, you are asked details about your current home, the kind of home you're looking for and where you want to live.

Once you have registered, 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

You can ask your landlord for permission to exchange when you find a suitable property and 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 a tenancy exchange on certain legal grounds, including if:

  • your landlord has started eviction proceedings
  • you work for your landlord and your home was provided in connection 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 your household needs
  • the home you want to move to is too small for your household and you 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 can’t legally refuse permission for the exchange, but you must still get their written consent before you swap homes.

You may need to apply to court to force your landlord to give consent.

Landlords usually insist that any rent arrears are cleared before an exchange goes ahead. They can attach this condition after the 6 week deadline for a response.

Still need help?

Get advice if you are unsure whether you can swap or your landlord refuses permission.

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone


Last updated 01 May 2019 | © Shelter

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