Tenant transfers to a new home
Tenants may apply for a transfer to a different property, an exchange of their tenancy with another tenant, or a move to a new area.
Existing secure, flexible and introductory council tenants and secure and assured tenants of private registered providers of social housing may apply to their landlord for a transfer to a different property.
From 18 June 2012, transfers that are initiated by the tenant are not within the scope of the allocations rules in Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 and can be dealt with outside the allocation scheme, except where a tenant is entitled to reasonable preference.
Where a tenant is in a reasonable preference category, they must be treated in accordance with the statutory criteria found in Part 6. This means that a social housing tenant who wants a transfer because they are in unsuitable housing must join the allocations scheme and have their needs and preference assessed in the same way as anyone else who is applying for an allocation of social housing.
A social landlord may devise its own scheme for transfers of tenants who do not have reasonable preference under Part 6, or all applications for a transfer may be dealt with through the allocations scheme.
Where a tenant is offered a transfer by their landlord for housing management purposes, this is known as a management transfer. Although a tenant can request a management transfer, such a transfer falls outside the rules of Part 6 because it is treated as a transfer that is initiated by the landlord.
In practice, the landlord will have a policy on when it will make a management transfer. It will only be used where no other housing solution is possible, and is therefore rarely offered.
A social landlord might offer a management transfer because they require the tenant to move, or the tenant needs to move urgently due to, for example:
violence, harassment, intimidation, or threats of violence likely to be carried out
the need to protect witnesses who have agreed to go to court to give evidence on matters of anti-social behaviour
urgent social reasons
major works to the property needing to be carried out
Where a landlord agrees that a tenant meets the management transfer criteria, the applicant is not assessed in the usual way through the allocations scheme, and the authority does not need to apply the reasonable preference criteria.
Local authority allocations policies generally give top priority to tenants who need to move under a management transfer, reflecting the urgent nature of the need. Under some choice-based lettings schemes a person might be able to bid for a new home in the usual way under the scheme, as well as waiting for a direct offer under the management transfer provisions. Where a scheme does not offer bidding, the tenant is made an offer.
Information on when a local authority will consider making a management transfer might also be found in a local authority's policy on domestic abuse.
A secure tenant has the right to exchange their tenancy, by way of assignment, with another secure tenant or with a fully assured tenant of a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH).
The following three mutual exchange permutations are normally allowable under the procedure introduced on 1 April 2012:
assured shorthold tenant with a secure tenant
assured tenant with flexible tenant
assured tenant with assured shorthold tenant
The mutual exchange of tenancies falls outside the statutory criteria governing the allocation of housing.
A mutual exchange may only take place with written consent from the landlord. Exchanges can take place between more than two tenants if each landlord consents.
Some local authorities operate mutual exchange schemes to help tenants find someone to exchange homes with. The local authority can provide information about these schemes.
See Gov.uk – swapping a council or housing association home for more information.
Moving to a new area
People with a need to move to another area can apply to their own authority for a nomination. This is different from the mutual exchange scheme as it is not a direct swap between two tenants – the nomination is made to the other local authority, and that authority allocates accommodation.
Some authorities only accept nominations to certain types and sizes of property.
The local authority can also advise if it has an arrangement with other authorities to allow 'cross border' bids for properties under their respective choice-based lettings schemes.
Where a social housing tenant wants to move to another local authority area, perhaps to pursue employment, the local authority should consider making an exception to any residency test it may normally impose.
Last updated: 12 March 2021
s.159(4A) and (4B) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.145 Localism Act 2011; The Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 6 and Transitional, Savings and Transitory Provisions) Order 2012 SI 2012/1463 (C.56); paras 1.5 to 1.9 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.
s.159(4B)(b) Housing Act 1996; para 1.9 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.
s.92 Housing Act 1985.
s.158 Localism Act 2011.
para 22 Providing social housing for local people, MHCLG, December 2013.