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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.

This content applies to England


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.[1] 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.

Management transfers

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.[2]

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:

  • domestic abuse

  • 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.

The High Court held that when a public body makes a decision about a tenant's management transfer application, the decision must not be generic. The landlord must properly and adequately explain why its policy criteria have not been met so that the tenant understands why their application was refused.[3]

Transfers due to domestic abuse

From 1 November 2021 certain social housing tenants who need a transfer to a new property because of domestic abuse are entitled to a lifetime secure tenancy, rather than a fixed-term flexible tenancy. [4]

If a local authority offers a tenancy to someone who is or was previously secure tenant or fully assured tenant of a social landlord, and the new tenancy is being granted for reasons connected with the domestic abuse towards that person or a member of their household, the local authority must offer a lifetime secure tenancy, not a flexible tenancy.

The High Court held a landlord must consider all forms of domestic abuse as defined in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 when considering management transfer applications. A decision by a landlord to refuse a management transfer on the basis there has been no, or a lack of, physical violence is challengeable.[5]

Mutual exchange

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).[6]

In these cases, the exchange is not done by way of assignment. Instead, each tenant's tenancy is brought to an end and a new tenancy is granted for their new property. Each tenant retains their existing status where the landlord condition for creating that type of tenancy allows it.

The following three mutual exchange permutations are normally allowable under the procedure introduced on 1 April 2012:[7]

  • 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.

Security of tenure of new tenancy

When considering what types of tenancy to offer to tenants, PRPSHs are expected to comply with the Tenancy Standard set by the Regulator of Social Housing.

Social housing tenants since before 15 January 2012 who choose to move to another social rented home, whether with the same or another landlord, should be granted a tenancy with no less security than their previous one. [8]

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.[9]

Last updated: 2 August 2022


  • [1]

    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.

  • [2]

    s.159(4B)(b) Housing Act 1996; para 1.9 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [3]

    TRX v Network Homes Limited [2022] EWHC 456 (Admin).

  • [4]

    s.81ZA(4) Housing Act 1985 as inserted by s.79 Domestic Abuse Act 2021; The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/1038.

  • [5]

    TRX v Network Homes Limited [2022] EWHC 456 (Admin).

  • [6]

    s.92 Housing Act 1985.

  • [7]

    s.158 Localism Act 2011.

  • [8]

    Para 2.2.8 Tenancy Standard Guidance, Regulator of Social Housing, 1 April 2012.

  • [9]

    para 22 Providing social housing for local people, MHCLG, December 2013.