Most Orwell residents have the right to swap their home, and the tenancy that goes with it, with that of another Council or Housing Association household. i.e. two or more households swap with each other. This is called ‘mutual exchange’.
This is often the quickest and easiest way to achieve a move to somewhere more suitable for you.
Orwell tenancies are not all the same. Strict rules apply to mutual exchange, and may apply differently to certain tenancies or types of housing. For example, residents of supported, sheltered or extra care housing.
Who has a right to exchange
Orwell’s secure, full assured and fixed term residents can undertake a mutual exchange (a swap) with another social housing residents. This includes residents of ours or another Housing Association’s, a Council and some other social housing providers or charities.
For secure residents this is their right and for other residency types this is a contractual agreement.
Residents of sheltered and extra care housing can only exchange with a person who also needs the support service and special facilities.
Most of our shorthold, starter and demoted residents do not have this right, although in exceptional cases we may permit it in supported housing, so long as each resident needs the support provided by each landlord, and agrees to sign a support contract.
Consent from the Landlord is needed before arranging an exchange
The written consent of both landlords is required and there are various reasons why consent may not be given. For secure tenancies, the reasons for refusal are set down in law. Generally we will use the same reasons for full assured tenancies, but do have certain rights to extend these or to interpret them more flexibly.
Consent may also be given only on condition that you or the exchange partner remedies some problem or breach of contract.
Reasons for refusing an exchange
- A notice of seeking possession has been issued or possession proceedings are being taken.
- Legal action for anti-social behaviour is pending or has been taken, or, in the case of some Orwell assured tenancies, there is evidence of recent and serious anti-social behaviour by either household.
- The exchange would result in under-occupation or overcrowding of the property. Your tenancy agreement shows the maximum number of persons for your home and the exchange partner will have the same information about their home.
- The accommodation is reserved for specific people (e.g. people with a disability or those needing sheltered or supported housing) and the exchange is with someone who does not meet the criteria.
- The property is covered by a planning obligation and is reserved for people from the local area and the exchange partner does not meet the criteria.
Reasons for permitting an exchange on conditions
- If you have rent arrears or have broken any other obligation of the agreement, such as damage or neglect to your home, or unauthorised alterations, we will require any breach of agreement to be remedied, prior to granting consent.
- In certain cases we may require that you sort out any legal issues e.g. an original joint tenant no longer lives with you but has not arranged to assign his or her interest in the tenancy to you.
Finding an exchange partner
- Apply through an online exchange service or through a local Choice Based Letting Scheme.
- Apply to go on our exchange register, a form for which is available from the offices. We will advise you of any suitable exchange partners on this list, and will tell them about you.
- Contact the Council and other Housing Associations in the area you wish to move to.
Checking the other property and tenancy
If you find details of a property that suits your needs, or a possible exchange partner approaches you, make arrangements to visit each other’s property to see if they suit both your needs.
- Remember that you swap the type and terms of contract agreements as well as the property. For example, if you swap with a Council tenant or some Housing Association secure tenants, you might gain and they would lose the Right to Buy. Your assured tenancy might offer you greater rights than another Association’s assured tenancy and if you are a secure tenant you might lose the right to have an independently registered rent review.
- Ensure you check and advise whether pets are allowed, discuss the rents charged and what other services are provided and must be paid for.
- If you get a copy of your exchange partners’ tenancy agreement your Housing Officer can help you consider such matters.
Applying for permission from the Landlord
- Once you have found somebody to exchange with, you will need to complete an application to ‘exchange homes form’, a copy of which can be obtained from our office.
- When we receive your application, we will check that there are no reasons for refusal. We will visit you at home to ensure there is nothing to prevent you exchanging, or to require conditional approval.
- We send a housing application form to the other residents, and when we get it back, we check to ensure they and your home would be suitable. If the exchange partner is local, we will also visit them.
- If your exchange partner is not an Orwell tenant, we will contact their landlord to ensure there are no reasons for refusal, or for making consent conditional, and we will advise the landlord of any of these reasons that may affect your tenancy. See ‘Reasons for refusing an exchange’ above.
- Before the exchange is approved, your Housing Officer will complete a checklist of the condition of your home, together with a list of fixtures and fittings. This is used to clarify the condition of the property prior to the exchange. This information is shared with the incoming resident and mutual agreement is reached with each resident regarding the condition of the respective homes being ‘as seen’.
- If both landlords agree an exchange, or if conditional, as soon as the problems have been remedied by the residential, a date for the exchange to take place can be agreed by all parties.
Signing the documents that create the ‘exchange’
- New tenancies are not created by a mutual exchange, the existing tenancies are passed to the other.
- The incoming resident and their new Landlord must sign a Licence to assign each property i.e. to confirm that the agreement has passed to the incoming exchange partner who takes on the new responsibility.
- Both residents must sign a Deed of Assignment for each property to formally give up or take over the agreements.
- The documents may be exchanged by post or at a meeting.
- The date on the Deed is the effective date of the exchange. From that time on the exchange partner is responsible for the rent and has all the rights and duties relating to the agreement on that property.
Do not move until you have both received written approval from your landlords and all the paperwork has been put in place.
- Move without gaining consent or signing the documents.
- Bribe the other resident to gain their agreement.
- One of you moves but the other goes elsewhere.
You may have to move back or may risk losing your home.
If you have moved into a home that is subjected to a section 106 agreement which determines who is entitled to live in your home, i.e. a local connection, a mutual exchange of tenancies may not be permitted.
Internet based mutual exchange schemes
HomeSwapper and House Exchange are two of the country’s largest internet based mutual exchange schemes.
Simply register online at www.HomeSwapper.co.uk or House exchange.org.uk. From here, they search for all possible matches everyday and send you alerts by email or text message.
These schemes may be accessible through your local Choice Based Letting Scheme.
Am I eligible to join?
Most social residents can use these schemes. The service is free to residents of landlords partnering with HomeSwapper and House Exchange, otherwise there is a small membership fee which may be refunded to you by Orwell if requested.