How to go about a council house exchange

If you are a housing association tenant or council tenant and wish to move home, you may be able to do this via a mutual exchange, whereby you exchange your house with another housing association or council tenant. Whether you live in a flat, a house or a bungalow and wish to move from one council house to another, from a council house to a housing association, or vice versa, you will find all the information you need here. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about exchanging and will also provide useful links to help you begin the process right away. For ease of use we have split this guide into several sections, as follows:

  • Applying For A Council House Exchange
  • How to Exchange Your Council House
  • Hints and Tips on Exchanging Your Council House
  • Important Changes to the Housing Mobility Schemes

Applying for a Council House Exchange

There are many reasons you may wish to exchange your council house and, as a council or housing association tenant, you have as much right to move as anyone paying rent to a private landlord. You may wish to move house because:

  • You have changed where you work.
  • You want to be in the catchment area of a particular school.
  • You wish to live near to friends or relatives.
  • Your family is growing and you need a bigger place.
  • Someone is moving out and you need a smaller place.

Whatever your reasons for moving, in order to apply for a council house or mutual home exchange you must first contact the local authority where you live, as they all have slightly different regulations. The government has provided an excellent online search service where you can enter your details as post-code, street name or, if you know it, the name of your local authority. Go here to enter your details and find out more (this particular service is only available in England). If you live somewhere else in the UK then you can find out more about your Local Authority via the following links: Find your Local Authority in Scotland Find your Local Authority in Wales Find your Local Authority in Northern Ireland

How to Exchange Your Council House

Having decided that you really want to move house, the next step is to find someone who will be willing to exchange with you. Luckily there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of council or housing association tenants in the UK who are in the same position as you. As such there are a number of ways in which you can get into contact with other people looking for a houseswap. There are two mains ways to go about a council house exchange:

  • Through your Local Council
  • Through an Exchange Scheme

Exchanging Your Council House Through Your Local Council

Most councils provide housing exchange schemes. Secure council tenants and tenants of Registered Social Landlords have the right to exchange homes with other secure tenants - this is subject to the consent of the council however. If you move without consent, you may have to return to your original home. If you wish to exchange, you must make sure that your new home and the one you are vacating is in an adequate state of repair. Legally, the council can refuse permission to move if any of the following problems are present:

  • There are Rent Arrears.
  • If any of the exchanging parties have received a notice for anti-social behaviour.
  • If one of the houses is unjustifiably large for the new exchanging party.
  • If one of the houses is unjustifiably small for the new exchanging party or will not suit any special needs they may have.
  • Where one of the houses has been specially adapted to suit someone with special needs and the new tenants do not fit those needs.
  • If a court order has been granted giving ownership of the house to the landlord.
  • If the property is tied.
  • If the landlord is a registered charity and the proposed exchange would conflict with their stated aims.

Some of these conditions may need to rectified before the exchange can take place, e.g. rent arrears and any damage to the property which requires fixing. If you have a furnished tenancy then you are responsible for the condition of all fittings and furniture and you must ensure these remain in an acceptable state of repair. An inventory will have been compiled at the beginning of your tenancy and will be re-checked before you move out. The council's local area office will carry out this inspection and they will also need to check the property’s electrical wiring for safety.

8 comments on “How to go about a council house exchange

  1. Donna on

    Hi have 3 kids and want to swap with a friend she has a 4 bedroom council house I have a 3 bedroom we are in same village no rent arrears my kids are 19 8 and 11 two girls and a boy the boy being 8 years old does this mean it’s ok to swap??

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Donna,

      In theory yes this would mean you could be entitled to a 4 bed property as children of the same gender can share up until 16 and different genders, up to 10. However this is up to the association you rent from and whether or not there is someone else already waiting for a 4 bed, higher up the list / more points etc. You haven’t stated whether you already are, but you would need to already be in council / association housing for a swap to take place, not just your friend.

      Speak to your housing officer at your association for clarity on the matter. Good Luck!

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Joanne,

      This will depend on the conditions of your tenancy; if you are on a starter or probationary tenancy, you can’t swap for the first 12 months. Best to check with your association to be sure!

  2. Lana on

    You should also mention they have thousands of council house owners looking to swap their homes. Its also free the list your council house

  3. Lauren on

    Hi I currently live in a 2 bedroom house through a housing association but a house across the street is now empty & has 3 bedrooms. I have 1 boy & 1 girl but the oldest is only 8. Would I be able to contact my local council to find out if I would be able to swap?

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Lauren,

      This would be unlikely as you usually cannot swap into an empty property and your children would need to share a room until your eldest is 10 years old. Given the current guidelines, you’d only be entitled to a 2 bed property.


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