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

What size property am I entitled to?

Please be aware, as a council or housing association tenant, you cannot exchange for a house that is bigger than you need. Some councils may allow you one extra bedroom than you need but this is depends on availability and you may be subject to bedroom tax. Based on the size of your family the biggest property you can move to is:

  • 1 person - 1 bedroom property
  • 2 people (couple) - 1 bedroom property
  • 2 people (single / parent and child) - 2 bedroom property
  • 3 people - 2-3 bedroom property*
  • 4 /5 people - 2-3 bedroom property

How is bedroom entitlement calculated?

Parents/ couples are entitled to 1 room, and where they have just one child, they will be entitled to nothing bigger than a 2 bedroom property. In addition to the parents' room entitlement, *siblings are expected to share a room as per below, therefore entitlement differs;

  • Sisters under the age of 16 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brothers under the age of 16 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brother and Sister, both under the age of 10 (entitled to 1 room)
  • Brother (11) and Sister (7) (entitled to 2 rooms)

*Up to 2 siblings per room

If you are in a housing association / council property with more bedrooms that you are entitled to, you will be subject to pay bedroom tax, or have his deducted from your housing benefit which is 14% of your rent. New court rulings mean that disabled tennents will be exempt from this charge, allowing an extra room for their carer.

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.

What to Do If You Are Refused Permission to Exchange

Your council is legally obliged to tell you in writing the reasons why they are refusing your request for a council house exchange. If you disagree with their decision, you have the right to refer the decision to county court.

Exchanging Your Council House Through An Exchange Scheme

If your local council does not operate a council house exchange scheme, do not despair! You still have the right to exchange if you wish and there are organisations set up to help you do exactly that. Most of these council house exchange schemes charge a small fee for their services, some are free and almost all will offer an online forum where you can register your details and your requirements. It is much like placing an advert - interested people can then get in touch with each other. There are two main types of scheme available:

  1. Free Council House Exchange Schemes
  2. Paid for Council House Exchange Services

Free Council House Exchange Schemes

The internet really comes into its own when looking for a house swap. The following websites all provide services to people wishing to exchange their council house. As you can see there are quite a few to choose from!

  • Homeswapper - With over 500,000 social housing tennents registered, it's the largest and quickest exchange service avaialble in the UK.
  • Exchange UK - Database covering the entire UK. Free restricted access, or the option to pay for a premier membership account.
  • House Exchange - Database and forum covering a limited number of areas across the UK.
  • Northwards Housing - An online scheme solely dealing with house exchanges in the North Manchester area, organised by Manchester City Council.
  • SwapHouse.co.uk - Mutual Homeswap Council Exchange Advertising Service for UK Social Housing Tenants living in Council and Housing Association Homes.
  • Exchange Locata - A direct, online social housing exchange service for tenants and landlords.

Paid for Council House Exchange Services

The following website offers a premium service, but you must pay to register. There are benefits to subscribing to a paid for service; for one thing, you expect fewer time-wasters or speculators if they have had to pay money just to post on the forums.

UK Homeswap - Claims to be the UK’s busiest council house exchange, housing association exchange and homeswap website.

Hints and tips on exchanging your council house

Finding the right house can be a time consuming process, so finding the right house exchange can only be doubly so! To help you in your quest, we have compiled a list of handy tips to help make sure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Consider the following:

  • Know your time-scale. Landlords of housing association and council properties must complete all paperwork for a mutual house exchange within 42 days of receiving a receipt for your exchange paperwork.
  • Try to be as flexible as possible about the types of property and areas you will consider. This will increase your chances.
  • Be realistic about the type and size of house that you need. Do not accept a property that is too small for your needs, thinking that you will transferred to a larger property in the future. This will not work.
  • If you cannot find a single mutually agreeable swap then you may wish to consider entering into a three or even four-way house exchange.
  • Always make sure you know what type of tenancy it is that you will be taking on. There are several differences between housing association and local authority tenancies. Be sure to check this with your landlord.
  • Can you afford the expense of moving? If you are receiving income support and having difficulty with this, you might be able to apply for a Social Fund loan.
  • If you find someone who is interested in an exchange, you should arrange a mutually convenient time for viewing.
  • If you are interested in one day purchasing your property under right to buy, check that this will be possible. Not all housing association homes can be purchased by tenants.
  • Do not offer any prospective exchange partners cash as an incentive. This is viewed as illegal bribery and you and could find yourself being removed from your house by the council or housing association.
  • Remember! All parties in an exchange must obtain the permission of their respective landlords to move. If you do not get the landlord's permission to exchange, you risk losing your tenancy.

Government supported mobility services

Seaside and Country Homes

If you or your partner are at least 60 years of age, live in social rented housing in the Greater London area, and would like to register for the Seaside and Country Homes scheme which offers opportunities to move to homes and flats in the south of England and the Midlands contact 08450 21 20 20 or your local council.

Lawn

This landlord referral scheme is designed to assist households move out of London to other areas in the UK. If your local council offers a Lawn service you can contact your local housing office to register your interest in a move. Although they might not call their scheme "Lawn" many will offer similar schemes that are aimed at helping you move. You can contact 08450 21 20 20 for more information on lawn moves on visit their website.

Changes to Previous Housing Mobility Schemes

Previously there were a number of council house exchange schemes that were operated under the name of ‘moveUK’. Unfortunately, Communities and Local Government - the department that ran these schemes in conjunction with Scout Solutions Projects Ltd - has ended the agreement. Be careful if you are looking for information on, or are registered under the following schemes:

  • Homeswap (The UK-wide mutual exchange register)
  • Homes Mobility Scheme

What do I do if I am registered on Homeswap or The Homes Mobility Scheme?

If you are registered with Homeswap or the Homes Mobility Scheme (HOMES) then you need to be aware these schemes have effectively ceased to exist and your registration is void.

56 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 SwapHouse.co.uk 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.

  4. Agnel on

    Hi. Me,my partner and my 2 year old daughter live in a 1 bedroom flat and would like to exchange to 1 bedroom semi detached house in a different area to be closer to family, but we received a refusal letter saying that we will be overcrowding the property, but I am sure a 2 year old doesn’t count as a person and we can use both rooms. Is there a way to appeal it? Thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Agnel,

      You are likely to be refused a 1 bed property because of the overcrowding as your daughter does count towards the person count. The three of you won’t be able to share a room forever and you’ll only need to move to a bigger property as she gets older anyway, so your best bet is to apply for 2 bed properties, of which you’re entitled to

      Good Luck!

  5. Ryan Cooke on

    Hi there , I live in a 2 bedroom flat with my partner and two kids , boy aged 7 and girl aged 3 . We both work and pay rent .

    A friend has a 3 bedroom house and wants to exchange would we be eligible to do so

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Ryan

      As of yet, no you’re not eligible for a 3 bed as your son and daughter can share a room until your son reaches 10 years old

  6. Rebecca on

    Hi we have found an exchange but not sure it can go ahead. The couple wanting my 2 bed have a medical reason why they need their own rooms. And a doctors note to prove this. Will this be considered as a good enough reason to why they need a 2 bed not a 1 bed. They are in a 3 bed at the moment? This move would be perfect for all involved. It’s awful how the councils can play god like this

  7. Kerrie mason on

    Hi I have 2 bed house I have a 14year old boy and 19month old boy and a girl on way would I be able to move to bigger house if so how long would I have to wait?

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Kerrie,

      You will be entitled to a three bed property once your daughter is born. Waiting times will depend on the availability of properties in your area. Best to speak to your association to get the ball rolling

      Good luck, and congratulations!

  8. Claire on

    I am wanting to put in a exchange from a 3 bed house to a 2 bed house. My daughter is moving out and not moving in with me and my boy. On the forms I’m putting me and my son on but not my daughter as she’s moving out. So I would like to know if my daughter has to have moved out before I put the forms in or not? Thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Claire,

      If your daughter isn’t moving into the 2 bed house, then it doesn’t matter. On your application, you can specify the names of the residents that will be moving, and I’m sure you can add a note to say that although she currently lives with you, she won’t be moving with you.

      However if you do move in to the 2 bed, she will need to have her new accommodation sorted 🙂

  9. Amy on

    Hi I have a one bed in Islington but have a baby on the way and my partners children stay every weekend- would we be entitled to a 2 or possibly 3? Thank you

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Amy,

      You’d be entitled to a 2 bed, subject to availability but I doubt a 3 bed as your partners children don’t permanently live with you. Every association is different though so the best thing to do is to speak to your housing officer

  10. Sue Thompson on

    I want to move to a two bed council from Lambeth to Camden and the person I am swapping with is working and nit on any benefits. Has one child and herself and husband wanting my three bed. Their grandchildren stay with them 4 times a week as their daughter works nights. Would this pass for a mutual exchange

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Sue,

      Unless the grandchildren are listed as tenants, and they are therefore overcrowded, it’s unlikely they will be given approval on a 3 bed property. Mutual Exchanges are only for residents in council / housing association properties, so if they aren’t in social housing, you won’t be able to swap. If however they are, it will be dependant on both associations / councils involved as to whether they could take on your 3 bed

      Hope that helps!

  11. Tee on

    Hi I’ve found a swap in a 3wY but a couple months ago my neighbors reported me to council for making noise will this go against me?

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Tee,

      No that shouldn’t be a problem! Mutual Exchanges are considered if you have a clear rent account and your property is in good condition.

  12. Katherine on

    Hi…. I have a two bedroom council flat with a separate dinning room. I live with my husband and his brother who’s 24 years old and my daughter who’s 3 years and I’m expecting a boy this morning. Will the council Rehouse me to a 3 bedroom house once my baby is born?

    The flat was giving to my husband and his brother but my husband is the main tenant his brother name is just there as a family.

    Thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Katherine,

      You and your husband will need to apply for another property, or look into a mutual exchange with other residents, the council won’t automatically rehouse you.

      Your situation is tricky though; on one hand, children can share a bedroom up to the age of ten (when there is one boy and one girl) so it would be expected for your son and daughter to share. But then you are technically overcrowded with the addition of your brother in law (assuming he resides in the dining room?)

      Speak to your association as they will be in a better position to advise, especially as they will have the local knowledge needed to ascertain your priority.

      Finally…congratulations on the impeding arrival of your little boy! All the best and good luck

  13. Katherine on

    Hello and thanks for your reply I do appreciate. Literally my brother in law is living in the other bedroom and my 3 years old daughter is shearing the same bedroom with us. As I can’t allow my daughter to sleep in the dinning room cuz there’s a small open space from the dinning room to the kitchen which makes it difficult as all the smells from the kitchen comes directly into the dinning. Thanks for your advice in advance

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Jaan,

      Yes, a multiple swap is possible if all associations / local authorities are in agreement

  14. feti on

    Hi
    what happen if I lived in a housing association and able to swap with Council house for one reason which is to be able have the right to buy, is there any limit of time that I can start buying the property or I will have to live there for couple of years and be able to buy.
    Thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Feti,

      This will depend on the type of tenancy you currently hold (starter, Assured shorthold, non assured etc) and whether the home, and you as a tenant, has the right to buy.

      Your association will be able to advise on your tenancy if you are unsure. In most cases, you need to have been a tenant for at ;east three years before you can apply for the right to buy. The article below may be of use to you

      https://righttobuy.gov.uk/am-i-eligible/

  15. Rachel on

    Hi me and my husband live in a one bedroom flat and I’m expecting a baby I was told by my housing association that I would qualify for an exchange which I’m guessing would be two bedroom but was wondering if we could exchange before baby is born or after, because it would be very stressful if I had to wait til after, thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Rachel,

      You would be eligible for a 2 bed property, correct, but the time frame in which you move is dependant on your association and their waiting lists. You can either apply to be re-homed or look into a mutual exchange with another housing association tenant, but again, this will be dependant on availability in your area.

      Congratulations and good luck for your impending arrival!

  16. Sue on

    Hi I have one child who is 7 and live in a two bed. My friend has a four bed and needs to downsize. My partner does not live with me and has two children one girl 5 and one boy 3. Do you think we would be allowed to move. We would be having them stay over night 3 -4 nights a week. Thank you

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Sue,

      Probably not as neither your partner nor his children live with you permanently so therefore will bot be classed as full time tenants.

  17. Stuart on

    My mental health has been suffering for years as a result of living in London. This has been agreed by my GP and Psychiatrist. I am desperate to move out of London to my home town of Hove on the south coast; where I have family. I have a one bedroom council flat in Hackney, London. I have been in this property for fourteen years and have a secured tenancy. Is a mutual exchange the only way I can get out of London? Are there no longer council to council exchanges? I am a vulnerable adult with serious mental health issues, living on benefits so evening writing this is a big ordeal, let alone trying to organise an exchange of properties. Do you know where I can get advice and practical help? I am very desperate. I am having counselling for suicidal ideation linked to living in London.

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate how hard it must have been to write.

      Firstly, if you haven’t already, I’d speak to your housing team at the council to discuss your needs. To move to another local authority, you usually need to have some sort of link to the area; work, family etc. so as you have family there, this may help your case. You may find the below Q&A helpful:

      http://www.housingandsupport.org.uk/renting-from-a-council-or-housing-association-bf

      If a mutual exchange is the route you need to take (which is usually the case for housing association tenants), you could visit your local Citizens Advice centre and speak to one of their advisors; they may even be able to help you with form filling etc.

      Good Luck Stuart, I hope it all works out for you!

  18. Terrie-ann Hone on

    Hello I live in a three bedroom house with 4 kids 1 girl and 3 boys 2 of the boys has disability. Do I entitled for a bigger home with a extra bedroom for my daughter please let me know. Many thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Terrie-ann

      It will depend on the age of your children; your son and daughter can share a room until one of them reaches the age of 10.

      In your instance with your disabled sons, a discussion with your association or local authority is advised as they will be able to advise accordingly, based on availability in your area

  19. Natalie keefe on

    Hi my sister is suffing with health prolemand she has a two bedroom flat but I have a naber who has a 1 bed room but she needs a two bed thay r both with different Association

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Natalie,

      If they are both a secure, assured or fixed term tenant with their respective associations, they will be allowed to apply for a mutual exchange

  20. Sean Taylor on

    Hello I live in a small 2 bed house wiv my partner and 2 children and was going to swap with my nan she also has a 2 bedroom house but its bigger and has a garden for my kids. But she is now got poorly and gone into a care home, can I still swap before she loses the house

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Sean,

      If she has already left the property and is no longer living there / the main tenant, you probably won’t be able to exchange with her

  21. Linda Dancaster on

    Hi I’m a secure council tenant and have a 3 bed house. The last of my 3 children has moved out and I’m paying 200 in bedroom tax a month I have found a lovely flat that is housing association and the couple and their baby would love my place but every time i call the council and tell them I have found a place they tell me to put my details on mutual exchange page. Now I’m getting people writing to me about properties and areas I don’t even want why are the council not listening to me.

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Linda

      If you already have a couple interested in the place, you will need to communicate with them to start the mutual exchange process. However, if it’s just the two of them and one baby, they probably won’t be eligible for your 3 bed. If this is the case, the mutual exchange site may be your best option and will give you the ability to organise a 3 way exchange if needed – not many tenants moving out of a 1 bed property will be eligible for a 3 bed.

      I your case you’d be looking to find one party looking to upsize to a 2 bed, one party looking to upsize to your three bed and you exchange into the 1 bed, if that makes sense?

  22. Sammy on

    Hi I’m a full time working tenant who is struggling with money for my large 1 bed flat but have a friend who recently moved to my area but can not go council due to not living in our area long enough, she rents private and is willing to house share with me. Would I be able to exchange for a 2 bed house on this?
    Thanks

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Sammy

      That’s very unlikely as your friend isn’t listed as a tenant, you wouldn’t be allowed to take her in to your property, 1: Against tenancy rules and 2: Overcrowding, so therefore your application is unlikely to be accepted. Plus, you wouldn’t be able to make her a tenant in the first year due to the reason you state anyway (moving in with you would make her a social housing tenant)

      If you are struggling for money, it may be worth looking into what benefits you’re entitled to; housing / working tax credits etc. You can use this calculator from Gov.uk to work out what you can claim https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators

  23. Chantel Crane on

    Hello looking for advice please.
    My partner is in a 1bed 55+ housing association house but we’re looking to more in together. The problem is I have 2 children already living with me and we’re expecting another next year. My question is would we be able to apply for a mutual housing swap without all living together first? Or would we all have to move in together to be able to apply for a swap to a larger property? Thank you in advance

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Chantel

      You could apply for an MEX without living together IF you are already in council / Housing association; you couldn’t apply off the back of your partners tenancy in a 55+ property. He would most likely lose this discount if he left his property and moved in with you

  24. Joanna on

    Hi
    My,my husband ,And two kids(14,9)live in 3 bed Council House.Can we SWAP this House for two bed housing as.?
    Thank You

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Joanna,

      As it states in the article, if your children are the same gender, they can share a room up until the eldest is 16. If you have one boy and one girl, you wouldn’t fit the criteria for a 2 bed

  25. Faz on

    Hi, Me and my son(8 years old) live in a 2 bed housing Association house for one year now. Thinking of moving to leicester as we have more friends there. What do you think is the best option for me
    Mutual exchange through my current council or fill another home finder application for the leicester council. Please tell me which is the best option.

    • Franki Napolitano on

      Hi Faz,

      Either option is viable but only if you fit the criteria to move to another location. Usually if you move to another local council, you must have a link to the area such as family or you work there