1. What are mutual exchanges?

Quick answer: An exchange of homes between two households living in social housing.

Within the United Kingdom, Council and housing association secure and assured tenants have the right to exchange their homes to homes suitable for them and their families. You will need written permission from your landlords before you can exchange.


2. How long do exchanges take?

Quick answer: 42 days or less

It depends on your exchange, how many parties are involved and whether you are moving long distance or moving within the local area. It can take up to 42 days from the day all parties involved hand in their mutual exchange forms, to their landlords agreeing the exchange and giving them permission to move.


3. Can an exchange be refused?

Quick answer: Yes
You will not be able to exchange your property if:


  • there is a possession order in force against you, possession proceedings have started against you or a notice seeking possession has been served
  • the property you want to exchange to is too big for your requirements. For example, if you currently qualify for a one bedroom property and want to swap to a two bedroom property, but your circumstances have not changed
  • the property is not used mainly for housing services, for example, it is part of a commercial letting or comes as part of a job
  • the property has been specifically designed or adapted for you because of a physical disability and the person you want to swap with does not have the same needs
  • the property is one of a group let to people with special needs and the person who you want to swap with does not have those needs. 

Full details can be obtained from your landlord.


4. If I have rent arrears can I still exchange?

Quick Answer: No

Tenants must pay all of their rent including any arrears before a mutual exchange can be permitted.


5. Is there any cost in an exchange?

Quick Answer: Yes and No

There is no charge for paperwork completion.
Your council or housing association landlord will not charge you for processing your mutual exchange application forms.
Removal costs will not be covered.
However they will not pay for your removal expenses.


6. Are there advantages to doing a mutual exchange?

Quick Answer: Yes and No
The advantages of mutual exchange, are:
  • you can exchange with another tenant inside or outside of the borough
  • you can exchange with a housing association tenant
  • you may avoid a lengthy wait for a transfer
  • you can thoroughly inspect the other property and be sure it is suitable for your family before seeking approval.

There are also some disadvantages:

  • you have to accept the property in its present condition
  • the other party can pull out at any time, right up until you move
  • only essential repairs will be undertaken by the Council or housing association within one year of the exchange
  • you will have to accept responsibility for alterations.


7. Can I encourage an exchange by paying someone?

Quick Answer: No

Do not offer any cash incentives in return for an exchange. It is illegal and you and your family could be evicted from your property by the Council or housing association.


8. Can I encourage an exchange using presents or goods?

Quick Answer: No

Do not offer any rewards in return for an exchange. It is illegal and you and your family could be evicted from your property by the Council or housing association.


9. Will my landlord pay for any expenses for removals?

Quick Answer: No

You will need to arrange to pay for your own removal expenses. The cheapest option for families on a low income is self-drive 7.5 ton lorries which can be driven on a full UK driving licence which you must have held for a minimum of 12 months.


10. I don’t drive, will transport be provided?

Quick Answer: No

You will need to arrange transport for you and your family to get to your new location. You could ask friends, family, volunteer groups or use public transport.


11. Can I move on any day of the week?

Quick Answer: Yes

You can move on any day once you have been given a date by the landlords. It must be in agreement with the other tenants involved and the date should not be altered once agreed.


12. Will I be provided with boxes and packing tape for any move?

Quick Answer: No

You are expected to pay all costs incurred by you and your family to move to your new home. You can buy strong packing boxes online or from high street shops, or ask local shops to save boxes for you as a free alternative. Join freecycle online sites and request them.


13. Will the new landlord decorate or repair the home before I move in?

Quick Answer: No

The landlord will not usually decorate between one person leaving and another moving in. You will have to arrange to decorate the home yourself as you have made an agreement to accept the property in the condition you viewed it in. Discuss any repairs with the landlord before you agree to exchange. Do not rely on advice from the person moving out that the repairs will be done.


14. Can I swap back if I don’t like living in my new home?

Quick answer: You may be able to.

You cannot swap back into your old home unless the tenant who swapped with you is in agreement, you will then both have to start the exchange process again from scratch and wait for a decision from both landlords.