How Does a Council Property Swap Work?

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If you live in a council property and want to move out, it may be too expensive to move out and look for another house. Do you know that you can do a house swap? Well, the easiest way to do that is to find one or more tenants living in a housing association or council property that also want to swap their home. The house-swapping process is commonly referred to as a mutual exchange.

Don’t worry if you cannot find a friend or neighbor who wants to do a house swap. You can use an online house exchange scheme to get someone to do the exchange with. Besides finding people with mutual housing needs, you also need to get your landlord’s permission to do the exchange. To keep you in the know, we’ll give you a detailed guide on successfully swapping houses.

What Are the Rules Governing House Swapping?

Before starting the house swapping application, some rules govern the mutual exchange process. To begin with, you have to note that house swapping and allocation depend on your needs. The social housing system in the U.K. does not allow renters to swap to a house that is bigger than their needs. Depending on your council housing, they can only allow you one extra bedroom, and chances are you may pay a bedroom tax for the extra room.

According to the social housing rules, bedroom entitlement is based on the size of your family. For example, one person or a couple is entitled to a one-bedroom house. They can get one extra bedroom if they have one child.

Additionally, where a couple has multiple children, bedroom entitlement is as follows:

  • Two children who are under 16 years of age and who are of the same sex can share a bedroom.
  • Two children under 10 years old and of different genders can share a bedroom; however, if they are over 10 years old, each gets to have their own room.
  • If you have three children and two are already sharing a room, you are entitled to an extra bedroom.

Before applying for a house exchange, you must ensure that your rent account is up to date and that there are no arrears. Besides this, it is important to note that tenants on a starter or introductory tenancy are not allowed to do house swaps. Although many rules govern house swaps, the good news is that you can swap your council property with any other eligible house in the U.K., regardless of location.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a House Swap?

Now that you know the ground rules for a house swap, you are probably wondering if you are eligible for a mutual exchange. Here is a list of qualifications that to fulfill before making your housing exchange:

  • Make sure you have a secure tenancy or flexible tenancy.
  • Ensure your landlord gives permission for the swap.
  • You must have cleared all your bills, and your rent must be up to date.
  • You must be moving to a house that is right for your needs. Remember you cannot move to a bigger house than you need.

Besides the checklist on eligibility that we have provided, check with your local town council to determine if there are additional rules they require before you can do the house swap.

Depending on which method you use to do a house swap, there may be some additional costs. For example, if you are doing a house swap through your local council, the only cost you might incur is the cost of the removal of boxes or any repairs that need to be done to the house not caused by wear and tear.

On the other hand, depending on the online house swapping site you use, you can incur extra costs for registering for the site. For example, a site like U.K. home swap requires its users to pay a subscription fee ranging from £3.45 to £ 28.00.

What Does the Application Process Involve?

The house-swapping application process is pretty straightforward. As mentioned earlier, you need to inform your landlord that you want to do a house swap and get their permission. If the landlord refuses to grant your request for any other reason besides what is outlined in the Housing Act of 1985 schedule 3, then you have the right to appeal the decision.

After that, you can use your local town council to find a potential swap mate, or you can register on house swap websites. Besides giving the go-ahead to the swap, your landlord should do the following:

  • Conduct a House Inspection: Your landlord will do a house visit to check on the condition of the home. They will confirm whether the house is in good condition. If there are any changes to the home, they will determine whether they are acceptable according to the tenancy agreement.
  • Carry Out a Health and Safety Check: Your landlord will do a gas and electricity safety check, and you will discuss anything that needs fixing before moving.
  • Provide an Energy Performance Certificate: Lastly, the landlord will make an appointment with an energy assessor to complete an Energy Performance Certificate and issue you the certificate before moving.

After your landlord does this, you are free to commence the mutual exchange process. To begin with, fill out a form that gives your information, the details of the house, and the information of the person you intend to swap houses with. After filling in the form, you should submit the form to your landlord. After that, your landlord has a maximum of 42 days to inform you in writing whether they approve the house swap or not.

Tips for a Successful Mutual Exchange

Here are some hints and tips to ensure you have a stress-free house swap. Check on the following things before you agree to a house exchange to avoid disappointment and frustration.

  • The Type of Tenancy: Depending on your future goals, ensure that you check the tenancy of the new house you will be moving to. If you are looking to buy a house in the future, confirm that the tenancy allows for a right to buy the property.
  • The Condition of the House: Ensure that repairs have been done and the house is exactly as it was listed. Ensure that your house is also in mint condition and as you listed it.
  • The Location of the House: Is the neighborhood safe and in an area you want to live? Make sure you do a site visit at different times of the day to get a feel for the neighborhood.
  • The Amenities: Depending on your needs, is the house located close to social amenities like schools, supermarkets and more?

In addition to that, make sure you can afford the rent of the place you are moving to. Set aside money for moving expenses and insurance changes.