Update on our mutual exchange service due to coronavirus
Due to Covid-19, and following government advice, mutual exchanges have been paused since March 2020. On 13 May, the government announced that viewings and subsequent moves could recommence, providing that social distancing and safe working practices were followed.
Therefore, from 15 June, we’ll be accepting new applications for mutual exchanges.
We’ll contact you soon if you have already sent in your application form and give you an update. We’ll also restart the 42-day timescale for letting you know if your application has been successful. We’ll let you know what stage your application is at when we contact you.
While government restrictions on moving home have been eased, there are still measures that you need to take in order to move safely and minimise risk. Find out more on the government website.
It is possible to move home through a system we call mutual exchange. You can find out more about how this works on this page.
What is a mutual exchange?
A mutual exchange is when you ‘swap’ your home with another social housing customer. If you rent with us you can swap with:
- Another one of our customers
- A tenant of a council or
- A tenant of another housing association.
Who can exchange?
Only assured or secure tenants have the right to exchange. Tenants who have a starter tenancy, an assured shorthold tenancy or a licence do not have the right to exchange. If you are unsure whether you have the right to exchange please call us on 0300 500 6262 to check.
Finding someone to exchange with
To arrange a mutual exchange you need to find someone who wants to swap with you.
There is a website called www.homeswapper.co.uk which is a national scheme which will help you to find somone to swap with.
We pay for our customers to use this scheme so you can use it free of charge. If you do not have access to a computer you can use one in your local library.
You can also advertise your property for exchange in the local papers. In Bedfordshire you can also use a local exchange system called www.houseexchange.org.uk.
When you find a property that you think may be suitable, it is up to you to contact them directly. You will both need to complete a mutual exchange form and we will visit your property before we agree to the exchange.
Please contact our Customer Services team for mutual exchange application forms by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0300 500 6262.
Think very carefully before you exchange with someone. If you do exchange you take on all of the rights and responsibilities of the previous occupier.
Visiting the other property
Take some simple precautions when visiting someone you do not know.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has more advice and guidance on this but as a basic please:
- View in daylight hours
- Take a friend or relative along or leave details of the appointment with them
- Take a mobile
- Trust your instincts.
When showing another tenant around your property
- Do not give out unnecessary information such as the names and ages of your children
- Try and make sure someone else is present such as a friend or relative, or at least let them know about the appointment
- If you feel uneasy tell them you have someone coming round.
Deciding whether to exchange
You will need to consider the following very carefully:
- You take on the tenancy of the person you are exchanging with. Some tenancies with other councils and housing associations are now for a fixed term whereas you may have a lifetime tenancy. You should check with the landlord on the type and length of tenancy you will be taking on and think very carefully about whether to proceed with the exchange if it is not a lifetime tenancy
- That the condition of the property you are hoping to exchange to is satisfactory to you
- What repairs you are responsible for and if the outgoing occupier has carried out any improvements. If you are moving to another one of our properties and there are non standard items (such as an electric shower, shed etc) we will ask you to accept responsibility for these
- The amount of rent due including any service charge
- What type of tenancy you will have. Not all tenancies are the same and some have fewer rights
- That you are aware of the tenancy conditions
- The reason why the other tenant wants to move. This is important to find out and it is worth visiting the property at different times to learn more about the local area.
Repairs to the property
It is important that you check your new home thoroughly before you move in. Look at everything including the inside of fitted cupboards and behind furniture if possible.
Once you move in you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of any alterations, fixtures or fittings made by the previous occupier and not by us. This often includes showers, fences, laminate flooring and kitchen fittings.
We will recharge you for any repairs that are required as a result of damage or neglect. We will undertake repairs which are in line with our repairs policy. If you are unsure or need clarification on any repair please contact our Customer Services team.
I have found someone to exchange with so what happens next?
- You both need to fill in and return mutual exchange forms for each landlord. Please contact our Customer Services team for these
- Make sure you do not owe us any money and that you are not in breach of your tenancy conditions. This means for example that your home and garden are in good condition
- One of our Voids and Allocation Officers will visit you to inspect your property and discuss the move with you
- If you are exchanging with a tenant of a different landlord we will send the other landlord a report about your tenancy and request a report from them on their customer
- We will give you a decision within six weeks of the date of your application to exchange and we will keep you informed of progress throughout this period
- We may approve the exchange on condition of you undertaking some repairs to your home or on condition that you clear any debts owing to us. See the section below on ‘conditional’ approval
- If we approve your exchange unconditionally then you should agree a removal date with the other occupier
- Please keep us informed of the agreed date so we can arrange for the paperwork to be prepared and we must undertake a gas (if you have gas) and electric check on the day you move. If you do not make arrangements to allow for these gas and electric safety checks you will not be able to move
- You must also not move before we have given you written permission. If you do we can take legal action against you which may result in you being homeless
- We will arrange for you and the other customer to sign the paperwork, normally this is at the property but it could be at our offices. If you have a joint tenancy both tenants must be present to sign the paperwork. Please note we do not hold any keys to your property so you are responsible for handing over all keys to your property to the person you are exchanging with.
Not sure whether to exchange?
If you are not sure if you want to exchange do not sign over your tenancy or move home. Contact your Housing Services Officer or Customer Services for help and advice on 0300 500 6262.
When you move
This must be on a weekday (Monday to Friday) as on the day you leave your property we must undertake a gas (if you have gas) and electrical installation safety check.
- You organise your removals, take utility meter readings and contact the utility companies (gas, electricity and water)
- If gas or electrical appliances (such as a gas fire or electric cooker) are being left in the property, they need to have been connected by an approved qualified engineer
- If gas or electrical appliances (such as a gas fire or electric cooker) are being removed from the property, they need to have been disconnected by an approved qualified engineer
- This needs to have taken place prior to the safety checks we carry out on the day you move
- For gas you must use only ‘GAS SAFE’ qualified engineers and for electricity only ‘NICEIC’ qualified engineers
- The internet, local papers or yellow pages should provide you with details of approved engineers.
What happens if my exchange is approved conditionally?
We may approve your exchange but on condition of you carrying out a tenancy obligation, for example, if you owe us rent or other debt, or a repair which is your responsibility needs to be completed before you leave. This means the exchange can only proceed when you have satisfied the condition either clearing the debt or undertaking the repair. We will discuss a timescale with you but the customer you are exchanging with is unlikely to want to wait a long time before moving.
What happens if my exchange is refused?
We can refuse your exchange request for a number of reasons which include:
- Legal action has been taken, for example, a Notice to Seek Possession has been served or a Court Order has been obtained
- The property is too small or too large for your needs
- The property has been adapted for someone with a disability
- There is a restriction on the property, for example, the property is in a rural location so you may require a local connection to be able to move there.
There are other reasons that an exchange can be refused.
What if the property is not in the condition I expected once I move in?
It is your responsibility to check the property thoroughly before you agree to move and again before you swap keys and complete the paperwork. You should agree with your exchange partner exactly what they will be leaving in their property and what decorating, repairs or cleaning they will do before they leave. This work will not be carried out by the landlord.
If you are in doubt about whether to proceed with your mutual exchange application do not sign over your tenancy or move. Contact your Housing Services Officer or our Customer Services for help and advice on 0300 500 6262.
Can I purchase the property I am moving into?
Very few tenants have the right to purchase a property owned by us as this is dependent on the type of tenancy you have and when you initially obtained it. If this is important to you please seek advice from us for the property you are moving into. Please do not assume you have the right to purchase a property from us.
Top tips for using Homeswapper
- Add a photo of your property to your Homeswapper details. Experience shows you will get 50% more interest and some people looking for swaps will only look at properties with photos.
- On average there are 130 matches for each property put on Homeswapper but many people only look at the first 20. If you are keen to find a move, it is worth going through ALL the matches that come up for you, not just the first page.
- If you don’t get many matches, or you get too many, you can try changing your choice of areas. This may increase your chances of finding the home you want.
- Advertising on Homeswapper is similar to selling a house so put as much information on your advert as possible. For example, if it’s on a bus route, near a school, supermarket or doctor’s surgery it is worth pointing this out as other people may not know the area as well as you do.