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Council and housing association exchanges with Homeswapper

If you rent your home from the council or from a housing association in Scotland, you may be able to swap your home with another council or housing association tenant living somewhere else in Scotland, or in the rest of the UK.

Who can get an exchange?

You can apply for an exchange if:

  • you live in permanent, self-contained accommodation (for example, a flat or a house)
  • you rent your home from the council or a housing association and have a Scottish secure tenancy
  • the tenant you wish to exchange with rents their home from the council or a housing association and has a Scottish secure tenancy (this condition may be waived if the tenant lives in England, Wales or Northern Ireland)
  • you have permission to make the exchange from your landlord, and the landlord of the home you want to move to.

You can't get an exchange if:

  • you rent your home from a private landlord
  • you rent a bedsit or hostel room from the council
  • you own your home
  • you own part of your home through a shared ownership scheme and rent the remaining part from a housing association
  • you live in supported accommodation.

How do I go about getting an exchange?

First of all, contact your landlord and check that you will be able to exchange your home. This is very important, as you may be evicted if you try to swap your home without permission.

Next, you'll need to register online at the Homeswapper website. When you register, you'll need to fill in details about your current home, and about the kind of home you're looking for and where you want it to be. You can select up to nine different areas. In order to find a suitable exchange, you will need to be fairly flexible about the kind of property you want to move to and the area you want to live in.

Once you have registered, you can put information about your home up on the website, including photos, and look at details of other homes. Homeswapper will send you details of properties that match your requirements, and will keep you updated with information on people who want to move into your area, so you can see if their homes are suitable for you. Even if the tenant of your desired property won't swap with you, you can arrange what Homeswapper calls a 'multi-swap' where there are more tenants involved so that everyone gets a swap they are happy with.

Will I have to pay?

You'll need to pay a small fee to register with Homeswapper. Check if your landlord is a member of Homeswapper because you can register for free if they are.

What happens once I've found a suitable exchange?

Once you've found a suitable property, it's up to you to get in touch with the current tenant and arrange a time when you can view their home and they can view yours. You'll also need to discuss with them whether or not you want to make the exchange. Whatever you do, don't offer the other tenant any financial incentives to make the swap, and don't accept any bribes from them. This is illegal.

What should I consider before making the exchange?

Once you've found a suitable property, you'll need to check the following things before you finalise the exchange:

What kind of tenancy will I have?

If you are moving to another council or housing association home in Scotland, you will probably still be a Scottish secure tenant. However, if you are exchanging with a tenant in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you will get a different kind of tenancy, with different rights. This can affect:

  • the amount of rent you pay and how this can be increased
  • how easily you can be evicted.

Ask the current tenant what kind of tenancy they have and find out your rights using the English Shelter website and Northern Irish housing advice website.

What are the terms of my new tenancy agreement?

Even if you are remaining within Scotland, the terms of your new tenancy agreement may not be the same as your old tenancy agreement. For example, check:

  • how much rent you will have to pay
  • whether there are any other special conditions, such as a 'no pets' rule.

Are there any repairs that need doing?

If so, check that the landlord will carry them out.

How much does it cost to live there?

Ask the current tenant how much their bills are for electricity, gas, council tax, etc. If you are moving to a larger home, they will probably be higher than you are used to.

Does the current tenant have any rent arrears?

Be careful that you don't agree to pay any rent arrears built up by the current tenant. Check with their landlord if you're not sure.

Has the current tenant carried out any building work?

If the current tenant has made any improvements or alterations to the property (for example, fitting a new kitchen or bathroom) check that they had written permission from their landlord. If not, this could cause problems for you when the landlord finds out.

What fixtures and fittings will be staying?

Make sure you and the current tenant are clear about which fixtures and fittings belong to the property and which belong to you. This could include carpets, curtains and blinds, light fittings and white goods (fridge, freezer, washing machine, etc).

Will my benefits be affected?

If you are claiming housing benefit, the amount you receive may change when you move to a different property. You can find out the maximum amount you'll be able to receive for your new home by filling in a 'pre-tenancy determination' form, which you can get from the council's housing department. Remember, you may receive less than this amount depending on how much you earn, whether you have any savings and who lives with you.

Do I need my landlord's permission to make an exchange?

Yes! Before you make the exchange, you must get the written permission of your landlord and the landlord of the home you want to move into (unless both homes have the same landlord). If you don't do this, you could risk losing your home altogether.

Your landlord has to approve the exchange unless there are reasonable grounds for refusing. These might include:

  • your landlord has sent you a notice of proceedings, warning you they are applying to the sheriff court for an eviction order
  • your landlord has applied to the court for an eviction order to make you leave the property
  • you work for your landlord and your home was provided in connection with your job
  • your home is adapted for a person with special needs and nobody in the new tenant's household has special needs
  • the home you want to move to is much larger than you and your household need
  • the home you want to move to is too small for your household, and would be overcrowded.

Your landlord has a month to decide whether or not to give you permission. If you haven't heard from them by the end of the month, you can assume they have given permission.

What happens next?

Next you'll need to complete an exchange form, which you can get from your landlord or housing officer. They will inspect your home to check whether any repairs need to be done, and should carry out any repairs they are responsible for. You can then sign the paperwork and arrange a convenient moving date with the other tenant.

What if the other tenant pulls out?

If the other tenant changes their mind before the exchange process is completed, you will not be able to take them to court over the matter. Try not to spend any money on moving before the exchange is finalised, as this will be lost if the exchange does not go through.

What are my chances of finding a suitable swap?

It may take you a long time to find a suitable home, and there is no guarantee that you will find one at all. If you need to move urgently, speak to your landlord about getting a transfer.

Are there any other exchange schemes I can sign up for?

There are also lots of websites that can help you find a suitable exchange, although you may need to pay a small fee. Try:

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