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Getting a mutual exchange

If you rent from the council or housing association and you want to move, you can swap your home with another tenant. This is called a mutual exchange.

You can exchange with someone who rents from a council or housing association anywhere in Scotland. It's important to get permission from your landlord before exchanging your home.

To get a different home with the same council or housing association, you can also apply for a transfer.

Check if you can get an exchange

Ask your landlord for their mutual exchange policy if they have one.

You can usually get an exchange if both of these apply:

You can exchange with someone who has the same landlord or a different one. Both you and the other tenant must get permission from your landlords to exchange your homes. Some landlords may let you exchange tenancies across the UK, some may only allow you to exchange in Scotland.

If you have a short Scottish secure tenancy, you can still apply for an exchange, but it might be harder to get permission.

If you’ve had problems with your tenancy, such as rent arrears, you might have to put them right before an exchange will be approved.

Tell your landlord that you want to look for an exchange and ask if there are any conditions.

You usually cannot get an exchange if you live in a bedsit, hostel or supported accommodation.

Where to look for an exchange

Register online at websites like Homeswapper and House Exchange. Check if your landlord offers access to these or any other mutual exchange websites. If your landlord is not a member, you might have to pay a small fee to join.

You’ll have to fill in details about your current home and the kind of home you’re looking for. You can swap for a smaller or larger home if you need it.

You can also look for an exchange on social media groups, forums, and sites like Gumtree.

If you find a match, contact the current tenant and arrange times that suit you both to view each others’ homes.

What to check before agreeing to an exchange

At the viewing, you should get a chance to look around and ask questions. Check:

  • how much the rent is

  • the average cost of bills

  • if there are any repair issues that need fixed

  • if the location suits your needs – for example, if there’s enough public transport or parking nearby

  • what fixtures and fittings are included – for example, carpets, curtains or light fittings

If you're looking at homes elsewhere in the UK, you should also check what type of tenancy you would get. Your rights will be different depending on the tenancy type. If you're staying in Scotland, you'll usually get a Scottish secure tenancy with the same rights.

You cannot offer someone money to get them to agree to an exchange.

If you agree on an exchange

Get permission in writing from both landlords before you go ahead with the swap. Otherwise, you could have problems with your right to stay in your new home in future.

Ask your council or housing association if there's a specific form you should fill in to request permission.

Once you’ve requested permission, your landlord has 1 month to let you know if your request has been approved.

Your landlord will usually also inspect your home to check:

  • any repair issues that need fixed

  • any damage or alterations you’ve made

  • health and safety issues, including gas and electrical checks

  • any other issues with your tenancy

Once the inspection has been done, you can sign the paperwork and agree on a moving date that suits both of you. Your landlord should give you any forms that you need to assign your tenancies to each other.

You or the other tenant can change your mind before the exchange is finalised. Try not to spend any money on moving before you’ve signed your new tenancy agreement.

If your landlord refuses to approve an exchange

They must tell you the reason why in writing. For example, they could refuse if:

  • they’ve started eviction action against you

  • the home you want to move to is too small or large for your family

  • your home has adaptations that are not needed by the person you want to exchange with

  • you work for your landlord, and your home was provided in connection with your job

If you think they’ve made a mistake or you’ve been unfairly refused an exchange, you can appeal the decision at the sheriff court. You must apply within 21 days of your landlord’s letter. Get help from a solicitor to apply.

Find a solicitor from the Law Society of Scotland.

You could get legal help for free or at a lower cost.

Last updated: 19 January 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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