There are a number of reasons due to which residents might feel the need to move out of their council house to another property. Sometimes they need extra space due to the addition of a family member or lesser space due to a family member moving out. Similarly, changed in income, health conditions or household structure can bear an impact on a resident’s decision to change their council house. 

Can You Swap Council Houses?

Yes, you can swap your council house; however, the amount of time it takes will depend upon finding another property and the terms on which you are leaving the previous council house.

When a tenant is looking for another council housing tenant who is also intending to move, it is called “mutual exchange” as the decision to swap council houses depends upon a mutual agreement between both parties involved. You can either look for a swapping partner through your local council or through a mutual exchange website.

It must be kept in mind that you are required to first inform your local council or social housing landlord about your decision to move and then register yourself through council/housing association/private websites such as HomeSwapper or Home & Property Markets | House Buying & Improvements | Property Market & Estate Agents to search for your future property

Once you and your landlord/council are in agreement, you can register yourself on the council’s website and list your council house as available for mutual exchange. You can easily find a swapping partner through the same website (if you haven’t already found one before making the decision to swap).

Your tenancy type and your eligibility for priority housing will play a very important role in the amount of time that it will take to find another council house to swap with.

Sometimes, when you cannot find someone to swap your council house with, you can search for an empty council home under tenancy transfer by applying to your council’s allocation scheme. Although the application process is quick and simple, however, it may take some time to find an empty property.

To learn more about swapping council properties and what happens once you do find a tenant for mutual exchange, we will discuss the following topics:

  • When Can Council Refuse Permission to Swap Council Houses?
  • How Long Do The Council Give You To Move House?
  • Can Council Inspect My House Before I Move House?
  • Can Council Help With Deposit?
  • Can Council Help With Moving Costs?
  • What Happens To Council Tax If My Address Changes?
  • Can I Move To A New House With Council Tax Arrears?
  • What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?

When Can Council Refuse Permission to Swap Council Houses?

In case of any of the following conditions, council authorities can legally stop the mutual exchange of properties until the situation is rectified:

  • Either of the parties has rent arrears.
  • Either of the parties has received notice for anti-social behaviour.
  • Either of the parties has breached any of the terms of their tenancy agreement.
  • If there is an age restriction on the property.
  • If one of the houses is too large/too small for the exchanging party.
  • If one of the houses fails to meet the disability needs of the moving party.
  • If the landlord is a registered charity. 
  • There is damage to property or repairs need to be made prior to the exchange.
  • There are eviction proceedings in place against either of the tenants.

To learn more about how to proceed further it may help to learn some tips and tricks for council house exchange.

How Long Do The Council Give You To Move House?

The number of days you will have to move out depends upon whether you, the tenant have handed in a notice of vacating the council premises, you are being moved to other premises due to a change in your circumstances or you are being asked by the council to move from the premises due to emergency repair work to be done on the property.

Once your previous tenancy ends, the council authorities will inform you of the date when the new tenancy will start; based on this you will be allotted a time frame. However, if you are giving notice of the end of the tenancy at council premises, you are required to give a 4 week’s notice. This will serve as the council notice period for moving out; unless you are required to manage any repair work due to damage to property during your stay.

Can Council Inspect My House Before I Move House?

Yes, council authorities have a duty to visit houses; both privately rented ones and especially council housing premises. Such visits are scheduled in advance and residents are informed ahead of the visit to expect a visit by the council authorities at a specified date and time.

The nature and purpose of this visit may vary. For instance, sometimes visits by council authorities are an informal assessment before a formal inspection is carried out for home improvement or extension work to be carried out. However, it is normal for council authorities to run an inspection when a tenant is about to move to other premises.

Can Council Help With Deposit?

Yes, local councils can help with deposits by offering you a rent deposit scheme or a rent guarantee scheme. These are convenient options to make deposit payments convenient for those individuals who are either on low-income or are facing financial challenges in meeting their living expenses.

Through a rent deposit scheme, financial aid is extended to those who are unable to afford a rent deposit. The applicant receives the entire amount in advance and repays it in instalments.

A rent guarantee scheme provides a written guarantee to your landlord confirming your inability to make an immediate cash deposit and your commitment to pay the amount over a period of time. If the tenant is unable to pay this amount as per the date committed, the guarantor of the rent guarantee scheme is liable to make payment on their behalf. For this, the tenant might have to pay a nominal fee to the guarantor over the period of the guarantee.

Can Council Help With Moving Costs?

Yes, councils can help with moving costs.  At times, they may be able to arrange a Discretionary Housing Payment; which is a one time grant extended to cover the costs of housing. Local authorities will consider the following factors in this regard:

  • Conditions that make the applicant’s circumstances critical, exceptional or different.
  • Whether or not a one-time payment will provide real help for their situation.
  • Whether one-time assistance is required or it will be repeated due to financial constraints.
  • Possible long term solution for the applicant’s financial assistance.
  • The amount that they will receive.

What Happens To Council Tax If My Address Changes?

There are different answers to this, depending upon the circumstances. As a general rule, it is advisable to inform your local council office of a change in address 21 days in advance; even if this change of address is going to be temporary. If you have not been able to do that and have already moved into another place, you must inform them immediately.

Once you inform the council office of your change in address, it takes them around 20 days to process a new council tax bill, depending upon any major changes such as change of valuation band for your house or change of council district or the addition/subtraction of council tax benefits if there is a change in your personal circumstances as well along with a change in address.

Can I Move To A New House With Council Tax Arrears?

Yes, there is no legal restriction on a council tax debtor to move to new premises with arrears due towards their previous council. However, the debt will still remain in their name and will not be transferred to the new owners or tenants. This means that if you have council tax arrears and you move to a new house, you will not only be paying council tax for the new property but will also be obliged to clear your dues concerning the previous premises as well.

What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?

A tenancy agreement serves as a legal agreement bound by terms and conditions that the undersigning parties agree to while a living space is rented out. Tenancy agreements for council housing may be classified as below:

  • Introductory Tenancy: This is considered to be a 12 month trial period for tenants during which their rights to exchange property or make modifications to it are limited. 
  • Secure Tenancy: This form of tenancy secures your occupancy in the council house for life; unless you break any tenancy rules stated in the agreement. In this case, you may sub-let rooms in the property but not the entire premises. 
  • Flexible Tenancy: This type of tenancy is usually for a fixed term of 2 to 5 years; at the end of which the council may decide to offer you a renewed contract on similar terms, offer a secure tenancy or not renew at any terms at all. 
  • Joint Tenancy: Under this contract, you and the joint tenant both become liable for rent payments and become eligible for all the privileges under secure tenancy jointly. 

Conclusion:

Finding another tenant for a mutual exchange of council houses is the easiest way to swap your council house. However, you will need to be mindful of the moving and refurbishment costs especially if you or your landlord have invested in your current council house.

Once you find someone to swap your council house with, you will need an agreement from your respective landlords/council for the exchange or transfer to take place. You will also need to agree on a mutually agreeable timeline for the move to take place.

If either of you has rent arrears or repair and maintenance work to be managed, you should take care of it at the earliest so that it does not delay your scheduled transfer of property.

FAQs: Can You Swap Council Houses?

How do I transfer from one council house to another?

You need to inform your local council office about your intent to transfer to another council house. They may ask you to fill a form (online or in print) and submit some documents to support your intent.

Is it possible to swap houses?

Yes, it is both possible and legal to swap houses, whether they are privately rented or belong to council housing. However, tenants need to make sure that they inform their landlords of their intent to swap and seek mutually agreeable terms of reference. 

Can you swap council house with rent arrears?

You cannot swap council houses with rent arrears as your social housing landlord/council will not sign you off for clearance, making it next to impossible to sign an agreement at the new premises. In fact, clearance of rent arrears is often a condition prior to agreement from landlords for mutual exchange of council houses to take place.

How do home swaps work?

Home swaps have been made very easy through websites that allow residents to register their current property for an exchange and search for a property that they are looking for. However, being a tenant, they must seek an agreement with their landlord/housing association before they register the property or seek a house for swapping.

How long before you can swap a council house?

Once tenants submit their mutual exchange forms to landlords, they have up to six weeks to decide whether or not to permit the swap to take place. However, if your rent is clear and there is no damage to council property during your stay, you may find yourself being cleared for a swap of council house much sooner than that.

References:

Your council or housing association home is unsuitable

How to go about a council house exchange – OurProperty.co.uk

Council house exchange – how it works and what the rules are

House Exchange

What to do before you move out | End your council home tenancy

Transferring to another council house | Ending your council tenancy | The Highland Council

Shelter Legal England – Local authority duties to inspect homes and assess hazards

House inspection | Ending your council tenancy | The Highland Council

Get help with renting costs.

Council Tax change of address

Dealing with Council Tax arrears

Council housing: Types of tenancy

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