Beware of scammers

We are aware of an online scam going around on social media.

It claims to be able to make your housing application a priority and give you the right to buy after 3 years.

We only ever allocate homes according to our policy. Every application goes through a series of checks to make sure it is valid and correctly prioritised.

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Mutual home exchange

What is a mutual exchange?

It's a scheme for people who live in a council or housing association property who would like to swap their home with another tenant.

People often swap to get a larger or smaller home or to move to a different area. 

When you mutually exchange your home, you are swapping tenancies with someone else. This means it’s really important you check what type of tenancy the other person has before you swap.

For example, if you swap with a tenant living in a housing association property, they may not have the right to buy. 

Who can do a mutual exchange?

Anyone with a full secure or fixed term social housing tenancy in their name with a clear rent account.

Who is not eligible for a mutual exchange?

You cannot swap your home if you:

  • have an introductory tenancy
  • have a probationary tenancy
  • are in temporary housing

There are many reasons why a landlord can refuse a mutual exchange, even if you’re a full secure or fixed term tenant.  

What are the benefits of mutual exchange? 

Demand for social housing is very high in Tower Hamlets.

Most people who join the housing register will never receive an offer of a social housing tenancy. If you are waiting for a housing transfer you might wait for years to be offered somewhere. You will also not get much choice about the type of property you’re offered.  

Mutual exchange lets you move to anywhere in the UK and there is far more choice available. You don’t have to wait to be offered a property, you can take matters into your own hands and find a swap.  

How do you find someone to swap with? 

There are lots of ways to find someone to swap with.

Some people swap with family members or neighbours. Others find swaps by posting adverts in local housing offices or in newsagents’ windows. But the most common way people find someone to swap with is online. 

How do you find a swap online?

There are lots of mutual exchange websites. Some of them are nationally recognised and some are provided by councils or housing associations. Others are private companies, and these often charge you for registering your advert.

The most popular websites that  people use are HomeSwapper and House Exchange.

To find a mutual exchange you can register on either of these websites. These are national websites and free to use for Tower Hamlets Council tenants. 

How do the mutual exchange websites work? 

The websites work by automatically matching you to people who have advertised properties you’ve said you want and who are looking for a property like yours.

Some people have hundreds of matches for their home. To get the best matches possible, it’s important to give as much information about your property as you can. You also need to give accurate information about the sort of home you want.  

Once you’ve registered with a mutual exchange website, it’s up to you to choose which properties you’re interested in. You need to contact those people to see if they are interested in your home.

Some people put their phone number or email address on their adverts, but you can also message other users directly through the website. 

What should you put in the advert?  

You are competing with other users who are advertising their homes. For this reason, you should try to make your advert as good as you can. Think of yourself as your own estate agent. These are some things to consider when creating your advert:  

  • What are the best features of your home? Is it spacious, are the bedrooms big, has it been recently decorated or had a new kitchen or bathroom fitted?  

  • What’s good about the local area? Do you have good transport links, are there shops, parks, doctors’ surgeries, schools etc. close to your home?  

  • What’s the neighbourhood like? Do you live in a quiet area or is it lively and bustling, are the neighbours friendly?  

  • Anything else that’s good about your home? Do you have a garden or a balcony, does your building have a lift, do you have double glazing and central heating, does your building allow pets? 

Are there any risks of advertising your home online? 

The national mutual exchange websites such as HomeSwapper will never show your name or your full address for other users to see.

You can choose whether you want your phone number and email address displayed or if you just want to be contacted through the website.

If you’re worried other people will be able to identify your home through your advert, you should avoid posting pictures of the outside of your home.

If you advertise on another website you should check to make sure your name, full address and contact details are not displayed unless you want them to be. 

What if you struggle to find someone to swap with?

If you’re not finding many matches on HomeSwapper it might be because they don’t have very good coverage in the area you want to move to. If you want to move to Kent for example and you aren’t finding many matches it would be worth looking at Kent’s advice for their residents looking for an exchange. They may use a different website which you can register with to try to find a swap.   

If you’re not finding many matches in an area that HomeSwapper covers it might be because you’ve not selected a wide enough search area on the site.

If you’re only looking in a 1-mile radius try expanding it to 3 or 5 miles and you should get more matches. Similarly, if you are only looking for detached houses you aren’t likely to get many matches. You could look for other types of properties and consider them on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re getting a lot of matches but no one is interested, have another look at your advert and see if you can improve it.  

Finally, make sure you’re proactive on the site. If someone messages you make sure you message them back even if it’s just to say you’re not interested in their property.

If other users see you don’t respond to messages, they will think you’re not serious about swapping.

Finding an exchange can be hard work. Some people are lucky and find someone to swap with straight away, for others it can take months. It’s important not to lose heart and to keep plugging away at it. 

You’ve found someone you want to swap with – what now? 

If you’ve found someone you want to swap with, you both need to inform your landlords that you want to swap. When you have found a partner to swap homes with, please complete our M1 - Mutual Exchange Application form.

Once both of you have handed in your mutual exchange applications, both landlords have 42 days to tell you whether they’ll let the exchange go ahead. 

What will your landlord do?  

Each landlord involved in the swap will provide a reference for their tenant. The landlord’s reference will cover whether:

  • there are rent arrears at the address
  • either person has a history of anti-social behaviour or currently has any legal action being taken against them
  • there is any other reason the exchange cannot go ahead.  

We will also contact you to arrange to visit your home. This is to check the condition of your property. If you’ve made alterations to your property such as removing doors or partitioning rooms.

You’ll be asked to put these back before the exchange can go ahead. When possible, the person you are swapping with will also be invited to the inspection. This is so they are aware of any issues with the property before the swap goes ahead.  

If the exchange is agreed, then we will confirm this in writing. If the exchange is not agreed, we will write to you telling you why.

If you have not formally exchanged tenancies with a deed of assignment you can cancel a swap. Even after both landlords have agreed to it.

Can your landlord say no to a mutual exchange?

There are legal reasons where a landlord can refuse a swap: 

  • your landlord has started eviction proceedings
  • you work for your landlord and your home was provided in connection with your job
  • your home is adapted for a person with specific needs and nobody in the new tenant's household has specific needs 
  • the home you want to move to is much larger than your household needs 
  • the home you want to move to is too small for your household and you would be overcrowded  a member of your household has behaved in an anti-social way and actions including possession proceedings, injunctions, antisocial behaviour orders or demotion orders against them are in place or are being sought 
  • the landlord is a charity and the proposed new tenants moving into the property would conflict with the objectives of the charity 

They can also say no if the property:

(a) has been adapted or has features that make it suitable for a disabled person

(b) is owned by a landlord which lets properties to particularly vulnerable people  

(c) is for people with specific needs (supported housing) and if the mutual exchange took place there would no longer be such a person living in the property. 

Your landlord may say that you cannot swap tenancies straightaway. If, for example, you owe rent or there are repairs that you must carry out. However, once these matters have been sorted out, they should say yes. 

Do you get any help if you swap with another council tenant in the borough? 

If the other council tenant's home is too small for their family, we will pay expenses for your move.

The amount depends on the size of property you currently live in.

This table shows the incentives we pay for mutual exchanges with overcrowded tenants (subject to funding changes).

Downsizing incentives for mutual exchange 
Number of bedrooms in current property  Amount
2 £1,000 (with a maximum of £500 cash)
3 £1,500 (with a maximum of £1,000 cash)
4 and larger £2,000 (with a maximum of £1,500 cash)