What is a Mutual Exchange? House Swaps Explained

What is a Mutual Exchange? House Swaps Explained

About four years ago, a big story hit the news. Tanya and Steve Cattran from Whipton were left high and dry after spending hundreds of pounds on a mutual exchange – a house swap, essentially. When they arrived at what was to be their new house, the other tenant who had agreed to the exchange no longer wanted the mutual exchange. House swaps like this happen on a regular basis, and while the Cattran family story was tragic, it was a pretty unusual one. A mutual exchange is usually an amazing opportunity for two different parties to find new living arrangements. 

Defining a House Exchange

So, what is a house exchange? Legally called a mutual exchange, it’s the process of two social housing tenants swapping houses. Those already in the property might want to move for a number of different reasons. Maybe the home is too small for them. Maybe they need to be closer to family or to other amenities like transport links. Essentially, it’s an alternative choice for those who simply can’t access a home through traditional allocation. It doesn’t even have to happen on a local level. Instead, tenants can exchange house with any other council tenant or a different Housing Association tenant anywhere in the UK. Anyone can do it, too, as long as both parties (and their landlords) agree to the mutual exchange. 

Understanding the Costs to Exchange Houses

If you do find someone who is willing to swap homes with you, the only real costs involved are those associated with the removals process and travel. The landlords involved aren’t allowed to charge you for the arrangement of the home swap. In general, removals costs run between £40 to £70 per hour if you’re moving locally. That number, though, can go up a bit if you have a bigger place or if you’re moving a bit further away. Moreover, if you choose to have a removals company handle your packing for you, that number can also increase somewhat. There may also be additional costs associated with your utilities and other services like broadband or television. 

How Do You Find Someone to Exchange Tenancy With?

In most cases, you’ll find someone who is interested in exchanging tenancy online. There are lots of different services out there, and some are free, but others charge a nominal registration fee. When you do sign up for an account, generally you’ll be asked about your current home, what type of home you want most, and the area in which you’d like to live. Once you fill out your information, you should gain access to information about the properties that meet your needs, then you can make contact with other tenants and make plans to see their homes to decide whether you’re interested in a swap with them. 

Getting Permission for a Home Exchange

Before you can actually exchange houses, you’ll need to get permission from your landlord. In fact, you’ll both need to do so before you can exchange houses. The two of you will need to put your requests in writing, then your landlord will have at least 6 weeks to respond. There are reasons your landlord can refuse your request, though. If one of you is in rent arrears, your landlords may refuse. If eviction proceedings have begun against one tenant, your landlord may also refuse. Additionally, if either property proves to be unsuitable, a landlord may refuse to make the swap. Finally, some properties have age restrictions (like those designed for tenants 55 and over), and if the new tenant doesn’t meet the age restrictions, the swap may be denied. Keep in mind that it is illegal to swap properties without the knowledge and consent of your landlord. 

Preventing House Exchange Problems

The story of the Cattrans is a terrifying one, but it really is a unique story. If you’re looking for a mutual exchange, simply look for someone who is serious about the process. Ensure the swap has been approved, and all paperwork is signed before you make any major life changes. There are valid reasons a swap can fall through, but as long as you do your homework and ensure everything is in place before you make a move, your house swap should be a successful one.

Related Posts