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Your council or housing association home is unsuitable

This advice applies to England

If you live in a council or housing association home that doesn’t meet your needs you might be able to move to a different one.

This could be because:

  • your home is too small for you
  • your home doesn’t meet your health or disability needs
  • your benefits have been reduced and you can’t afford your rent
  • you need to move to a different area

There are two ways of moving to a different home - it might be worth trying both depending on your situation.

You can apply to move to an empty council or housing association home - this is called a ‘tenancy transfer’.

You can also apply to swap your home with someone else who rents a council or housing association home. This is called ‘mutual exchange’.

You’ll need to get your landlord’s permission to move and meet any requirements that your new landlord has. Your landlord is the council or housing association you pay rent to.

Transferring your tenancy to a different home

You can usually apply to transfer your tenancy if:

  • you’re a council tenant with a secure tenancy - this includes if you have a flexible tenancy
  • you’re a housing association tenant with an assured or assured shorthold tenancy

You can check your tenancy type on Shelter's website.

Contact your local Citizens Advice if you’re still not sure what kind of tenancy you have.

You’ll be offered a new home sooner if your council or housing association thinks you need to be given priority.

This could be if you need to move because you’re disabled or living in an overcrowded home. Your landlord could also let you move you more quickly if you’re moving to a smaller home.

Apply for a tenancy transfer

You’ll need to contact your council or housing association and ask for a tenancy transfer.

Each council or housing association has their own application process. Check the rules on their website, or call them to ask if you can’t find the information online.

You’ll normally have to fill out a form online explaining why you want to apply for the transfer - make sure you give as much detail as possible. You might need to apply to join the council's allocation scheme.

It can take a long time to be offered a tenancy transfer. Depending on your council you might need to bid on homes using an online bidding system.

If it’s taking too long you could apply to exchange your home with someone else.

Exchanging your home with someone else

If you can find someone else who lives in a council or housing association home you might be able to exchange your home with them.

They’ll have to agree to exchange and both your landlords need to give you permission.

You can’t usually exchange your home if:

  • you have a ‘starter’ or ‘introductory’ tenancy - you might have one of these types of tenancy if you’ve been renting your home for less than 12 months

  • your tenancy has been ‘demoted’ - this could have happened if you were involved in antisocial behaviour

Your council or housing association will have rules about who can exchange. You can’t normally move to a home that’s too big for you. It’s also unlikely you’ll get permission if your home is too big for the person you’re exchanging with.

Apply to exchange your home

Ask your landlord for permission to exchange your home. Your landlord is the council or housing association you pay rent to.

If your landlord won’t let you exchange, contact your nearest Citizens Advice - you could get advice about challenging the decision.

If your landlord is happy for you to exchange you’ll usually need to register with council or housing association mutual exchange websites. You might need to pay a fee to register - ask your landlord if there are any mutual exchange websites you have free access to.

After you register you should list your home as available for mutual exchange and search for homes you’re interested in.

If you know someone who wants to exchange their council or housing association home with you, ask your landlord if you’re allowed to exchange.

Before you agree to exchange your home with someone else make sure you can afford the rent and it meets your needs.

For example, check:

  • how close it is to work or schools

  • it’s big enough

  • it meets any health or disability needs you have

When you’ve found a suitable home and agreed to swap with the tenant living there you’ll both need to speak to your landlords and ask them arrange new tenancy agreements.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you want more help deciding whether to exchange your home.

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