MUTUAL EXCHANGE POLICY

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1 MUTUAL EXCHANGE POLICY CONTENTS PAGE 1. POLICY STATEMENT 2. PURPOSE 3. LINKS 4. DEFINITIONS 5. SCOPE 6. POLICY DETAIL 7. REFUSAL 8. CUSTOMER AWARENESS 9. MONITORING 10. REVIEW 11. LINKS WITH KEY POLICIES 12. Appendix One

2 1. POLICY STATEMENT Tenant mobility is the key to ensuring sustainable communities. The introduction of Welfare Reform will engender an increased demand for smaller properties where under occupation or reduced benefits makes property unaffordable for people. One way to increase choice and flexibility is through mutual exchange. This is where social housing tenants swap their tenancies through a deed of assignment. Agreement to the move is subject to criteria detailed within the policy. Mutual exchange also makes the best use of stock in an environment where there is increasing demand on the choice based lettings schemes. The key objectives of the policy are to: Encourage the use of mutual exchanges so Westward will achieve the best utilisation of its stock while minimizing the risks of inappropriate moves Promote mutual exchanges as a method to enable tenants to choose a home in the area they wish to live in; Enable flexibility and choice of home for tenants Provide advice and assistance; Provide a framework for completing an exchange application Ensure that exchanges are carried out in compliance with current Housing Law and Good Practice. 2. PURPOSE The purpose of this policy is to: Provide an opportunity for tenants to move anywhere in the country without needing to go through the choice based lettings (CBL) system, especially where they do/would not have a high priority for a move; Provide us with the mechanism to enable moves without incurring void property costs as with traditional transfers Encourage tenants to be proactive in finding suitable alternative accommodation if they wish to move; Ensure that tenants of Westward are aware of the legal implications of an assignment via mutual exchange prior to making the exchange thus mitigating any risks to us as a landlord Reduce number of abandoned properties; -not sure about this Mutual Exchange Policy December

3 Ensure stock is not swapped without our knowledge, therefore ensuring nonauthorised mutual exchanges do not occur by encouraging and enabling the correct process; Protect tenants of Westward from being coerced or pressurised into exchanging their home; Establish/maintain a good relationship with all our partners including the local authorities and other registered social housing providers (RP). 3. LINKS: a) Links to the Tenancy Standard There are three areas covered by our Tenancy Standard. Against each, we have described the outcomes landlords should deliver and our specific expectations of them. The three areas are: Allocations Registered providers shall develop and deliver services to address under occupation and overcrowding in their homes, within the resources available to them. These services should meet the needs of their tenants, and will offer choices to them. Registered providers shall provide tenants wishing to move with access to clear and relevant advice about their housing options. They shall participate in mobility schemes and mutual exchange schemes where these are available. Registered providers published policies shall include how they have made use of common housing registers, common allocations policies and local letting policies. Registered providers shall clearly set out, and be able to give reasons for, the criteria they use for excluding actual and potential tenants from consideration for allocations, mobility or mutual exchange schemes. Registered providers shall minimise the time that properties are empty between each letting. When doing this, they shall take into account the circumstances of the tenants who have been offered the properties. Rents - Not relevant to this policy Tenure Required outcomes Registered providers shall offer and issue the most secure form of tenure compatible with the purpose of the housing and the sustainability of the community. They shall meet all applicable statutory and legal requirements in relation to the form and use of tenancy agreements. Mutual 3 Exchange Policy December 2012

4 Specific expectations Registered providers shall publish clear and accessible policies which outline their approach to tenancy management. They shall develop and provide services that will support tenants to maintain their tenancy and prevent unnecessary evictions. The approach should set out how registered providers will make sure that the home continues to be occupied by the tenant they let the home to. b) Legislation Act 1985 Act 2004 Local Government and Act 1989 Section 163 Localism Act 2011 s DEFINITIONS A tenant is a person who currently holds a tenancy agreement with Westcountry or Tarka Housing, and for the purposes of this policy the term tenant may include their household except where the legal documents (tenancy and assignment) are discussed. A mutual exchange is where two or more tenants in social housing properties swap their tenancies and move permanently into their exchange partner s property. A tenant cannot exchange into an empty property. All council and RP tenants with either secure or assured tenancies can apply to exchange their home. Starter tenants, Assured Shorthold tenants, and those in leased or shared ownership properties cannot apply for a mutual exchange. All tenants must apply for and obtain permission from their respective landlord(s) before going ahead with a mutual exchange. The usual method by which a tenant swaps homes with another tenant is through a legal process known as Assignment. 5. SCOPE This policy covers all Westcountry and Tarka existing stock and customer base as defined above. All Westward staff involved in the housing management service must implement and promote the policy to bring about the best possible outcomes for the tenants wishing to exchange, whilst observing the regulations and law concerned. Mutual Exchange Policy December

5 6. POLICY DETAIL a) Secure Tenants Secure tenants have a statutory right to exchange their tenancy with tenants of other associations and local authorities under Section 92 of the Act 1985 (as amended):-. It is a term of the tenancy agreement that the tenant, with the written consent of the landlord, may assign their tenancy to another tenant. Secure tenants have the right to seek to exchange their property and tenancy with: An existing Assured or Secure tenant of Westcountry and Tarka An Assured or Secure tenant of another RSL - Association, Trust, LSVT A Secure tenant of another Local Authority b) Assured Tenants Assured tenants do not have a statutory right to exchange, but may have a contractual right to exchange through the terms of their tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement is silent on mutual exchanges, there may be a discretionary right to exchange. For its Assured Tenants, Westward adopts the principles and applies the equivalent rights enjoyed by secure tenants as above, who meet the conditions and qualifications that apply under Section 92. c) Assured Shorthold Tenants Assured shorthold tenants do not have the right to exchange their property. This includes Demoted Tenants, and Mortgage Rescue Tenants for the protected period of the tenancy. d) Starter Tenants Starter tenants do not have the right to exchange their property in the first 12 months of their tenancy, or during any extension period; i.e. until they have been granted full Assured tenancy status, normally 12 months from the start date of the tenancy. However, Starter Tenants may apply and register their interest for a mutual exchange prior to the 12 month date in preparation for this. e) Leaseholders and Shared Owners Leaseholders and shared owners do not have the right to exchange their properties. f) Implications of Localism Act 2011 s158 Mutual 5 Exchange Policy December 2012

6 The right created by section 158 will apply in some (but not all) cases where a "lifetime" tenant wishes to exchange with a fixed-term tenant. To avoid the loss of the lifetime tenancy, this new right to exchange is achieved by issuing new tenancies: the "lifetime" tenant gets a new "lifetime" tenancy of the new dwelling (secure periodic or full assured depending on the type of tenancy the receiving landlord can grant). The other tenant will also have to receive a new tenancy, but there is no particular provision regarding its status. For s158 to apply, however, all the following conditions must be met: 1) One of the tenancies must be lifetime (i.e. full assured periodic or secure periodic) and the other must be a flexible or assured shorthold tenancy with a fixed term of at least two years. 2) The lifetime tenant must have held that status since before 1 April ) The non-lifetime tenancy must be at a social rent (i.e. not affordable, intermediate, &c). 4) The exchange must not fall within the list of grounds on which a landlord may refuse an exchange under section 158. This list is set out in Schedule 14 to the Localism Act 2011, and is closely based on the grounds on which consent may be refused to a mutual exchange between secure tenants. 7.REFUSAL OF CONSENT FOR AN EXCHANGE Consent for an exchange will be withheld in the following circumstances: a) The grounds detailed in the Appendix 1. b) Where there is outstanding debt on the tenants account. c) Where an exchange has already taken place within the previous twelve months. d) Where a tenant has undertaken improvements and no valid certificate is available, including building control, planning, gas or electrical certificates, to prove that the work has been undertaken by an appropriately qualified person and in accordance with legislative requirements. Tenants will have to supply a valid certificate or pay Westward to undertake the certification, prior to approval being given. e) Where a property has been adapted to meet the needs of the tenant or a member of the household and that person is still part of the household, the exchange will be refused unless it is to a similarly adapted property and the incoming tenant also has need of the adaptation. Mutual Exchange Policy December

7 f) If, after the mutual exchange has been agreed, two weeks notice is not given. g) Where the incoming tenant has not inspected the property and signed an agreement to say that they understand that the property is being taken as seen. 8. CHARGES a)improvements Where a tenant has undertaken improvements ; no valid certificate is available; and the tenant requests that Westward undertakes the certification prior to approval being given. b) Electrical Certificate An up to date electrical certificate is required for any non-standard fittings. You should have one from when you had the items fitted, but if you do not you should be able to obtain one from a NCIS registered electrician for between c) Gas Certificate If you have mains gas in your property you must pay for a gas test certificate before the exchange will be approved, so that the incoming tenant has an up to date certificate. d) Rent in Advance from 1 January 2013 All incoming tenants are required: to pay one month or two weeks rent in advance, dependent on their tenancy type. Benefits If the incoming tenant is applying for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit they will need to evidence their application once a date for the assignment of property has been agreed. Direct Debit Payments All new tenants will be supported to set up their rent payment by direct debit. 8. CUSTOMER AWARENESS Westward will ensure that leaflets are available and provided to all customers contacting us to enquire about mutual exchanges. Mutual 7 Exchange Policy December 2012

8 Westward offers its tenants free registration subject to 8b and use of HomeSwapper, a web-site service that helps social tenants find mutual exchanges, home swaps and council house exchanges easily. Westward also advertises the service in our tenant newsletters, our reception areas and Moving Homes handbook, as well as providing information on its website. 9. MONITORING Westward will monitor mutual exchanges and report on the following performance indicators: Number of mutual exchange applications, numbers agreed, withdrawn and refused; Reasons for withdrawal and refusal; and Review requests and their outcome. Satisfaction levels with the process and procedure will be measured via: A telephone Survey on 100% of incoming customers and minimum 50% of outgoing customers; Satisfaction Survey on New Resident Visits subsequent to an exchange taking place. 10. REVIEW The Mutual Exchange Policy will be reviewed at least every three years by Westward staff and residents. The review will ensure that a comprehensive service is being offered that meets residents expectations. The policy and procedures will also be reviewed in accordance with any future legislative changes as and when they occur. 11. LINKS WITH KEY POLICIES This Policy supports the principles and standards embodied in: Westwards Equality & Diversity Policy Allocations & Lettings Policy Recharge Policy Complaints Right to Repair Health and Safety Policy Customer Service Standards Right to Buy Mutual Exchange Policy December

9 Mutual 9 Exchange Policy December 2012

10 Appendix 1 GROUNDS FOR WITHHOLDING CONSENT TO ASSIGNMENT BY WAY OF EXCHANGE - SCHEDULE 3 OF THE ACT 1985 Ground 1 The tenant or the proposed assignee is obliged to give up possession of the dwellinghouse of which he is the secure tenant in pursuance of an order of the court, or will be so obliged at a date specified in such an order. Ground 2 Proceedings have been begun for possession of the dwelling-house of which the tenant or the proposed assignee is the secure tenant on one or more of grounds 1 to 6 in Part I of Schedule 2 (grounds on which possession may be ordered despite absence of suitable alternative accommodation), or there has been served on the tenant or the proposed assignee a notice under section 83 (notice of proceedings for possession) which specifies one or more of those grounds and is still in force. Ground 2a The tenant or any member of his household has behaved in an anti-social way and action including Possession proceedings, injunctions, anti-social behaviour orders or a demotion orders against them are in place or are been sought. Ground 3 The accommodation afforded by the dwelling-house is substantially more extensive than is reasonably required by the proposed assignee. Ground 4 The extent of the accommodation afforded by the dwelling-house is not reasonably suitable to the needs of the proposed assignee and his family. Ground 5 The dwelling-house:- (a) forms part of or is within the curtilage of a building which, or so much of it as is held by the landlord, is held mainly for purposes other than purposes and consists mainly of accommodation other than accommodation, or is situated in a cemetery, and (b) was let to the tenant or a predecessor in title of his in consequence of the tenant or predecessor being in the employment of:- the landlord, a local authority, a new town corporation, a action trust, an urban development corporation, or the governors of an aided school. Ground 6 Mutual Exchange Policy December

11 The landlord is a charity and the proposed assignee s occupation of the dwelling-house would conflict with the objects of the charity. Ground 7 The dwelling-house has features which are substantially different from those of ordinary dwelling-houses and which are designed to make it suitable for occupation by a physically disabled person who requires accommodation of the kind provided by the dwelling-house and if the assignment were made there would no longer be such a person residing in the dwelling-house. Ground 8 The landlord is a association or trust which lets dwelling-houses only for occupation (alone or with others) by persons whose circumstances (other than merely financial circumstances) make it especially difficult for them to satisfy their need for and if the assignment were made there would no longer be such a person residing in the dwellinghouse. Ground 9 The dwelling-house is one of a group of dwelling-houses which it is the practice of the landlord to let for occupation by persons with special needs and a social service or special facility is provided in close proximity to the group of dwelling-houses in order to assist persons with those special needs and if the assignment were made there would no longer be a person with those special needs residing in the dwelling-house. Ground 10 The dwelling-house is the subject of a management agreement under which the manager is a association of which at least half the members are tenants of dwellinghouses subject to the agreement, at least half the tenants of the dwelling-houses are members of the association and the proposed assignee is not, and is not willing to become, a member of the association. Mutual 11 Exchange Policy December 2012

12 Revision Information Version No Date of Version Nature of Amendment V3 17 December 2012 Tenancy and financial changes Mutual Exchange Policy December

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