Mutual Exchange Policy

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1 Mutual Exchange Policy Version 1.7 Date of Last Update: 14/12/15 1

2 Version Control Note: minor updates increase version number by 0.1, major updates increase version number by 1.0. Version Date of Sections Amended Number update Approved by 1.0 First issue in new template 1/10/13 Anne Morrison 1.1 Minor changes and Grounds 15 and 16 added 16/1/14 Anne Morrison 1.2 Addition of refusals/withdrawn grounds & surrender and regrant alterations liabilities 30/3/15 Sarah Davies Additional refusal reason regarding 4/6/15 Anne Morrison convictions and risks to Community Additional clause re illegal payments and 15/9/15 Anne Morrison incentives 1.5 Separate Procedure from Policy 20/11/15 Anne Morrison Rent in Advance 30/11/15 Sarah Davies Right of appeal of refusal 14/12/15 Anne Morrison 2

3 Table of Contents 1 Policy Introduction Context Aims Policy Outline Equality and Diversity Review

4 Policy 1.0 Introduction 1.1 This policy sets out the approach to be adopted by Yarlington Housing Group ("Yarlington") in relation to enabling tenants to access opportunities to swap their homes (mutually exchange) with Another tenant of Yarlington A tenant of another registered Housing Association or Housing Co-operative A tenant of a local authority A tenant of another Registered Provider 1.2 A mutual exchange occurs when two or more tenants agree to exchange properties with the written approval of Yarlington and any other registered landlord or local authority involved in the transaction 1.3 Yarlington recognises that for many tenants, mutual exchange represents the only way to satisfy their housing need, given the increasing pressure on housing lists for social housing in all sectors and the impact of welfare reform on occupation levels. 1.4 Yarlington encourages any tenant wanting to move to alternative housing to try to mutually exchange with another tenant, subject to certain terms and conditions. 1.5 Yarlington will maximise the opportunities available for tenants to exchange their homes subject to them meeting the requirements outlined in this policy. We will ensure that these opportunities are publicised to customers in a variety of ways including the following: 2.0 Context Through contact with our staff Customers newsletters Annual reports to tenants Use of social media 2.1 Yarlington will consider all applications to assign a tenancy by way of mutual exchange in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Housing Act 1985, Section 15 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended), Schedule 14 of the Localism Act 2011 and all other relevant legislation. 4

5 3.0 Aims 2.2 Yarlington also aims to reflect the expectations outlined in the Statutory and Regulatory Framework for Housing in England in relation to mutual exchanges. Yarlington will: 3.1 Provide tenants and prospective tenants with information on the requirements for a mutual exchange. 3.2 Ensure that the criteria for an exchange are met before an exchange can be completed. 3.3 Provide guidance as to the circumstances when a mutual exchange may be refused. 3.4 Ensure that tenants have as many options to increase mobility as possible. Mutual exchange is a key way of helping tenants to exercise this choice. 3.5 Support tenant mobility by signing up to a relevant Choice Based Lettings system such as Home Finder in Somerset and other internet based mutual exchange services where applicable. 3.6 Assist in matching tenants who wish to exchange taking into account individual preferences. 3.7 Not unreasonably withhold permission to exchange and will do so only on the grounds specified in this policy. 4.0 Policy Outline 4.1 Tenants have the right to exchange their tenancy where they hold a Secure, Assured or Fixed Term Assured Shorthold Tenancy of 2 years or more when granted, and only where the respective tenancy permits. However permission may be granted in exceptional circumstances and subject to satisfactory adherence to the tenancy agreement. 4.2 Yarlington will process all applications to mutually exchange giving a decision in writing either approving or refusing the exchange within 42 days of receiving all parties application forms. 4.3 Yarlington may exercise discretion in allowing under occupation where 5

6 4.3.1 the proposed assignee currently under occupies their current property and the property they wish to move to is the same size or larger the proposed assignee is affected by a welfare reform under occupation penalty in their current accommodation and moving to the property will result in the level of under occupation being reduced. The granting of such consent will not prevent Yarlington's ability to recover possession of the property based upon arrears of rent or other occupancy charges which accrue as a result of any such welfare reform occupancy penalty 4.4 There is an expectation for all new tenancies, inclusive of transfers and mutual exchanges, that a minimum of two weeks rent is paid prior to the issuing of keys or signing of a new tenancy agreement or deed of assignment. Yarlington may waive the minimum payment at their discretion under the following circumstances : A mutual exchange will aid a tenant s financial situation and where they are demonstrating sustained progression in reducing debts to Yarlington and are making every effort to take financial responsibility Where applicants, who are Yarlington tenants, are already paying rent in accordance with their tenancy conditions and are not paying in arrears A payment is guaranteed from a third party but which is delayed in processing The decision whether to waive the payment at sign up should be given all due care and consideration and not simply based on the ability to pay at that point in time. When Yarlington apply discretion it will be with the confidence of aiding a situation where there is clear sustained progression and our decision to waive the payment will further support the future of the applicant s position. 4.5 In determining this, the following standard will be applied. One bedroom will be allowed for each of the following: A single person A married or cohabiting couple An adult aged 16 years or Two children of the same sex and under the age of 16 years old Two children under the age of 10 years old regardless of their sex Any other child 6

7 A carer who does not live in the property but is required to stay overnight in order to provide care. 4.6 Mutual exchanges shall take place by either an assignment of the tenancies or by a surrender and re-grant of each tenancy in accordance with the relevant legal and regulatory provision Surrender and Re-Grant Tenants who have an Assured or Secure tenancy granted prior to 1 st April 2012 (Existing Tenant) when the Localism Act 2011 came into force and who are exchanging with a tenant who has a fixed term social rent tenancy (granted for a term of 2 years or longer) will be required to surrender their current tenancies and sign new tenancies giving them the same security that they currently hold and where the fixed term social rent tenant has 2 years or less remaining on their tenancy they will be granted a new 2 year fixed term tenancy where the fixed term social rent tenant has less than 4 years but more than 2 years remaining on their tenancy they will be granted a new 4 year fixed term tenancy. where the fixed term social rent tenant has between 4 and 7 years remaining on their tenancy they will be granted a new 7 year fixed term tenancy Deed of Assignment All other exchanges will be undertaken by way of a Deed of Assignment which requires tenants to take on the current tenancy of the person with whom they are exchanging regardless of the type of tenancy. 4.7 Where the proposed exchange is with a tenant of another Registered Provider or local authority landlord, Yarlington will ask for a suitable tenant reference and consent by the landlord. The other tenant must also have the same right to exchange. 4.8 Yarlington will ensure that all Yarlington tenants moving into their properties are kept informed of the progress of their application and will facilitate the exchange providing help and assistance when required. 7

8 4.9 Yarlington will inspect the property before an exchange is approved and, other than in exceptional circumstances, will usually require that any damage caused by a tenant (member of their household or invited visitor), is repaired before an exchange is permitted. Where there is unrepaired damage the exchange will normally be refused Yarlington will require tenants to sign to accept liability for any nonstandard alterations or installations and any items which tenants have agreed with each other to leave in the property Where a surrender and re-grant takes place Yarlington will not accept liability for any non-standard alterations or installations and any items which tenants have agreed with each other to leave in the property Yarlington will normally require arrears or other debts to be cleared before granting permission for an exchange to take place, however where a tenant has a debt and is downsizing Yarlington may grant permission upon agreement of a payment plan Where a tenant does qualify for a mutual exchange Yarlington will only refuse consent to an exchange based upon: a failure to remedy, to Yarlington's satisfaction, any remedial repairs any relevant planning agreements any relevant local connection restrictions any previous or pending convictions which may pose a significant risk to neighbours and/or the wider community any one of more of the grounds set out in Schedule 3 of the Housing Act 1985 any one or more of the grounds set out in Schedule14 of the Localism Act Yarlington will ensure tenants coming to Yarlington are aware of the respective rights of the tenancy which they propose to take on, particularly where these differ from their current tenancy. All tenants exchanging to a non Yarlington property will be advised to contact the landlord of the property for this information It is illegal for any payment, incentive, premium or reward to be offered or received in connection with a Mutual Exchange and Yarlington could take action to evict you and your family from the property Any applicant who has had a request for Mutual Exchange refused may appeal in writing within 7 days for the decision to be reviewed. The appeals panel of 3 persons from Yarlington Executive Team or Heads 8

9 of Service will review the original decision and respond within 21 days of such a request Yarlington operates a formal customer feedback procedure, where an applicant or any other person receiving a service can complain about any aspect of the service with which they are unhappy, for example: If an applicant feels they have been unfairly discriminated against or If an applicant does not receive information they have asked for. 5.0 Equality and Diversity Yarlington is committed to fairness and equality for all regardless of any disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race this includes ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality, religion or belief, sex/gender, family circumstances, age or offending history. Our aim is to ensure that our policies and procedures do not create an unfair disadvantage for anyone, either directly or indirectly. 6.0 Review 6.1 The Mutual Exchange Policy will be reviewed every 2 years. 6.2 The Policy and Procedure will also be reviewed in accordance with any future legislative changes as and when they occur. 9

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