CASE STUDY

Mutual exchange application

A landlord’s refusal of a mutual exchange application failed to consider exercising its discretion to permit under-occupation for an additional housing need and failed to fully address a final stage complaint

Ms M complained that the landlord declined her mutual exchange application to move with her adult son from their two-bedroom home to a three-bedroom property that she would only be temporarily under-occupying due to her pregnancy.  She also complained about the length of time taken by the landlord to respond to her complaint.

We found the landlord’s refusal of Ms M’s mutual exchange application and its complaints handling to be unreasonable. The landlord stated that it had no discretion to accept Ms M’s application, but its mutual exchange policy and procedure required it to discuss applications with its allocations or special assessment team for guidance where the applicant had indicated a need for a larger property than they would ordinarily be eligible for. This suggested that the landlord had discretion to accept her application, but there is no evidence that it discussed this with its allocations or special assessment team and it would have been appropriate for it to have accepted the application.

The landlord’s response to her final stage complaint did not acknowledge or address the points made by Ms M and instead reiterated that it had no discretion to accept her application as she would have been under-occupying if this was granted.

Outcome:

We determined that the landlord was responsible for maladministration in its refusal of Ms M’s mutual exchange application and that it was responsible for service failure in respect of its response to her final stage complaint. We ordered the landlord to pay £100 compensation for any distress and inconvenience caused by its refusal, apologise for failing to fully address the final stage complaint and take steps such as staff training to ensure that its mutual exchange policy and procedure were correctly applied. We also recommended that the landlord consider clarifying in its policy and procedure that evidence of pregnancies would count towards household sizes.