Are there any legal issues which I should be aware of when entering into a home exchange?

Home exchanges

Currently a home exchange is a very popular way to go on holiday enabling individuals to receive accommodation in exchange for their own accommodation. This has many advantages as it enables someone to feel as if they live in a particular place which will give them a better feel of the place they are staying in. It may also prove a much cheaper option as there will be no payment required for the use of the property (in most cases) and there is also the option in some home exchanges to use a car without the required hassle of renting one.

As a consequence of this, a home exchange is currently a very attractive option in the current economic climate.

How can I find a home exchange?

Many people will undertake a home exchange with people they already know, either friends or through friends of friends but there are many ways which you can organise a home exchange with someone which you do not know. There are many dedicated websites providing huge amounts of details of potential home exchanges both home and abroad. If an individual chooses the route of going through a website they should endeavour to make a full check of the website to ensure that it is reputable and they will be getting what they expected as remember that if you do this through a website your own home will also be featured on the site.

What should be the first thing I do when wishing to enter into a home exchange?

When initially looking to enter into a home exchange you must remember that it is about your home as much as it is about the home of the individual you wish to exchange with. Whether you organise the exchange through a website or with a friend there are a variety of issues you should include, they are the following:

  • Provide a full description of your home – this can include the type of home, how old it is, the size and any special features you may believe to be a unique selling point for the home

  • Provide a full description of the neighbourhood, the climate and any amenities in the locality

  • Provide a full description of any areas of interest in the locality of your home or those which are easily accessible by car

  • Provide details of public transport and proximity to major cities

  • Provide details of airports

If you have decided to offer your car as part of the exchange then provide details of the car such as make, year and whether it is manual or automatic

Once I have settled on a home exchange are there any issues which I should then consider?

Once two individuals have settled on a home exchange this is when certain legal issues may come into play. Even if the exchange is done through a website it is often the case that the individuals will be left to their own devices in working through how the exchange will work.

However, the following issues should be dealt with:

  • Home insurance

  • Car insurance

  • Household bills

  • Repairs to household appliances 

Home Insurance

It is extremely important to check that your home insurance will still remain valid during the home exchange. You can do this by getting in contact with the insurance company directly before entering into the home exchange. If you do not inform the insurance company of what is going on then it is likely that your home insurance will not be valid, however, if you inform them they are likely to support the position of someone being in the home rather than leaving it empty when you are on holiday as it may reduce the risk of burglary.

Car Insurance

Many people wish to exchange cars as part of the home exchange, it is fine to do this but you must first check with your insurance company that it is valid under the terms of your insurance agreement to do this. Particular attention should be paid if you are exchanging with someone from the United States as many UK insurance companies will not cover drivers from the United States.

Household Bills

You must ensure that you come to an agreement with the individual that you are sharing with in relation to the payment of household bills. In most cases it is the norm that the owner of the home will continue to pay the bills. However, you may want to come to some agreement regarding the payment of the phone bill if the person in your home wishes to use the phone.

Repairs to household appliances

In most cases it is assumed under a home exchange that this will include use of all household appliances however, if some of these are extremely valuable you may wish to consider removing them from the house. You must ensure that you did not describe these in your initial description of the house.

If there has been minor damage to appliances or the property then you may wish to agree that the individual in the home can arrange these however, if the repairs are major you should ensure that they contact you first.

What should I do once all this has been agreed upon?

Once all of this has been agreed upon you should ensure that you have records of all exchanges between you, in this respect email is clearly the best option for communication. You should then look to get a home exchange agreement drawn up detailing all the issues which is needed to be agreed upon by both parties.

You should send the agreement to the individual requiring them to sign it as well as yourself so that you have a legally binding agreement in place.