Hips scrapped by coalition government

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The coalition government has suspended the use of Home Information Packs (Hips) by home sellers.

Hips were introduced in 2007 in England and Wales.

The aim was to speed up the house selling process by obliging sellers to provide much of the required conveyancing information when properties are first put up for sale.

The packs are paid for by sellers and contain property information, title deeds, and local searches.

"Today the new government is ensuring that home information packs are history," said Housing Minister Grant Shapps.

"By suspending home information packs today, it means that home sellers will be able to get on with marketing their home without having to shell out hundreds of pounds upfront.

"We are committed to greener housing so from now on all that will be required will be a simple energy performance certificate," he added.

Jobs impact

The announcement was made by the government in its coalition document, but the Conservatives especially have long been opposed to the information packs.

The requirement for packs will be suspended for anyone selling their home from 21 May, with the government needing legislation to outlaw them completely.

The energy performance certificate, which ranks the energy efficiency of a home with A to G ratings, will be retained and must be produced by the seller within 28 days of putting a home on the market. It costs about £60.

The burden of paying about £200 for searches from local authorities and search companies will now fall on house buyers, which could add to costs for first-time buyers.

The dramatic reduction in the Hips requirements could spell a round of redundancies among home inspectors - some of whom are self-employed.

The Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP) estimates that there are between 3,000 and 10,000 people whose livelihoods are either directly or indirectly dependent on Hips.

"We want to work with the government and we still want the consultation we have been promised. We are not suggesting that Hips should be retained. AHIPP has accepted that they will be scrapped," said Mike Ockenden, director general of AHIPP.

"We have been proposing for months that a legal or exchange ready pack be instructed at the start of the sales process. We think it would be crazy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and remove at a stroke all the good things that have come about with Hips, and the lessons we have learnt."

The association said it was now considering its options in the light of the decision.

Estate agents

Those working in the house sales industry have welcomed the move.

Estate agents claimed the packs, which typically cost between £299 and £350, were stunting the housing market recovery, as they deterred people from putting their home on the market just to test the water.

"It will be greeted enthusiastically by both the housing market and house buyers, few of whom have paid much attention to these pointless packs," the National Association of Estate Agents said.

"It is also good news for sellers. They no longer need to shell out hundreds of pounds for a piece of pointless regulation that benefits no one."

Gillian Charlesworth, of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: "Hips have failed to address the significant problems in the home buying process they were originally supposed to tackle and Rics is pleased that one of the first acts of the new government has been to clearly show their intention to abolish them.

But shadow housing minister John Healey said: "The Tories have talked of little else but Hips over the past few years, and this announcement merely highlights the limits of their ambition and concern - pleasing estate agents rather than supporting first-time buyers."

Housing is a devolved issue. Scotland has had its own system of Home Reports since December 2008, and there is no compulsory requirement for such a pack in Northern Ireland.

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