HIPs: Doubts Still Remain
Home Information Packs (HIPs) became law on 1 August, but concerns remain that house sales might be delayed because there is still a shortage of home inspectors in some areas. There are also niggling doubts about a number of loopholes that exist in the system that will allow some avoidance of the packs.
Despite the fact that the government claim there are no shortages, as far as domestic energy assessors are concerned London was said to be a “pressure point” the day before launch. These assessors are supposed to check energy efficiency before a house is put up for sale.
HIPs are now compulsory for homes with four or more bedrooms, and vendors of these properties will have to compile a pack, probably at a cost of £350-£500, which must include detailed information about the property such as evidence of ownership, planning or building consents, local search information, and an Energy Performance Certificate.
Some industry experts claimed only a few weeks ago that HIPs were doomed as government ministers had to postpone their introduction, originally scheduled for 1 June, because there were too few energy assessors who had qualified. The packs came under intense criticism and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says that the real test for HIPs will come when they are compulsory for all properties. RICS is not convinced by the scheme, and said there was "still quite a lot of confusion out there in the marketplace". The Conservatives said that town halls would struggle to enforce the packs.
If the initial introduction of HIPs progresses without major hitches, then there is little doubt that the government will extend the scheme to three bedroom properties as soon as it can. It hopes to cover all house purchases by the end of 2007.
If a property was put up for sale before 1 August it will not require a HIP, but after a while all properties – whenever they were put on the market – will require one.
The number of assessors has proved a stumbling block along the way. In May less than 500 assessors were qualified out of 2,000 needed. According to the Department of Communities and Local Government, as at 25 July there were 2,224 accredited assessors, with another 4,960 having already passed their exams.
Areas within the country fare differently. There are fewest in the north-east (79), and the most in the south-east (387), but it is likely to be London where the problems may arise. There are only 170 accredited assessors in the capital, where the market moves fastest of all.
Although the government never considered scrapping the HIPs schems, it has been diluted. It is now compulsory for homes with more than three bedrooms. Ministers say that all problems have now been resolved, but critics still claim that the packs are unenforceable and have fatal flaws. Sellers are concerned about the price of HIPs (up to £500) and the potential delay they may cause to the selling process. One minor current loophole is that properties can still go up for sale if a HIP has simply been commissioned rather than actual produced.
6th August 2007
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