Home Information Packs to be brought back under Housing and Planning Bill

  • 1 Apr 2016

In a late amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill, Home Information Packs are set to be brought back.

The amendment, one of no fewer than 2,572 to the Bill, has not only been tabled by a Tory – the party that got rid of them in 2010 – but by the housing minister himself, Brandon Lewis.

The move is understood to have the strong support of George Osborne, who believes the VAT receipts from HIPS – which will be given a different name – could be substantial.

The amendment has been drawn up ahead of a government inquiry looking at abortive house sales.

The amendment would be implemented, by a commencement order, if the review found evidence that HIPs had in fact cut fall-through rates.

Astonishingly, there has never been any study as to whether this was the case or not.

It has also emerged that the Association of Home Information Pack Providers has never been formally disbanded.

Secretary General Mike Ockenden said: “We have spent the past six years persistently lobbying behind the scenes and are ready to spring fully back into action at a moment’s notice.”

AHIPP – and Westminster – have been impressed by the success of the Scottish version of HIPs, Home Reports.

Home Reports contain a survey, a valuation, an EPC, plus a questionnaire that the seller has to complete.

The new HIPs would have all these documents, but also have to contain:

  • A professionally produced health and safety assessment of the property, together with a rating of, for example, stairs, gardens and cookers. Homes must score a minimum of five out of ten or be banned from the market. The score would have to be “prominently” shown in all advertising, including listings on all the portals.
  • A ‘child safety’ assessment – three and four-bedroom homes on roads, close to rivers or within half a mile of any beach, for example, could not be advertised as family homes and could only be sold to adult-only households.
  • A ‘pet suitability’ assessment, similar to the child safety one. A property which failed its pet suitability assessment could not be sold to anyone with a cat, dog or even a hamster. Tortoises would be exempt.
  • A sustainability rating, based on the local wildlife population such as Dartford warblers and whether residents can walk or cycle to work and shops. Homes with low sustainability ratings, such as properties in the countryside not on a bus route, would be banned from the market.
  • Checks on the immigration status of all potential buyers and those in their households.
  • HIPS would be extended to extensions.

The amendment proposes civil sanctions for householders who breach requirements, and automatic criminal sanctions for agents, including up to ten years in jail.

No sanctions will be applied to online agents, which will be exempt from having to produce HIPs as the Government is making it clear that it wishes to encourage competition.

Online agent Russell Flairpool said: “This means we will be able to save sellers at least £20,000 on average. It’s great news. The days of high street agents and their rip-off fees are numbered.”

Solicitor Jeremy Jarndyce, of Parchment Street, Winchester, said: “We welcome any move that will help the legal profession speed up our work on transactions.”

There is likely to be a substantial body of opposition, although not SPLINTA which previously led the battle.

Although it has yet to trade, SPLINTA last month become a proptech company, currently involved in a round of crowdfunding to raise £10m against a valuation of £450m.

The commencement order for the re-introduction of HIPs is pencilled in for next April 1.

Labour has said it will fight it tooth and nail.