Once a flagship of New Labour housing policy; the much maligned Home Information Pack (HIP) has been scrapped by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government. First introduced in 2007 for properties with four or more bedrooms in England and Wales, and then rolled out to all properties, the HIP was compulsory for all home owners who wished to market their home. As of 21st May 2010 the HIP is no more, as the coalition Government have taken advantage of a clause in the 2004 Housing Act to suspend the scheme, although the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will be retained.
The packs, which were paid for by sellers contained property information, title deeds and local searches with the aim of speeding up the selling process by having most of the conveyancing done in advance, but critics said that they simply stopped people putting their properties on the market. The Labour Government had intended for the pack to eventually include a home survey but that plan never reached fruition. Buyers will once more have to shell out for local searches, which cost around £200, but the sellers will still have to give the property an energy rating, which costs around £60.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps was in uncompromising mood when he announced the move: “Today the new Government is ensuring that Home Information Packs are history. 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.” The Tories also said that Labour had planned to use the packs to help justify council tax increases by creating a central database of information about properties.
Estate agents have welcomed the move; their view was that the packs, which cost between £299 and £350 stopped people putting their houses on the market to test the water. A spokesperson for the National Association of Estate Agents said: “It will be greeted enthusiastically by both the housing market and house buyers, few of whom have paid much attention to these pointless packs.”
This sentiment was echoed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Gillian Charlesworth of RICS also seemed to be pleased to see the back of them: “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.” Of course the shadow housing minister John Healy has a different view: “This announcement merely highlights the limits of their ambition and concern - pleasing estate agents rather than supporting first-time buyers.”
The Association of Home Information Pack Providers (AHIPP) estimates that there are between 3,000 and 10,000 people whose livelihoods depend, either directly or indirectly, on HIPs. The association says that it is now considering its options in the light of the decision but one proposal that they have put forward is that a legal or exchange ready pack should be instructed at the start of the sales process.