News: Hips certification to operate from October

Progress towards home information packs (Hips) is accelerating, says the ODPM and approved inspection schemes will begin to run from October.

As from 1 June 2007, homeowners will be required to provide a Home Information Pack when marketing their homes for sale throughout England and Wales. The Pack will include a Home Condition Report, terms of sale and any search details. An energy efficiency rating will be included in the report, giving consumers the choice to assess the likely running costs of a property before they buy.

The dry run has already begun with 45 organisations in England and Wales already providing more than 2500 packs on a voluntary basis. The Association of Home Information Pack Providers will be rolling out voluntary Hips in the regions during 2006 and 2007.

From August, the first certification schemes, which will ensure the work of Home Inspectors meets government standards, will be approved. Currently seven organisations have applied to run the certification schemes.

The approved schemes should begin to operate from October 2006, with qualified, certificated Home Inspectors able to register the Home Condition Report and deliver authorised reports to consumers.

At the same time a rigorous testing process will be put in place for example, Home Inspectors' work will be assessed through the Certification Schemes and consumers will be surveyed to ensure they can understand the contents of the Pack and the Home Condition Report to use them effectively.

Between 5000 and 7400 full time Home Inspectors will be required to complete an estimated 1.44 million Home Condition Reports each year. Over 4000 people have begun training to gain the Home Inspector qualification.

Yvette Cooper said: "The current system isn't fair on buyers or sellers. £1million is wasted every day when sales fall through and too many buyers and sellers face real headaches when it turns out they were misled or that problems emerge when it's too late."

"Home Information Packs have been long called for by consumer groups to give people reliable information at the beginning of the process. Now the dry run will make sure that all aspects of the Packs are properly tested before being fully introduced next year."

From January 2007, lenders will be able to acquire Home Condition Reports electronically from a register and use them for valuation assessments as part of their lending decisions.

This month will also see the Home Information Pack advertising campaign kick off with advertisements placed in trade and online media designed to raise awareness of the new arrangements amongst to estate agents, solicitors, mortgage lenders, surveyors and Pack providers.

The campaign will be extended later in 2006 to inform and educate homeowners and first time buyers as to what they will need to do as implementation date draws nearer.

As momentum gathers in the run up to 1 June 2007, the ODPM has created a dedicated website at www.homeinformationpacks.gov.uk - for industry and consumers. The site will provide detailed, up-to-date information, including case studies, FAQs, leaflets, regular e-newsletters, event details and other useful links.

In response, Trevor Kent, former president of The National Association of Estate Agents, and a fervent Anti-Home Information Pack campaigner, has poured scorn on the progress announced by the ODPM.

"What arrant nonsense this is" says Mr Kent, " the ODPM's so called dry run is being conducted for them exclusively by companies already totally committed mentally and financially to the introduction of the new scheme."

Trevor Kent suggests that with so much investment already invested by the industry their reporting from dry runs will be less than honest.

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