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News: Home info pack U-turn fiasco

Both pro-Hip and anti-Hip camps have reacted with concern to the government’s announcement yesterday that it plans to delay the introduction of the Home Inspection Report part of the Home Information Packs when ‘H’ day arrives next June.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper announced yesterday the survey element of the packs needed further testing and there were also concerns there will not be enough inspectors to cope with demands for home condition reports.

But the minister said the introduction of Hips would still go ahead as next June and although it would not be mandatory to include the home inspection report, it would still have to contain the energy performance certificate - so would still need an expert to visit and survey the property.

Only the Tory party seems to think it has won a battle, accusing the government of a ‘U-turn’.

Charles Smailes, President at the National Association of Estate Agents said: "The mandatory nature of Hips continues to be a concern."

"The government acknowledges the home condition report cannot be included because of a lack of home inspectors. However as the energy efficiency report was originally part of the home condition report, questions must be asked over who will be tasked with collating this information."

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said they were are pleased that the government has recognised the considerable risks of a 'big bang' approach to introducing Hips, having always insisted the timetable was too ‘challenging’. "Consumer demand, and not the government, will now drive take-up of home condition reports."

But the CML recognised there would be a mixed reaction from lenders and other stakeholders to today's announcement. CML head of policy Jackie Bennett said, "For those that have invested heavily to deliver and use home condition reports from next June, the lack of compulsion will be a disappointment."

Anti-Hip campaigners are hoping this is the first stage of a major watering down of the scheme. Trevor Kent, former president of National Association of Estate Agents said: " Ms Cooper apparently still wishes sellers to spend money on searches, a Thermal Efficiency Report and other information when marketing."

"I hope she will realise in due course that even this watered down version of the HIP will be both expensive and unnecessary, and I call on her to drop the whole concept before any more millions of tax-payers money is wasted."

Several sources are looking to reduce the 14-day waiting period before a house is marketed. Nick Salmon of anti-home information pack (HIP) campaign SPLINTA said he thought Yvette Cooper was considering removing the need to wait 14 days before marketing a property, whilst the HIP is prepared. The NAEA also believe the 14-day period will be removed.

Consumer campaigners Which? reacted angrily to the government’s announcement by sending a letter to Ruth Kelly stating that it was withdrawing its support for the pack.

Nick Stace, campaigns and communications director at Which? said: "The new Department for the Communities is not worthy of its title, it seems incapable of defending people in our communities making the biggest purchasing decision of their lives."

"The homebuyer was looking to the government to hold firm in the face of criticism from the estate agents, instead the government has shown its house is made of straw."

"Even estate agents are trusted more than politicians which is hardly surprising when politicians seem incapable of defending homebuyers. The new 'half-HIP' will be a useless but a very expensive waste of time."

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