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HIPS: The History

From August 1st, HOME INFORMATION PACKS (HIPS) come into effect. But after a decade of delays, changes and u-turns, what exactly does this involve?


When the idea of HIPS was first launched in 1998, the government said they would "make the home buying and selling process more transparent, more certain, consumer friendly and faster". Up until then, it was the responsibility of the buyer to commission solicitors and surveyors in order to gather the legal documentation and be sure of the condition of a property. Quite often, a buyer would spend hundreds of pounds on this process, only to be gazumped in the final stages.

HIPS promised to change this. The original proposal was that sellers putting a property on the market must have a seller's pack in place before the property was released. This pack would include all the legal documentation, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which revealed how energy efficient the property was and a Home Condition Report (HRC) which would make clear any structural damage or faults to the property.

However, over the last ten years the scheme has been plagued by problems. Critics said HIPS would be too expensive, inaccurate and would slow down the market. There were also worries that there were not enough qualified surveyors to carry out the EPC and HRC surveys.

Furthermore, concerns were voiced about the Home Condition Report. There were worries that the reports would be ill-planned, inconclusive and that unqualified or unscrupulous surveyors would effectively be ‘bought off’ by sellers to conceal problems. In 2006, after criticism from everyone from the Liberal Democrats to Channel 4’s Kirstie Allsop(Location, Location, Location), the government announced their decision to drop HRCs from the pack.

Instead, the government began to focus on the Energy Performance Certificate, emphasizing the effect this would have on carbon emissions and citing EU Law, which says every home must have an EPC by 2009. Critics claimed this was 'greenwashing'.

By the start of this year, public opinion and industry bodies alike were staunchly against the scheme. Three major bodies – the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), the National Association of Estate Agents and the Law Society – wrote to the government asking for a meeting but the government did not respond. This led Rics to begin court proceedings in May to stop the scheme launching on June 1st as planned.

The government and Rics finally came to an agreement in late May. Phased introduction, a period of grace for sellers and a three-month extension on the age of EPCs means that HIPS are a vastly different proposition than they were when they were first introduced. Of course, some critics continue to voice their worries, claiming the scheme is merely a way of gathering information to facilitate an increase in taxes and calling HIPS 'irrelevant' and 'toothless'.

But however you feel about the subject, one thing is clear. They may be pale versions of their former incarnations but HIPS are finally here to stay.

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