Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Sunday, 5 April 2009 00:11 UK

Tougher home pack rules in force

Homes for sale
Since their inception Hips have proved to be a controversial measure

New rules have come into force which mean home owners must have a home information pack (Hip) in place before putting their property on the market.

Previously, sellers could simply order a Hip before erecting a for-sale sign.

Vendors must also set out extra details such as the home's council tax band in a new questionnaire.

The government has welcomed the changes saying they offer buyers in England and Wales more clarity but critics attacked Hips as an "expensive waste of time".

"Hips provide buyers with a great deal of important information that should be taken into consideration before making an offer, from the home's energy efficiency to local search information," said Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of Hip Providers.

He added that the new Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) detailing important pre-sale information such as the home's council tax band, parking arrangements, utilities and any structural alterations would be vital for buyers as they consider whether to make an offer.

If a property is put up for sale without the mandatory Hip and PIQ, estate agents or private sellers can face fines of at least £200.

Opposition

However, many estate agents remain highly critical of the Hips scheme and claim the new rules will cause even more problems.

NEW QUESTIONNAIRE INCLUDES:
Council tax band
Structural alterations
Flood risk
Parking arrangements
Lease details (for leasehold properties)
Source: DCLG

Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), claims the Hips scheme has been a failure and a costly and unnecessary burden that vendors must shoulder.

"An expensive waste of time is counterproductive at the best of times, but in a housing slump Hips are downright damaging," he said.

According to the NAEA, government figures indicate that 77% of home buyers paid no attention to Hips.

Critics argue that the new rules will delay anyone hoping to sell their property quickly as owners will have to wait at least three to five days to get the required information needed for a Hip.

Opponents of the scheme also argue that many solicitors do not use the Hips but instead rely on other searches, making it an unnecessary expense.



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