Page last updated at 21:30 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 22:30 UK

Suspend home packs, Tories urge

Home Information Pack
Home Information Packs have proved controversial

The Conservatives are urging ministers to suspend Home Information Packs to help boost the housing market.

They say they are deterring speculative sellers, reducing sales, and stopping people from switching estate agents.

A clause in the legislation, introduced as a concession to the House of Lords, could be used to suspend them immediately, the Conservatives say.

The government said it had no plans to suspend Hips and said global pressures were behind problems with the market.

Last month estate agents called for a review of the packs, which are compulsory in England and Wales and were designed to stop sales falling through.

'Unnecessary red tape'

The Conservatives say they can be suspended immediately - and say the government could still require homes to have energy performance certificates - included in the Hips - to meet EU requirements.

Housing spokesman Grant Shapps said: "If Gordon Brown genuinely wanted to help the beleaguered housing market, he would use his powers to suspend this harmful regulation and save homebuyers' money.

We have absolutely no plans to suspend HIPs
Department for Communities and Local Government

"These little-known provisions to suspend Hips were introduced for a reason - to undo the regulations quickly if it all went wrong. The next Conservative government will scrap this unnecessary red tape completely, but a suspension now would deliver those benefits sooner rather than later."

The Halifax reported this month that UK house prices recorded an annual fall of 10.9% in August - the first double digit drop since 1983. Research by property website Globrix suggested 53% properties up for sale in August had been on the market for 90 days, without finding a buyer.

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said other factors were widely acknowledged to be behind the slump in the housing market.

He said: "We have absolutely no plans to suspend HIPs."

They included important information to help families cut fuel bills and carbon emissions, reduced the cost of property searches and made the house-buying process more transparent, he argued.

"First-time buyers are also receiving the information in the HIP for free, helping to reduce costs for households looking to get on to the property ladder," he said.

"It is widely acknowledged by experts that the current challenges are a result of global economic pressures also being experienced in the USA and other parts of Europe."

Last week the government announced a package of measures aimed at boosting the housing market and to head off an increase in property repossessions, among them a 12-month stamp duty holiday for properties costing 175,000 or less.

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