HIPs come under attack from Labour MPs

3 January 2008

The Government department responsible for Home Information Packs has been attacked by its own committee of MPs for the “tortuous” way the controversial legislation was introduced.

HIPs were supposed to be fully introduced for residential properties from 1 June, but a late U-turn resulted in a phased introduction meaning HIPs only became compulsory for all homes in December.

Now the Communities and Local Government Committee has attacked its own department for failing to deliver the packs as promised. As well delaying the full introduction, it accuses then Secretary of State Ruth Kelly for weakening the packs by removing the compulsory Home Condition Report back in 2006.

A report by the Committee says: “The long and tortuous process of introducing HIPs signals another failure of delivery on Department for Communities and Local Government’s part, and the reasons for that failure lie in poor preparation and a retreat by the Department’s ministerial team.”

Yvette Cooper, the housing minister who oversaw the eventual introduction of HIPs and one of Gordon Brown’s closest allies, also faces accusations of losing her nerve.

The report goes on to say: “We can only conclude that decisions to delay the introduction of HIPs and then to phase them in for homes of different sizes across a period of months were taken on political rather than economic grounds, owing more to a failure of nerve in the face of vocal opposition from the press and others than to the general conditions prevailing in the housing market itself.”

Even stakeholders in HIPs have criticized the Government for the way the packs were introduced.

Mike Ockenden, director general of trade body the Association of Home Information Pack Providers, says: “The roll out of HIPs could have happened far quicker than actually occurred. We cannot change the past, however and with HIPs clearly not having the detrimental impact on the market that many forecast, it is time to move on.”

Estate agents and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have previously blamed HIPs for slowing down the housing market by deterring sellers from putting their homes on the market.

But the report from the Committee states it is too early to say what impact HIPs will have on the housing market and the early indications are that the packs are actually making life easier for buyers.

Dom Toller, director of marketing and new business at HIP provider LMS, says some smaller estate agents are breaking the law by not offering HIPs. He believes this this trend, along with negative consumer attitudes towards the packs, are a result of Government delays.

Toller says: "The Government has had a tough job but it failed to help consumer awareness by keeping quiet in the press and allowing critics of HIPs to spread negative messages. Now consumer confidence is damaged."  

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