Property plan aims to end misery of gazumping

Click to follow

Moves to speed up the buying and selling of homes and end "gazumping" will become law under a wide-ranging Homes Bill unveiled yesterday.

Moves to speed up the buying and selling of homes and end "gazumping" will become law under a wide-ranging Homes Bill unveiled yesterday.

Before putting a property on the market, sellers or their agents will be required to provide a "homebuyer's pack" of standard, essential information for prospective buyers.

The Bill will also tackle homelessness by strengthening the duty on councils to house those in most need, including care leavers, soldiers and ex-prisoners.

Leasehold reform is also promised, but campaigners for change will be disappointed that the speech said only that "progress will be made" rather than promising legislation.

The ambitious plan to simplify the homebuying process will affect about 1.5 million people every year. Buyers now have to spend hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pounds on preparatory work for a property purchase, which can be lost if a seller accepts a higher bid and they are "gazumped".

Ministers are determined to make the process of buying a home faster and more transparent and consumer-friendly. The contents of the compulsory pack would include title documents, replies to preliminary enquiries and any planning, listed building and building regulation consents. Warranties and guarantees for work carried out on the property would be included, together with a draft contract, replies to local authority searches and a home condition report based on a professional survey.

Leaseholders would have to provide the lease, up-to-date service charge accounts and receipts, buildings insurance details and regulations, and memos made by the landlord or management company.

It would be a criminal offence to market a home without a seller's pack, but to avoid unnecessary court proceedings, a system of fixed-penalty fines would be adopted.

Nick Raynsford, the Housing minister, decided to go ahead with the plans after a pilot scheme in Bristol found that the packs speeded up the process.

However, there were warnings yesterday that the Bristol study had been far from conclusive and suggesting that sellers would not want to pay the £500 cost of the pack.

Sue Anderson, spokeswoman for the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said: "The house condition report is the point which is causing us the most concern, as it is still unclear who should be employed to carry it out. More work is needed."

But the council welcomed plans to scrap the current system of leaseholds on many homes and replace it with a new commonhold scheme. This would provide owners in flats and multi-occupier schemes with the same security as freehold owners, and give them greater rights to buy freeholds.

Ms Anderson said: "We are big supporters of these plans and have pushed for them for years. It will mean that we can finally get rid of this outdated system, which causes many problems in the market."