House sellers' packs to be compulsory by 2007

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The Independent Online

The Government finally pushed the button on plans to speed up the process of buying a house this week, announcing that it would be making Home Information Packs (Hips) compulsory for all people selling their homes from January 2007.

The Government finally pushed the button on plans to speed up the process of buying a house this week, announcing that it would be making Home Information Packs (Hips) compulsory for all people selling their homes from January 2007.

After more than three years of consultation and several trials across England and Wales, the Government ruled out the idea of making Hips - or sellers' packs, as they are better known - a voluntary option, and finally settled on a timetable for the new scheme. The new rules will mean that every property seller in England and Wales will have to compile a pack including details of local searches, any planning permissions, and a Home Condition Report (HCR). The HCR will consist of details about the property's energy consumption, as well as a basic structural survey. Rules in Scotland will be unchanged.

The Government's move to make the packs compulsory, comes in spite of House of Lords opposition. The Housing Bill is to have its second reading in the Commons next week.

Commenting on the decision, Keith Hill, the housing minister, said: "Voluntary packs will simply not work. The industry, especially the lenders, knows this and has made it clear it cannot invest in or prepare for a process where there is no certainty of universal use of Home Information Packs.

"The Lords' vote has scuppered the regulation of estate agents, for which there was widespread support, particularly from the estate agents themselves. The consumer deserves more than being left in a buying-selling system that does not operate effectively or offer any form of redress."

The Government estimates that its move to introduce sellers' packs will cost the average homeowner £635 when they put their property on the market. However, these costs will be saved when the seller moves to buy their next property.

Those who fail to provide a pack could be subject to a fine of up to £200, under new powers given to trading standards officers. Prospective buyers will be given the right to sue sellers for the recovery of costs involved in obtaining the relevant documentation themselves.

Mr Hill added that the sellers' pack initiative was desperately needed if the UK was going to bring its "embarrassingly slow" housing market up to the speed of transactions in other European countries.

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