Country houses for sale

Tories lose HIPs vote

Government ministers have failed to carry out proper consultation on Home Information Packs (HIPs), according to evidence submitted to a judicial review by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Meanwhile the parliamentary challenge to the introduction of HIPs faltered in the Commons yesterday by 234, votes to 306. Michael Gove, the Conservative housing spokesman warned that HIPs would have a ‘big and jarring’ effect on the process of buying and selling property, but housing minister Yvette Cooper manged to convince the House that the scheme should go ahead. The Lords debates the issue next Wedensday.

HIPs are intended to act as a kind of survey a vendor gives potential buyers, which also includes an energy performance certificate ? a look at how energy efficient your house is, and the Government has said that sellers must have a correct HIP when they put their house in the market from June 1.

However, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) wants to at least delay the implementation of the packs because it says there are not enough surveyors qualified to carry out the extra work involved, and also because buyers will still want to get their own surveys done, rather than trust something commissioned by a vendor.

The idea has also recently been criticised by a House of Lords report, which stated that HIPs have not been fully thought through, and they are not destined to ‘meet their policy objective.’

Many other bodies, including the National Association of Estate Agents, the Law Society and Which, have also stated concerns about HIPs and their implementation. Some consider the whole scheme to have been rushed, while others are concerned about how the property market will shape up post-June considering how many vendors could put their property up for sale before by the cut-off date, a move which will affect the market for the rest of the year.

Conservative housing spokesman Michael Gove commented: ‘It is unprecedented for a professional body to challenge the Government in this way, which only emphasises how shambolic the Government’s handling of HIPs has been.’

David Masters, a partner at London-based Dawsons Solicitors says: ‘This is an unprecedented move by the RICS to raise the controversial issue of HIPS ahead of the crucial vote in the House of Commons. Whether or not the courts agree to review the adequacy of the consultation process, the only sure way to stop HIPs coming into effect on 1st June is for the majority of MPs to vote against it.’

The move from RICS comes as MPs look forward to a Commons debate on the subject tomorrow following the tabling of a motion by David Cameron which calls for them to be annulled. A debate in the House of Lords is to take place next week on May 22.

The Department for Community and Local Government, however, remains determined to go ahead with the its plans, saying that the June 1 date still stands, and that any challenges which may be made to the scheme are groundless.