The Coalition Government has suspended Home Information Packs (HIPs) for anyone selling their properties from the 21st May 2010.

HIPs were intended to speed up the Conveyancing process, by being produced before a vendor placed their property on the market with much of the required Conveyancing information. Many saw merit in the original proposal but HIPs have remained controversial since their introduction in 2007.

Many would agree that HIPs have in fact delayed the Conveyancing process, as some HIPs were being produced after properties were placed on the market; some even after properties were being sold.

HIPs are often incomplete, and missing vital and useful information to purchasers as a result of cost and time cutting, which often leads to delays in the Conveyancing process. Most HIP producers also include personal searches on grounds of price, even though these are not accepted by the majority of purchasers’ Solicitors.

In October 2008, Birmingham Trading Standards inspected HIPs at 15 Estate agents, randomly selecting 5 for scrutiny. All contained false or misleading search information, and officers suggested that private search companies were short-circuiting the system to save money.

Sean Barrow, a solicitor with 30 years experience, said “The initial idea sounded great. However, in reality, the required information to make the packs worthwhile was not enforced, and provided no real benefit to the buyer at the start, middle or end of the Conveyancing process.

The other major issue was that most mortgage lenders either don’t accept personal searches full stop, or they pass the risk on to the individual solicitor. The cost difference between personal and full searches is minimal, but this is often the margin which the providers keep as profit.”

Grant Shapps, Conservative MP, also highlights the personal search problem which is paramount to the HIP debacle. “Each Search is now duplicated; first by the person selling their home in order to legally comply with HIP law, and then again by the solicitor acting on behalf of the person buying the property.”

Personal Searches are searches created by private companies using information from the Local Authorities. Full Local Searches are searches created by the Local Authorities themselves, for example Cheshire East Council.

Jackson Barrett & Gass took the opportunity to add value to the packs by adding extra documents earlier on in the process such as planning permissions, guarantees and court proceedings, thus ensuring the seller and purchaser have all the information required from the outset. Jackson Barrett & Gass also used full local searches in their HIPs which won them many plaudits.

Jackson Barrett & Gass became the first Cheshire law firm to win a Law Society Excellence Award for a commitment to supporting house sales including a Home Information Pack (HIP) of a high standard at a low price, and in doing so, claimed the 2009 Marketing & Business Development Award. They were also named as a finalist in the Chartered Institute of Marketing Excellence Awards 2009.

Marketing Manager, Rick Barrow, said “We are very proud to have taken our stance on Home Information Packs. We saw that HIPs could have worked had the idea been enforced and implemented as it should have been by the Labour Government. The problem with HIPs laid with those putting the packs together, not the idea.”

The only remnant of HIPs is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The EPC is part of European Legislation, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which all European members must adopt. The current Government decided to incorporate the Directive into their own scheme.

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