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Home Information Packs

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department (a) has spent to date and (b) plans to spend to promote awareness of home information packs. (74479)

The Government have a duty to inform property professions, stakeholders and home buyers and sellers about the forthcoming change in the law. Expenditure for the 2005-06 financial year was £706,000. This includes the cost of an extensive trade advertising campaign to raise awareness of the June 2007 implementation date within the home buying and selling professions.

Planned expenditure of £2,500,000 for 2006-07 includes continued awareness raising within the professions and a national and regional advertising campaign to raise awareness of home information packs among consumers, during the dry run.

In 2007-08 we expect to run a major information campaign for consumers which would include marketing, advertising and publicity. The extent of the campaign and the level of investment will be decided later in the year on the basis of the experience of the dry run.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the principle of caveat emptor will continue to apply to house purchasers in relation to home information packs; whether standard conditions of sale in house purchase contracts will be able to exclude the vendor from any future liability as a result of information contained in home information packs after contracts have been exchanged; and whether members of the public will have electronic access to full individual reports stored in the Home Condition Report Register. (75412)

The principle of caveat emptor will continue to apply.

Sellers are unlikely to be the source of most of the documents required for home information packs—it is the author who remains liable for the contents of individual documents. Where the seller has made statements or representations in the pack, the lawfulness of any attempt to exclude liability for such statements would be for a court to decide. However, it is expected that the position will be no different to that in relation to statements currently made by a seller before contracts are exchanged—in particular, the Misrepresentation Act 1967 requires that any such contractual terms must be fair and reasonable, and the buyer would be entitled to damages if they entered into the contract following a misrepresentation and they suffered loss as a result.

The only people who will have access to the Home Condition Report Register will be buyers and sellers, their advisers and mortgage lenders, and those monitoring the performance and quality of the reports.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which organisations are entitled to produce home information packs; what guidelines are in place on what should be included; and what avenues exist for a leaseholder to refuse to pay for a pack that is inferior or defective in information required. (75980)

There are no restrictions on those who are able to put together home information packs. The packs will normally be commissioned by sellers or their agents from providers willing and able to undertake this role for a consideration. The contents of the Packs are prescribed in regulations made under the Housing Act 2004.

Leaseholders will be able to seek redress in the same way as freeholders, either from the pack provider or from their agent, depending on the source of their complaint.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people are (a) qualified, (b) in training and (c) registered to take courses for the delivery of home condition reports; and what the average cost is of this training. (75981)

As of 31 May 2006, over 4,400 home inspectors are in the process of being trained, and 232 have completed their training. The amount of training required, and therefore the cost, depends on previous experience. For an experienced surveyor with relevant experience, the cost is estimated to be around £1,600 to £1,800. For a candidate with no relevant experience, training would take longer and is estimated to cost around £6,700 to £8,000.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in which areas home information packs will be piloted; and what opportunities there will be to bring forward their introduction if buyer and vendor agree to this. (75982)

Home information packs (HIPs) will be tested on a voluntary basis throughout England and Wales during the period leading up to 1 June 2007. Packs that contain home condition reports prepared by certified home inspectors should be available from October 2006. HIP providers are expected to trial the packs in a number of areas after this date; the areas have yet to be confirmed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how the (a) quality and (b) accuracy of facts provided in home information packs will be monitored; and if she will make a statement. (77482)

The quality and accuracy of documents included in the HIP will be the responsibility of the provider of the document (as is the case under the current system). For example, the home inspector will be responsible for the home condition report, search providers for their reports and the seller for the forms they complete. The principle of caveat emptor will still apply, and the buyer's conveyancer should ensure they are satisfied with the information provided. Consumers will be able to get redress if they incur a loss due to inaccurate information.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether (a) mortgage lenders and (b) estate agents will be charged to have access to the Home Condition Report Register electronic database. (66776)

I have been asked to reply.

Access to view reports will be via the local registers and will be restricted to persons prescribed by regulations. This will include buyers’ and sellers’ mortgage lenders and estate agents. We are currently considering the basis for charging in relation to the register, but we envisage such access will be free of charge.

Reports must also be lodged onto the central register, by the home inspector or certification scheme. We anticipate that a fee will be charged for this registration process.