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Home Information Packs

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

The Government set out their approach and criteria for phasing the implementation of Home Information Packs (HIPs) including Energy Performance Certificates on 11 June. Sixty per cent of the market is now covered by HIPs. And the criteria for roll out to the rest of the market have now been met. We will therefore complete the phased roll out by extending coverage to the rest of the market from 14 December.

First time buyers of one and two bedroom homes will be the main beneficiaries as they will now get important information about their new home for free. Information such as searches for which they would previously have had to pay will now be included in the HIP paid for by the seller, reducing the costs of the first step onto the property ladder.

But all householders will benefit from having detailed information about the energy efficiency of their home, and measures to save on their fuel bills and cut carbon emissions.

Two hundred thousand Energy Performance Certificates have been generated since the summer. The analysis of the early phase of rollout of HIPs found that the average rating for homes was an E, and we know that approximately one-fifth of all homes are likely to get an F or G rating. This means that basic measures could significantly cut both fuel bills and carbon emissions. The Energy Savings Trust have also estimated that homeowners could also save around £300 a year on fuel bills from implementing the recommendations in the Energy Performance Certificate.

We will establish a new Green Homes Service to offer those buying or selling a home with an F or G rating free or discounted help with energy efficiency measures, by linking them up with grants and loans provided by energy companies and others. Home buyers could potentially be eligible for hundreds of pounds to get help with insulation or other improvements.

As set out in the criteria of 11 June there are now sufficient energy assessors and home inspectors fully qualified and accredited to provide Energy Performance Certificates for all homes bought and sold. Some 5794 people are now accredited.

In addition, the government has also conducted monitoring and analysis of the implementation programme to ensure continued smooth roll out. Early monitoring shows:

HIPs are taking on average seven to 10 days to prepare.

The majority of property, and drainage and water searches, are being delivered within five days

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are being prepared on average within two to four days

On average, a HIP costs between £300 and £350. Most of these are not new costs, as they cover the cost of searches and other documents which have simply been transferred from buyer to seller at the beginning of the process. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is of course new but provides consumers with valuable information of the costs of running their home.

Competition from HIPs is reducing the costs of average property searches. Eighty-five local authorities have already reduced their charges by £30 on average.

The Government have also commissioned and considered extensive analysis by Europe Economics on the impact of HIPs on the market. We are today publishing their independent report which includes modelling on the impact as well as analysis of the first few months of implementation. It finds no evidence of any impact on transactions or prices, although there is a predicted short term impact on new listings as sellers change the timings of their listings. It concludes that the impact on listings is short lived, and the impact on the market is marginal compared to the wider factors.

We also asked Europe Economics and Dr. Peter Williams who is a member of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit to consider whether changing housing market conditions meant we should change the approach to completing the roll out. Their conclusion was that there are strong arguments for rolling out as planned, and that further delay could cause greater difficulties and uncertainties in the market.

In the light of this evidence therefore we will tomorrow lay the commencement order to extend HIPs and EPCs to one and two bedroom properties from 14 December. In order to ensure continued smooth implementation, we are also extending the temporary provisions on first day marketing for all properties from 1 January to 1 June, providing flexibility for sellers as part of the roll out to one and two bedroom properties.

The implementation of Home Information Packs so far, and the work of the Stakeholder Panel, has also highlighted further improvements that are needed to benefit consumers.

HIPs have already led to improvements in the delivery and cost of searches, with significant reductions in the cost of searches, and in some areas, substantial reductions in the delays in producing searches. However, there are still wide variations in costs and services and we want to see further improvements for consumers. We will therefore publish guidance on access and charging in December for local authorities and personal searchers with the aim of speeding up searches and delivering a fairer deal for consumers.

We have asked Ted Beardsall, Deputy Chief Executive of the Land Registry—and member of our Home Buying and Selling Stakeholder Panel—to advise on what else could be done to improve the search process, ensuring better quality and timeliness of information, and improving value for money for consumers.

Stakeholders have also raised concerns about the costs and timeliness of leasehold information, and the impact that this will have on Home Information Packs when one and two bedroom properties are included given the higher number of leasehold properties. In the majority of cases we would expect leasehold documents to be readily available and easily provided as part of Home Information Packs. However we are aware that some leaseholders, whether in the pre-existing system or creating a HIP, can find the relevant documents difficult to obtain quickly. We know that some also face disproportionate charges to access their documents.

As leasehold information is an important part of the home buying and selling process, and is already generally paid for and provided by the seller, we continue to believe there are considerable advantages to consumers from having leasehold information early on in the Home Information Pack. However, to ensure continued smooth roll out we will phase the introduction of leasehold information in response to stakeholder concerns. We will temporarily amend the HIP regulations so that the lease document itself must be included, but other leasehold information will be introduced as a requirement in six months time. This will allow HIPs for one and two bedroom properties to bed down in advance of leasehold information being required. In the interim, we have also asked Ted Beardsall to advise us and the Home Buying Stakeholder panel on what more can be done to improve the timeliness and cost of leasehold information, alongside the work on searches.

From April 2008, we will begin to roll out EPCs for newly built homes, as well as across commercial property for sale, rent or construction. By October 2008 all public buildings will have a display certificate.

All these measures are designed to promote the interests of the consumer. We will continue to actively monitor the rollout of HIPs and energy performance certificates and the home buying and selling process to ensure we can respond where further improvements are needed. The introduction of HIPs is part of a wider programme of reforms to home buying and selling including e-conveyancing and better redress, which aims to provide consumers with a clearer, more transparent and effective service, with better value for money, benefiting all potential homebuyers and helping in tackling climate change.