Was RICS right to disrupt the implementation of Home Information Packs?

CHRIS HARRIS is legal services director at LMS

No. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors represents 130,000 surveyors who pay it substantial membership fees. Home Information Packs represent a new order – home inspectors and domestic energy assessors would do some of the work of those surveyors, but wouldn’t necessarily join RICS. Little wonder then that it is anti-HIP.

Its public position is that the industry isn’t ready to implement HIPs, there hasn’t been enough consultation and Energy Performance Certificates aren’t needed when properties are marketed.

But LMS and the Association of Home Information Pack Providers have been ready from well before the initial June 1 deadline. Our systems, technology and staff are in place. There are enough home inspectors and domestic energy ass-essors to get HIPs off the ground. However, their accreditation, some of which is the responsibility of RICS, is lagging behind so we’ve asked it why it has been so tardy.

And there’s been consultation on HIPs between the government and the industry over the past four years. By its own admission, RICS’ application for a judicial review related to a narrow consultation issue. It was a delaying tactic.

Climate change is a major threat and EPCs will encourage sellers to make immediate cuts to their energy use while enabling buyers to make informed decisions.

RICS’ own research on the subject, Transforming Existing Buildings: The Green Challenge, states: “With buildings contributing 44% of carbon emissions, the challenge for government is how to reduce these emissions in existing building stock.”

And it demands “political leadership and real action… the adoption of more affordable energy efficient alternatives, easier access to information and concerted action”.

Isn’t this precisely what EPCs will do?

JACKIE BENNETT is head of policy at the Council of Mortgage Lenders

The purpose of RICS’ judicial review was not to disrupt the implementation of Home Information Packs – it was to subject the government’s lack of process to proper scrutiny.

So to make RICS a scapegoat for fundamental failings in public policy is unfair. Just as Tony Blair blamed the government’s U-turn last year over compulsory Home Condition Reports on the Council of Mortgage Lenders, so it seems that RICS is being blamed for the HIP fiasco.

Although we were not a party to the judicial review, we were supportive of it. The issue here is not about being pro or anti-HIP, but about the extent to which business is prepared to let Whitehall get away with ignoring its own principles for better regulation.

On this occasion, the government sought to implement HIPs without proper consultation, testing or evidence of their likely impact.

It seems clear that the government’s decision to delay the implementation of HIPs to August 1 and then initially only for four-bedroom properties was based primarily on the number of energy assessors available.

The government clearly did a simple calculation, which is what underpins the latest delay. Only about a fifth of the energy assessors needed are available, while four-bedroom properties comprise about a fifth of the housing stock. See how it works?

But what doesn’t work is the assumption that the available assessors will be in the right place. If they are not, the car journeys involved to visit properties for EPC purposes may produce their own unintended carbon consequences.

Like RICS, we want to work with the government to im-prove property transactions and reduce climate change. But HIPs inspire no confidence that they can deliver either.