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HIPs are a mess we will have to face

What a mess we are in. To be specific, what a mess Home Information Packs are in. In fact, it’s hard to understand how we have ended up in this position.

To say HIPs have had a difficult entry into the world would be an understatement. Apart from Wembley Stadium, what other projects have taken so long? HIPs were in the Labour manifesto for the 1997 election and in the 2001 Queen’s Speech. No fewer than six housing ministers have come and gone in that time.

Let’s cut to the chase. For those who will interpret my remarks as anti-HIP, think again. I first wrote about HIPs as far back as summer 2004. My position has not changed. How come it takes the same amount of time to buy and sell houses today as it did 60 years ago?

The premise behind HIPs is sound but of course the devil is in the detail. The detail has unfortunately been handled by Sir Humphreys.

The killer blow was the announcement by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister last summer that Home Condition Reports would not be mandatory. To many people, this seemed an unexpected and bizarre decision based on the political fallout that the imposition of HIPs could bring. If this was indeed the case it should have been on their radar in advance. Thousands of home inspectors were in the process of being trained or had recently completed their training when the announcement was made.

And there had been huge investment in new HIP businesses. To some companies, the ann-ouncement was their cue to exit the HIP arena. They could not visualise how HIPs could possibly work without mandatory HCRs – all the better for firms in it for the longer term and who understood there would be twists and turns.

Some 12 months on, the HIP rollout rumbles on. June 1 looks like being the witching hour for HIPs to go live. Calls for a delay to implementation have come from many angles – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Simon biddle Council of Mortgage Lenders to name but two prominent voices.

In many quarters there is a feeling that the system has not been tested to an acceptable degree and I agree to a large extent. Not wishing to be disparaging about the towns involved in the pilot – Newcastle, Southampton, Huddersfield, Northampton, Cambridge and Bath – these are not exactly teeming world cities.

The crunch comes in a few weeks because soon the machinery of government and legislation will put the last bricks in the wall. If I was a betting man I would err on the side of caution – unless this government wants to face yet another humiliation, when it comes to HIPs the blue touchpaper has been lit.

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