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EDITOR’S BLOG: HIP operation should be replaced – pronto

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27/04/2007

I might be talking of a matter here that my colleagues on ‘Your Mortgage’ probably feel is more their area but, hey, it concerns your money (and quite a bit of it), so what the hell, here goes anyway.

This is the vexed question of the Home Information Pack (HIP), the Government-“inspired” document that ostensibly tells homebuyers about your property if you want to flog it. As a journalist I usually have to write about these matters in a restrained and factual way, reporting the facts as they become apparent and trying to balance different views of the subject to give you, the reader, the chance to make a fair appraisal.

Note that “usually”, because here I am going to tear into one of the most misguided and inequitable pieces of Government-foisted tosh I have had the misfortune to deal with since Margaret Thatcher’s awful Poll Tax, a local tax system that came as close to provoking mass civil disobedience in this country as any other political measure I can recall in my lifetime. And if HIPs don’t foment a revolution of law-abiding citizens in this country I don’t know what will, because this is pants on a cosmic scale.

Basically, the deal is this. If you want to sell your house, before you put up that ‘For Sale’ board, you will from 1st June have to spend £600 on a report that tells potential purchasers about your property and which includes an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which shows how ‘environmentally-friendly’ your place is. The fact that a Domestic Energy Assessor (love that jobsworth title!) will probably have to drive to your place in a carbon monoxide-producing motor to undertake their poking about seems to have escaped the boffins who drew up this daft plan – but there you go.

Anyway, you then have to submit to the ministrations of more posy professionals as Land Registry and local searches will have to be added to your precious EPC, along with a sale statement, an index and details of lease and management, if applicable. This pile of dross could run to 150 pages and, given that the National Audit Office reckons only half the adult population has a reading age better than that of a 16-year-old, you can imagine that these packs will not become the Harry Potter publishing sensation of the property world.

I really do not want to quote Mike Ockenden, director general (love that job title too!) of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?), but a residual sense of professional fairness obliges me to. “While the journey hasn’t been smooth, HIPs are set to transform the homebuying process for all involved,” he says portentously, as if he’s just discovered the Holy Grail at the bottom of his wardrobe.

Well, yes, Mike, they are indeed. They are going to transform an already difficult and stressful process into an almost impossible one; they are going to waste people’s money at a time when they need every penny; they are going to lead to endless delays (there’s a 14-day ban on marketing your home from the day you want to do this and a £200 fine if you don’t get your HIP), appeals and all the bureaucracy a plan conceived, incubated and finally hatched by civil servants could want. And, before you ask, I used to be a civil servant – the only job where working to a “tight deadline” means bringing something to fruition some time in the next decade (which is how long HIPs have taken to launch).

In short, HIPs are unwanted, unnecessary and are destined to be unloved by a populace that will rightly view them as a hindrance to their efforts to sell their properties rather than a help. Your solicitor and your mortgage lender will not see a shred of use in your HIP – as, indeed, will no one else.

Oh, I could go on all day. But, mark my words, HIPs are nonsense and one attractive election promise the opposition parties could dangle in front of the electorate is their immediate abolition if they got into power. A guaranteed vote winner, chums.

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