AHIPP mounts Tory Party legal challenge
The Association of Home Information Pack Providers has sought legal counsel on whether it has grounds to sue the Conservative Party if it wins the general election next year and upholds its pledge to scrap Home Information Packs.
In a letter seen by The Negotiator and sent to AHIPP members last month, AHIPP chairman and Simply HIP director Ashley King states: “Taking at face value [shadow housing minister] Grant Shapps’ statement that ‘HIPs are History’, AHIPP has thought it prudent to obtain counsel’s opinion upon the legal position should he try to make good his threat. I am pleased to be able to tell you that counsel’s robust opinion is that there are several grounds upon which the HIP industry could mount an effective legal challenge to any attempt to scrap or suspend HIPs.”
King adds: “Even if HIPs as we currently know them do not survive, I firmly believe they will be replaced by something else produced by our industry. To achieve this goal we must continue our lobbying and the fight to achieve the tipping point, which gets politicians to acknowledge that further reform is the only viable option.”
In the letter, which underpins phase two of AHIPP’s Tory campaign, King requests a £1,000 contribution from executive members and £500 and £250 from associate and affiliate members respectively, to fund the fight. This follows contributions made by members earlier this year to help fund phase one of the campaign. Both rounds of additional contributions are in addition to members' annual AHIPP fees. King states that only AHIPP members who commit to the additional contributions will receive a copy of counsel’s opinion, which he claimed only two members had done at the time of writing.
Industry sources deny that the letter is an admission by the association that it foresees the death of HIPs next year, insisting that counsel opinion is part and parcel of a form of disaster recovery, which any competent business would devise.
The letter preceded AHIPP’s latest Tory working group meeting on Wednesday, which was created to devise ways to lobby the Tory Party about its perceived value of HIPs.
As Shapps reiterated at the Tory party conference in Manchester last month, he plans to scrap HIPs if the Tories win the election, denouncing them as pointless red tape. Speaking to The Negotiator about King's letter, he says: "Once again AHHIP is leading their members up a garden path by asking them to pay yet more money for pointless legal advice. No legal challenge can successfully trump a manifesto pledge and primary legislation. It's a fact that no parliament can bind a future parliament, and so there will be no legal route to blocking the abolition of HIPs."
He adds: "I don't know how to get this through to AHIPP, but HIPs are history under the next Conservative government."
News of AHIPP's strategy follows calls for the introduction of temporary legislation to make a new legal pack compulsory. Rob Hailstone, conveyancer and founder of the newly-created Bold Group, which has been launched to campaign for the replacement of the HIP with a property legal pack, says: “Many property professionals have accepted that HIPs will be discontinued or dramatically modified in the near future. The question is, what should replace HIPs? Despite acknowledged drawbacks, HIPs have achieved some of the benefits of making buying a home simpler and less stressful. We want to build on this beginning by helping to define the property legal pack of the future.”
"It would be wrong to go back to a pre-HIP property selling process, we must keep the momentum of change and improvement going and strive towards producing an exchange-ready product as often as possible. I therefore suggest making searches voluntary, engaging a solicitor or conveyancer when a property is first marketed, bringing back the ability to market a property for sale once a pack has been ordered and introducing a temporary period of legislation to make the new pack compulsory. After that temporary period the commissioning of the pack should become voluntary and the property industry will be able to decide whether or not it continues working with it.”
In a recent survey of over 2,000 solicitors, conveyancers, estate agents and other property professionals undertaken by the Bold Group last month, 74.5% agree that HIPs should be adapted and renamed, with 80% believing that a cheaper, more comprehensive pack allowing first day marketing should be developed and 85.7% believing that adding additional document to a pack, such as planning permissions, guarantees and building regulation approvals would help speed up sales. Further, 91.2% of respondents believe that pack providers should be regulated.
Separately, Simply HIP has launched an upgraded pack. As of November 9, all of the firm’s packs will be upgraded to its exchange-ready design, which means that in addition to the documents contained in a standard HIP, they will include a contract for sake prepared by a lawyer, a seller property information form, additional documents referred to in the Register, copies of planning permissions, building regulations consents and guarantees supplied by the seller, plus a lawyer’s certificate confirming that the pack is exchange-ready.
King says: “Now is the time to upgrade to a product that truly delivers what everyone wants; speed, certainty and less stress, and without incurring additional cost.”
King declined to comment on the letter.
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