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UK investigation to reveal HIP Regs flouting, claims Shapps

Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps is on the verge of releasing new research he claims proves that non-compliance with Home Information Pack legislation is rife among agents across the UK.

Speaking exclusively to The Negotiator, Shapps says: “The data is from a range of agents across the country, so it‘s pretty authoritative stuff. I’m not publishing it quite yet, but I’m preparing it and it shows a very, very high degree of non-compliance with HIPs in the marketplace.

"It’s not that I’m encouraging anyone to break the law, but the fact is that they’re not working.”

The news follows Shapps’ call for the temporary suspension of HIPs. In an Early Day Motion - used by Members of Parliament to spark debate in the House of Commons - released this week, Shapps suggests that HIPs are having an adverse effect on the housing market. He calls for the Government suspend HIPs immediately and then introduce primary legislation to scrap them completely.

But Mike Ockenden, director-general of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers “It is clearly inaccurate to say HIPs have had an adverse effect on the market. Mandatory packs have been in place for nearly 18 months and the recent, dramatic slow down is a result of economic factors, not HIPs.
“You can not blame the cost of packs for stopping people putting their homes on the market because there are schemes out there that allow for no up-front payment and in the event of a seller’s house not selling there is no charge after 12 months.

The motion comes in spite of Shapps’ claim to The Negotiator on May 8 that he is open to the concept of an exchange-ready HIP.

He says: “I’m trying to be very reasonable I want to listen to their [AHIPP’s] concerns. The trouble is that every time I say anything to them like this, they run around excited that we’re going to change our policy. We’re not; we’re getting rid of HIPs - it will be the first thing I do as housing minister.

“The point that I was making about exchange-ready HIPs is that I’d be delighted if the industry wants to do things that make sense, like pulling the information together, and I know that some groups of estate agents have been getting together to make their own exchange-ready pack, but I don’t like the legislation around HIPs.

He adds: “I don’t want anyone to have false hope by thinking that HIPs are going to survive; they’re not, we’re going to scrap them.”

HIPs were first thrust into the limelight this week by The Partnership. In an interview with Channel Four on Monday, Peter Ambrose, director of The Partnership, branded agents who request referral fees as unethical.

Speaking to The Negotiator, he says: "I just got p****d off. We're being constantly challenged to offer kickbacks to retain business.

"If people want us to bribe them to do business they can go elsewhere. We never have and never will offer bribes."

Separately, Shapps says his study into the private rented sector, which he expects to be completed by the end of the year, may include tweaks to the tenancy deposit protection schemes if he deems them necessary after considering the mechanics of the schemes, plus the details of the alleged fraud allegations at Martin & Co, as exclusively revealed in The Negotiator today.

On the Government's proposal to create a landlord register, he says: "This is completely the wrong time to be introducing more red tape into the market. You would have thought that the Government learnt its lesson with HIPs, but the clearly it hasn't.

"All this kind of register is likely to do is track all the good landlords who already adhere to all of this stuff; the useless ones will find their way around it. I can see a lot of loss for little gain in return."

Shapps describes the timing of the the Government's response to the Rugg Review, of which the register forms part, as ironic - it was published as the Association of Residential Letting Agents launched its member licensing scheme.

He says: "I think the very first thing to do is to give that scheme the opportunity to succeed because I doubt it [the register] will help in any way shape or form; I suspect in fact it will hinder the market and actually make it more expensive. It’s a barrier to entry to the market as well.

"In these times when the private rented sector is doing so much to pick up the slack in an appalling housing market, introducing more red tape to it is completely inappropriately timed."

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