Taking Pounds off your HIPs; Why a Personal Search Diet in your Home Information Pack can be a False Economy

Paul Hajek | 3 Nov 2008

A recent investigation by Birmingham Trading Standards Office into Home Information Packs (HIPs) has illuminated an alarming series of errors.

The investigation centred on the provision of what are called Personal Searches. These searches are carried out by individuals acting for themselves or more often on behalf of personal search companies. They inspect the various registers held by a Local Authority and compile a report. This report forms an essential component of the HIP.

These searches should not be confused with an official search compiled by the local authority itself. A few HIP providers utilise official local authority searches, most rely on personal searches. The latter unsurprisingly are considerably cheaper.

The findings of the Birmingham office may make the case for only using official searches in a HIP. They found that of the six Home Information Packs, they selected at random from Estate Agents offices, that five out of the six were “unsatisfactory”. The results were:-

  • 1. Some HIPs falsely claimed that information was not available or “not so far as is known”, when the information was readily available from the local authority.
  • 2. Some HIPs falsely claimed that there was no planning history, or gave inaccurate dates. Again this was readily available from the local authority.
  • 3. One of the personal search companies confirmed that there were no planning restrictions on a property. There were. This fact would have been detailed by an official search with the local authority.
  • 4. Another claimed that a property was outside a conservation area and therefore subject to less stringent planning requirements. It was in fact within the conservation area.
  • 5. One even considered a property to be in Worcestershire when it was actually in Birmingham.

What should estate agents and the general public make of all this confusion?

Estate Agents are keen to get the best deal for their Sellers, but frankly most are untrained in the nuances of Conveyancing and could not be expected to know the differences. However, under the Home Information Pack (No 2) Regulations 2007 it is unlikely an Estate Agent would avoid responsibility for allowing a personal search with such inaccuracies to be included in a HIP on a property they were marketing. A fine a £200 is levied for HIPs that do not comply with the regulations.

There might be some comfort in using a personal search from a company complying with the HIP Code. Yet, the standard varies considerably, and some searches which are said to be complaint do not include a plan to identify the extent of the locally adopted highway outside of a property. A personal search company was also recently expelled for breaches of the code.

For a Seller looking to put their property on the market you can simply ask the following question to avoid the worry of the non compliant HIP- does your HIP provider use searches commissioned directly from the Local Authority?

At ActionMove (http://www.actionmove.co.uk/ ) we not only use local authority commissioned searches we also guarantee a full refund of the HIP fee if the purchaser’s solicitor is unable to use the HIP for any reason. We will also update the Local Search at no extra cost so that the search component of the HIP does not become outdated because the property takes a while to sell.

As all things in life and Home Information Packs are no exception you do get what you pay for. A cheap HIP is not cheap if it has to be recommissioned, leads to a delay, or leads to a fine of £200 if it is found to be inaccurate.

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