The government’s Levelling Up White Paper, released today, contains an unexpected and shock commitment - to create a new 'lite' version of the much-criticised Home Information Pack.
The concept of the pack was abandoned by the David Cameron-led Coalition government in 2010 but now appears to be making a comeback under Boris Johnson.
In an early overview of the Levelling Up proposals in today's 332-page White Paper there is the sentence: “We will improve the home buying and selling process, working with the industry to ensure the critical information buyers need to know is available digitally wherever possible from trusted and authenticated sources.”
Then in the detail of the document, on page 225, there is a lengthier commitment. It reads:
“The home buying and selling process which can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful will be improved.
“Around a third of all housing transactions fall through, costing people hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
“The UK Government and the industry will work together to ensure the critical material information buyers need to know – like tenure type, lease length and any service charges – are available digitally wherever possible from trusted and authenticated sources, and provided only once. If necessary, the UK Government will legislate.”
Leaks of the Levelling Up White Paper earlier this week included references to rental sector reforms such as the scrapping of Section 21 eviction powers and a possible mandatory landlords’ register in England. But there was no reference to reform of the buying system.
The ‘provided only once’ pledge in today’s document, backed up by possible legislation, is reminiscent of the Home Information Packs introduced some 15 years ago by Labour.
HIPs became mandatory for homes with four or more bedrooms in August 2007 and were extended to three-bedroomed properties from September 2007.
HIPs contained a series of mandatory documents including the then-new Energy Performance Certificate, a Sale Statement which would include search material, and evidence of title documents. For leasehold properties there were also copies of the lease and other relevant documents.
Extensive lobbying at the time led by the National Association of Estate Agents - now Propertymark - ensured there was no survey in the pack, but the most criticised element was the insistence of the government of the day that the pack should be completed before the property was marketed.
That measure was changed in May 2008 and the pack merely had to be commissioned - the property could be marketed while pack preparation went on.
The scrapping of HIPs (except for the EPCs) was one of the planks of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which came into government in May 2010.
You can see today’s entire Levelling Up White Paper here.