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Proposed housing reforms get mixed response

by: By Paul Robertson
  • 17/11/2003
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The Government is pressing ahead with reform of the private house letting sector and will introduce ...

The Government is pressing ahead with reform of the private house letting sector and will introduce compulsory Home Information Packs (HIP). Following a consultation period, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has released proposed measures for the forthcoming Housing Bill.

Stating that the home buying process in England and Wales is among the slowest in Europe, and liable to failed transactions, the ODPM said packs will address the problem of key information only coming to light after terms have been negotiated.

Responses to the move were varied. The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) noted estate agents would not be able to market properties until the HIP was produced.

Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the NAEA, said: “The Government has not yet delivered a common sense and workable solution to this. Most sellers are not aware that if this Bill becomes law they will have to stump up at least £600 to put their homes on the market. We will continue to fight for a workable solution to improving the buying and selling process.”

Electronic local search provider OneSearch Direct quoted research it had undertaken which showed 50% of estate agents and 40% of mortgage lenders believed HIPs would improve the speed of transactions, and urged a switch to e-conveyancing. Richard Megson, sales and marketing director at OneSearch Direct, said: “We welcome initiatives to speed up the property chain – if implemented correctly, HIPs will benefit both customers and property professionals alike.”

The ODPM also announced proposals for mandatory local authority licensing for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO), a new definition of assessing poor housing conditions, and the granting to local authorities of powers to tackle bad tenants in the private sector.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) said the proposals held no surprises but that anything in the Bill must be very well defined. Malcolm Harrison, spokesman for ARLA, explained: “Definitions can be a problem when it comes to HMO licensing. At the moment it is likely the Bill will define anything over three storeys and five tenants as HMO, which is reasonable, however this definition, once applied, can damage a property”s value.”

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