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Report says housebuyers are being misled by some estate agency HIPs


House buyers are being misled by false information in Home Information Packs (HIPs) produced by some estate agents, according to an investigation by trading standards officers. The officers from Birmingham Trading Standards visited 15 estate agencies in the city and asked to see HIPs for different properties. They selected six to subject to a detailed inspection and found that five of them were unsatisfactory. Some wrongly claimed that information was not available or answered questions by stating “not as far as is known” even though the information was readily available from the local authority. The officers suspect that the problems arose because private search companies are cutting corners to save money. The Trading Standards report gives several examples of faults contained in the HIPs they inspected. Some claimed there was no planning history on the property when it fact it was readily available. Others provided inaccurate dates for planning proposals or stated that there were no planning restrictions when there was a restriction on permitted development. In one example, a HIP claimed that the property was in Worcestershire when it was actually in Birmingham. There was also a case where the HIP said that planning history only dated back as far as 1990 when in fact the local council held paper records from 1948. The investigation was carried out in Birmingham but it’s feared that the same thing is happening in other areas across the country. Councillor Neil Eustace, Chair of the Birmingham Public Protection Committee, said: “The results of this survey are shocking. Buying a house is one of the most important investments most people will make and they rely on professionals to do their job properly. “Some of this inaccurate or missing information could result in someone buying a house they would otherwise think twice about. A local authority search would have to be done later and any inaccuracies detected could result in sales falling through. These searches are simply not worth the paper they are written on.” The Law Society said the Birmingham findings seem to confirm reports it had received that some estate agents are being paid commission by search companies to include poor quality searches in their HIPs. The society president, Paul Marsh, urged sellers to consult a solicitor for advice about HIPs. Mr Marsh said: “If the pack is to provide any value to the consumer at all it needs to be accurate and contain reliable information. That requires those who compile these packs to understand what they are doing. “Anyone who buys a HIP from an unregulated estate agent or HIP provider might as well throw their money away. “It makes perfect sense in a slow market to use the time you have properly and instruct a solicitor not only in the preparation of a HIP but on all the paper work that is involved in the selling of your home, including the contract, as soon as possible. “All the research shows that instructing a solicitor early on in the transaction will speed up the process of selling a property significantly and ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.” Please contact us free on 0800 027 7870 or complete our online form if you would like more information about HIPs or any aspect of buying or selling property.


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