HIPs are now required for almost most homes in England and Wales put on the market for sale on or after 14th December 2007.
The following further changes came into effect on the 6 April 2009 :
- introduction into the HIP of the Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ)
- the end of the first day marketing exemption, and
- all HIP searches, whether produced by a local authority or a search company, must be complete with no gaps in the data covered by insurance.
These are significant changes to HIPs which estate agents should understand and be able to advise their clients on.
Advice to estate agents setting out the legislation in more detail is available to download on the Communities and Local Government website.
The HIP duties are enforced by Local Authority Trading Standards Officers who can issue penalty notices to anyone not complying with the HIP Regulations. The penalty is £200 for the moment.
A breach of the HIP Regulations is an ‘undesirable practice’ under the Estate Agents (Undesirable Practices) (No. 2) Order 1991 and would be a trigger under the Estate Agents Act for the OFT to consider whether an estate agent is fit to practice.
The OFT can impose a ban on an estate agent found to have seriously breached the Act and can also issue a Warning Order where the breach is serious but not serious enough to warrant a ban. Once this has been issued, if the agent continues to breach the Act in the same manner, the OFT can immediately make a Prohibition Order banning them from practising as an estate agent in the future.