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HIPs: Not Enough Work For Inspectors

Home Information Packs (HIPs) have been in place for less than two weeks and they’re under fire once again. HIPs were introduced on 1 August for properties with four bedrooms or more, but most of the inspectors have yet to complete a single job.

Inspectors are facing long periods of unemployment and some are already giving up on the profession. Loopholes in the legislation are allowing home vendors to avoid the packs, leaving the 3,000 inspectors with the prospect of little work, if any.

There is a Home Inspector Forum website on which inspectors criticise the government for not implementing the scheme completely, and saying that they will be ruined financially if the housing minister Yvette Cooper does not implement fully soon. One inspector commented that he had registered with every estate agent and solicitor for 20 miles around his base at Eastbourne, East Sussex, but had got no work so far. He said he would earn his training fees back, then get out. Another contributor felt he had wasted the £4,000 training money and wondered how he could make some money back from “this misguided farce”.

Some inspectors paid up to £12,000 for training, and the government indicated that some may earn as much as £70,000 a year. The first set back came when the original implementation date of 1 June was put back two months, to be followed by a reversion to only properties with four bedrooms or more.

Inspectors and domestic energy assessors had, according to a trustee of the Institute of Home Inspectors, been “hung out to dry”. It had been a poorly planned disaster, and the members were now desperate, with no work and few prospects until the scheme is fully rolled.

Full implementation was promised by the government as soon as it had enough inspectors. With so many sitting around waiting for work, it is difficult to see the reason for the delay.

Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps said: “This is yet another example of how HIPs have been botched from start to finish. As the scheme has fallen apart, the government’s main objective has been to save the skin of the minister [Yvette Cooper] rather than the livelihoods of the people it has led up the garden path.”

The Packs can cost as much as £600, containing local searches, title deeds and an energy performance certificate (EPC). They have been attacked by vendors for the cost, and there have been attempts by vendors to avoid the need for a pack by reducing the number of bedrooms in the property description by redefining a bedroom as a study. This has been described as a false economy as four bedroom houses sell for much higher prices than three, and saving £600 could cost thousands on the asking price.

It has been claimed that inspectors were told they could huge amounts of money from their work on the schemer, but work has been elusive to date. The government still maintain that they will roll out the scheme to smaller properties when there are enough energy performance inspectors in place to meet the demand.

Tom Smith
15th August 2007

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