Property Regulator calls time on flawed HIPs
Press release: 2 October 2008
The regulatory body for Home Information Pack and search providers, the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB), today reacted swiftly in response to an investigation into HIPs by Birmingham Trading Standards, which saw five out of six being classed as “unsatisfactory”.
During the investigation, officers reputedly went into 15 estate agencies and asked to see the HIPs for each property. They randomly selected six from the 15 and subjected the local searches contained in the document to detailed inspection and found many contained missing or inaccurate information.
Responding to the findings, Richard Footitt, Chairman of the PCCB said:
“These findings, if substantiated, should act as a further warning to the industry. Consumers are not well served by those commissioning or producing sub-standard HIPs and searches, and the PCCB will act against any company registered with them where they have clearly breached either of the Codes.
The Board is already in discussions with the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) as to how to drive up standards in home buying and selling, with a view to joint action. The PCCB takes a very dim view of this type of breach, and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action should any HIP or Search Code registered companies prove to have breached the Codes during this investigation.”
The HIP and search industries have adopted Codes of Practice which govern the activities of registered subscribers. Searches and HIPs provided by these companies must meet certain minimum standards and also ensure appropriate consumer protection and redress. The PCCB regulates compliance with the Codes, carrying out its own inspections and taking appropriate rectification or disciplinary action in cases of non-compliance or where errors are made by registered firms.
Richard Footitt went on:
“Over the past few months we have seen many more independent HIP and search providers enter the market, and we are well aware of the financial pressures that are encouraging short cuts to be taken by professionals who should know better – HIP and search providers are no exceptions. It is also the responsibility of the estate agent to make sure that the HIP they commission provides accurate and complete information to the consumer. We welcome decisive enforcement action by local authorities where the HIP regulations are not being complied with.
The PCCB stands ready to help any HIP or search provider wishing to comply fully with the Codes and urges non-registered companies to contact us as a matter of priority to ensure that they are not caught out by similar enforcement operations.
We are also aware that search companies continue to face obstacles from some local authorities in gaining the access that they need to do a good job for their clients, and that this too encourages short cuts to be taken to the detriment of consumers. The Board welcomes the progress that has been made in improving access for search companies but there is still a long way to go.”
He concluded by offering a word of assurance to consumers:
“The sample selected in the Birmingham investigation was very small. Whilst the results are worrying, consumers should be reassured that they represent a very small number of the million searches produced each year.
“Our compliance activities have already had a positive impact on the sector and we will be stepping them up significantly in the year ahead. Working with the
OEA and others responsible for industry standards we can expect to see significant improvements in compliance and consumer protection in the year ahead.”
For further information please contact:
Blythe Weigh Communications
Paul Weigh 020 7138 3208 / 07989 129 658
David Murphy 020 7138 3206 / 07929 443 427
Notes to Editors:
The Property Codes Compliance Board independently monitors compliance by registered subscribing companies with the HIP and Search Codes. The Codes provide protection for home buyers, sellers, lenders and conveyancers relying on searches and HIPs as part of the home buying process, and include good practice standards, robust insurance requirements and the independent adjudication of complaints.
The HIP Code is sponsored by the Association of Home Information Pack Providers; www.hipassociation.co.uk. The Search Code is sponsored by the Council of Property Search Organisations: www.copso.org.uk.
PCCB inspectors have to date made over 500 recommendations to secure satisfactory compliance from registered firms.
For further information please contact Kate Nicholls, Head of Communications 07958 796 238 or visit www.propertycodes.org.uk.