The final stage of the roll-out of controversial home information packs is being delayed, the government has said.
It is putting off the requirement for homeowners to compile one of the packs before they market their home until the end of the year.
Homeowners in England and Wales are currently allowed to begin marketing their property as soon as they have ordered a Hip, but the government previously said that from June 1 they would not be able to put their home up for sale until they had a pack.
The U-turn comes the day after the Communities and Local Government Department dismissed as ‘speculation’ reports that it was planning to push back the June deadline until the end of the year.
The government is also delaying the requirement for the lease to be included in Hips for leasehold properties.
The delay was announced alongside a package of measures which aim to improve the house buying and selling process.
The government said it was working with industry bodies, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, National Association of Estate Agents and the Law Society, to develop a new set of standards for property professionals.
These will include having arrangements for redress if consumers are unhappy with the service they receive.
The government also plans to work with the industry to ensure that agents and Hip providers make the packs available to potential buyers at the earliest opportunity.
Research carried out by the government into the pilot phase of the packs, which aim to speed up the house buying and selling process, found that they were provided to only four out of 10 buyers.
A further 20% did not receive the documents from estate agents until after they had made an offer on a property.
The government will also look at including additional consumer-friendly information in the packs, such as details on a property’s fixtures and fittings, or information on access and boundaries.
It claimed that consumers were already benefiting from the introduction of Hips, with more than 700,000 homes now having an energy rating, enabling people to save money on fuel bills, while greater competition in the property searches market had led to some local authorities reducing the cost of their search fees by up to £120.
Housing Minister Caroline Flint said: ‘Home information packs are already bringing benefits to consumers.
‘But we want to do more to improve the Hip and the home buying and selling process for consumers.
‘Developing a new set of standards for industry is an important next step in further ensuring all consumers get the highest quality of service when buying or selling a home.
‘We also want to ensure all consumers are seeing the vital information in a Hip early in the process so they can fully benefit.’
A recent Which? investigation uncovered various problems with Hips. We found that, in come cases, potential buyers faced great difficulty even in getting hold of a property’s Hip.
Louise Hanson, head of campaigns at Which?, said:’This latest delay is yet another example of how badly the roll-out of Hips has been managed. Even when they are up and running, Hips will still be missing the most useful component for home buyers – the Home Condition Report. Until this is addressed, they won’t be of much use to anyone.’