Inaccurate HIPs 'mislead consumers'Investigation reveals poor local search practices

03 October 2008

House buyers are being misled by inaccurate or incomplete Home Information Packs (HIPs), says a Birmingham Trading Standards investigation.

Trading Standards officers randomly selected six HIPs from 15 estate agencies in Birmingham and subjected local search information from each to detailed inspection.

Five out of the six HIPs were classified as being unsatisfactory by Trading Standards officers.

False claims

The HIPs falsely claimed that information was unavailable or answered questions with the statement 'not as far as is known' when the information was readily available from the local authority.

Officers suspect private search companies are short-circuiting the system to save money.Examples of inaccurate or incomplete information in HIPs examined by Birmingham trading standards include:

  • Claims there was no available planning history on a property when it was readily available.
  • Inaccurate dates for planning proposals.
  • Stating a property is within 200metres of a proposed conservation area when it is inside the proposed conservation area.
  • A claim that planning history only dated back as far as 1990 when the local council held paper records dating from 1948.

Misleading

Councilor Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, said: ‘Some of this inaccurate or missing information could result in someone buying a house they would otherwise think twice about.

‘These searches are simply not worth the paper they are written on.’

For more home buying advice, read our Which? guide to buying and selling property in a falling market.

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