Headlines: September 2nd, 2009

A city council is checking up on the quality of Home Information Packs produced by estate agents and will use on the spot fines for those that break the rules. The compliance check on the content and accuracy of information contained in the packs is to be carried out by Birmingham City Council.

It is planning to conduct a survey aimed at identifying whether or not estate agents are making packs available at the appropriate time and if the packs contain all the necessary paperwork, including an Energy Performance Certificate. Special attention will be paid to the accuracy of information provided from local searches.

Birmingham Trading Standards staff are hoping to visit about a quarter of the city’s estate agents but the council says their efforts will be concentrated where there are already suspicions that agents may be marketing properties without HIPs. The visits will be made openly with Trading Standards officers announcing themselves and asking to see the HIPs relating to properties that are advertised.

The council says obvious breaches of the regulations will be dealt with through on-the-spot Penalty Charge Notices. More serious cases which may involve inaccurate information will be considered under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations.

Birmingham’s Public Protection Committee chairman, Neil Eustace, said: “The aim is to ensure that estate agents are competing fairly with each other and that consumers can have confidence in the quality of HIPs.” Chris Neville, head of the city’s Trading Standards Department, said it would be working closely with the Property Codes Compliance Board and the Association of Home Information Pack Providers.