Headlines: March 15th, 2010

Trading Standards staff in Britain’s second city have carried out the most comprehensive estate agent and Home Information Pack enforcement exercise so far. Working with the Property Codes Compliance Board, officers in Birmingham found that almost a third of HIPs failed to meet the regulations.

The survey found that buyers were often left with no idea who to contact if they had any cause for complaint relating to the content of the HIP. Chris Neville, the city’s head of Trading Standards said the exercise had shown that the market was generally compliant but that buyers needed to be aware that not all HIPs could be taken at face value as being accurate.

The Birmingham survey set out to discover if estate agents had HIPs in place for properties being marketed, whether they were making packs available at the appropriate time and ensuring they contained all the required documents in the regulation format and whether the contents were accurate. Trading Standards staff paid particular attention to the accuracy of local search information. They tested about a quarter of the estate agents in Birmingham with teams of staff visiting previously identified estate agents, selecting properties and asking for HIPs to be sent to Trading Standards.

The most common failings in the packs were that they lacked any information on complaint or redress procedure, had no consumer information, no company contact details and technical Issues with the property search.

Chris Neville said his staff would keep a watchful eye on estate agents and other HIP providers and he urged buyers to contact the council if the packs were not made available at the time a property went on the market. Richard Footitt, Chairman of the Property Codes Compliance Board said the exercise was a timely and reliable insight into the current level of compliance and he suggested that other Trading Standards departments follow Birmingham’s lead.