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All you need to know about HIPS...

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HIPs breaking the back of the housing market

For some, they have advanced consumer protection and shone a light on the dark workings of the property market. For others, they have been nothing more than a monumental waste of time and money – a piece of botched legislation that has helped turn a housing market correction into a full-scale crash. Home information packs are either heroes or villains.

HIPs have been compulsory since December 2007 for all homes being sold in England and Wales. But soon the regulations governing the packs will get tighter; break these rules and sellers and their agents could face fines of up to £200 a time.

For the past 14 months, vendors have been allowed to put their homes up for sale without actually being in possession of a HIP; they have only needed to show a pack is on order. But from 6 April, this period of grace will be abolished. "You won't be able to place an advert, or so much as tell a potential buyer that a property suiting their needs is about to come on the market, without having a HIP in place first," says Trevor Kent, a former head of the National Association of Estate Agents and a longstanding opponent of the packs.