Will HIPs increase crime in the Home?
Posted on 20 July 2007 by
This week the House of Lords voted by 186 to 160 to scrap Home Information Packs but despite this humiliation for the Government they subsequently stated that they still intend to introduce HIPs on 1 August for any property marketed as having at least 4 bedrooms, but not for properties marketed as having 3 or less bedrooms plus one or more other “rooms” in addition to normal living accommodation.
However, RICS still holds the whip hand and, if the Government does not change its mind, has the power to stop HIPs going ahead on 1 August by simply reinstating their judicial review, which a Court confirmed could go to a full hearing should RICS not be satisfied with the way the Government has planned the introduction of HIPs. A full hearing would probably delay the launch by several months, and if the Government lost the hearing perhaps indefinitely.
The simplest way for the Government to meet all the objections to HIPs, without losing too much face, would be either to drop HIPs completely and simply insist on an Energy Performance Certificate for properties marketed from 1 August, or to keep HIPs with the EPC as a mandatory requirement and the rest of the pack optional. Those sellers who feel a HIP would have some value would then be free to include as much of the information as they chose with their sale information.
In Wednesday’s House of Lords debate another potentially very serious shortcoming (yes, yet another one!) in the HIPs regulations was highlighted. Home Inspectors will have to be checked by The Criminal Records Bureau before they are allowed in people’s homes to prepare a Home Condition Report, but Energy Assessors will not.
The excuse given by the Government for this shortcoming in the regulations is that because a Home Condition Report will take longer than taking the readings and measurements for an Energy Performance Certificate, Home Inspectors will be in the home for longer than Energy Assessors. I wonder how long the Government thinks it takes for a determined criminal alone in a home, perhaps with a vulnerable female, to commit a horrible crime?
Most energy assessors will be entirely reputable but the chances are there will be a few bad apples. As I see it the key point here is that anyone who wants to sell their home will be forced by law to allow an Energy Assessor in but will have a free choice as to whether to allow a Home Inspector in as the Home Condition Report will not be a mandatory requirement. Therefore it is at least as important that Energy Assessors should be subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check as it for Home Inspectors.
The lack of a Criminal Records Bureau check for Energy Assessors means that any who illegally fail to disclose convictions which are required to be disclosed may well not be found out. Others may have one or more “spent” convictions for a serious offence such as murder, rape or burglary, which they are not required to disclose but which would be picked up by a Criminal Records Bureau check.
The reason for these checks on anyone carrying out certain occupations is to protect the public from being in contact with such people in situations where they might be in danger of assault or worse. It would only need one such Energy Assessor whose past crimes have not been disclosed or been discovered to, for example, take advantage of a single woman who is alone in her home when he calls, for the Government to be subjected to serious criticism, but by then it will be too late, at least for one homeowner.
As Baroness Hanham said in the House of Lords debate: “People have to let these people into their homes. After August 1 it will be law, so they need clarification over who they are letting in."
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