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Another Hip week

With just eight working days before the controversial Home Information Packs are set to be launched you would have thought the uncertainty of the last eighteen months would have finally ended by now.

But for those who believe the mortgage market has been quiet of late, on Tuesday the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors decided to make a surprising last-ditch attempt to block the introduction of Hips scheduled for June 1.

The body announced it has started judicial review proceedings against the Department for Communities and Local Government for its failure to carry out proper consultation before implementing the new legislation.

I use the word ‘surprising’ as many commentators have pointed out that RICS’ move may go against the best interests of its membership. The professional body is currently in the process of training both Home Inspectors and energy assessors. It will also play a prominent role as a certification scheme.

RICS’ move has also caused further mud slinging between the opposing ends of the Hips spectrum. DCLG secretary Ruth Kelly said she was disappointed by the legal challenge, calling it “groundless” and noting the Government will vigorously oppose it.

Kelly accused both RICS and the Conservatives as being “anti-change, anti-consumer, and by putting energy performance certificates at risk, anti-green.”

But Kelly may feel smug after this Wednesday’s Commons motion vote which saw the Tories fail to derail Hips, losing the vote by 306 votes to 234, giving the Government a comfortable majority of 72.

Opponents of Hips still believe that all has not been lost. A House of Lords debate has been scheduled for next Tuesday with the Lords’ dislike of the policy having already been well documented. Also the Government will not have its comfortable Commons majority to defend it.

Meanwhile, RICS will hope to secure an initial court hearing for next week where a judge will decide whether a full hearing will be arranged for a later date.

Whether or not RICS will be successful in its legal bid, it now looks likely that Hips will come into force on June 1. But is the industry ready? Mortgage commentators have called upon the industry to cast personal objections aside and concentrate on helping consumers deal with Hips.

London & Country mortgage specialist James Cotton says: “It’s gone beyond whether we agree with the initiative or not. Ultimately, we have got to think about helping consumers who will be dealing with Hips.”

And finally, I had the pleasure of attending my first Mortgage Business Expo in Manchester this week. Despite the recent concern over big lenders choosing to shun the expo, there were still a few big hitters on show with the likes of Halifax and Abbey. It remains to be seen how the London event compares in November.

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