Why Estate Agents need to be More Picky about the PIQ in the HIP
Home Information Packs (HIPs) were highlighted again on 7th January with a warning issued to Estate Agents by the Housing Minister John Healy in response to a question in parliament by MP Robert Neill
Under the amended HIP regulations which were introduced last April, a Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) is now an obligatory component of a HIP.
It was assumed by many Estate Agents that their responsibility under the legislation was merely to ensure that the PIQ was included in the HIP before marketing a property for sale. There was, it was thought, no responsibility upon the Estate Agent to qualify the content of the PIQ.
Well this may no longer be the case.
The Housing Minister was asked:-
“(1)…….whether rules on misleading omissions apply to property information questionnaires constituting a marketing communication between a home seller and a home buyer;
(2) …...whether estate agents are liable for misleading omissions made by a home seller producing a property information questionnaire; and what obligations estate agents have to check the (a) accuracy and (b) truthfulness of property information questionnaires.
In response, the Housing Minister stated that:-
Section 155 of the Housing Act 2004 provides that the person responsible for marketing [a property for sale] is under a duty to have a Home Information Pack (HIP) in his possession which complies with the Home Information Pack (No. 2) Regulations 2007.
Where the person responsible for marketing is an estate agent, Regulation 36 provides that he cannot be held in breach where a document (other than the Index and Sale Statement) fails to comply with the Regulations and the agent believed on reasonable grounds that it did comply.
Estate agents are under a duty under the Home Information Pack (No. 2) Regulations 2007 to ensure that the HIP includes a completed Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) but are not under a duty to ensure that the answers given by the seller are accurate and truthful. An estate agent could be in breach of the Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs) if he failed to act on information in the PIQ which he knew to be inaccurate or untruthful, because they are required by the CPRs to act in accordance with honest market practice and good faith.”
But he added: “An estate agent could be in breach of the Consumer Protection Regulations if he failed to act on information in the PIQ which he knew to be inaccurate or untruthful, because they are required by the Consumer Protection Legislation to act in accordance with honest market practice and good faith.”
It is still going to be a relatively rare occurrence, for the property to be described in terms at variance with the PIQ.
Perhaps the moral of the story for Estate Agents is to treat the HIP with more care and attention and not just, as some do, as a barnacle on the side of marketing a property for sale.