14 December 2007All one- and two-bedroom properties put up for sale in England and Wales now need a Home Information Pack (Hip).
The rule, which came into force at midnight, extends the new selling process, which was applied first to larger properties during the summer.
Hips are supposed to improve the sale of homes by cutting purchasers' costs and by giving buyers an energy rating for the property.
Critics says the packs are a waste of money and are holding back sales.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said spreading Hips to smaller properties would drive even more first-time buyers from the market.
"Our research shows they knock speculative sellers from the market," said a Rics spokesman.
"Twenty per cent of people put their homes on the market with no initial intention of selling, but then half of them change their minds when they get a good offer.
"Hips will put an end to that and shrink the market," he argued.
The packs cost between £300 and £350 each and are paid for by the seller.
They are usually provided by estate agents and are supposed to provide would-be buyers with important information at the start of the buying process.
As well as sale details, proof of ownership and standard information from the local authority, a key feature of the packs is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Grading houses from A to G for their energy efficiency, rather in the manner of a fridge, the certificate should give buyers advice about reducing carbon emissions from their homes and cutting their fuel bills.
Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers (Ahipp), said there was still some way to go to make Hips fully effective.
"For Hips to fully inform potential buyers about properties they are viewing, it is vital that the home condition report is made a mandatory part of the pack and that many of the searches which provide information on flooding, ground movement and contamination are included," he said.
When the first Hips were introduced earlier this year, there were claims that not enough qualified energy assessors had been trained.
"It's very difficult to disentangle the precise effect of Hips," said Peter Bolton-King of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
"Are they improving the buying and selling process? It's just not happening as they've been so watered down," he said.
It has not been decided when properties already on the market will need to have a Hip as well.
"Properties that are exempt because they were already on the market when the duties began to apply to them will remain exempt as long as they remain on the market," said the Communities and Local Government department (DCLG).
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