Since the Grenfell tragedy, cladding on flats has become an important national safety issue. This means that buying or selling a flat in a block that has cladding can be complicated.
All new developments have to comply with building regulations. When buying and selling a home, lenders usually want proof that any cladding complies with these regulations.
To get this proof, developers can use our Building Control Service to check their work, or choose an Approved Inspector from the private sector.
Whoever they choose, the developer will get a ‘Final Certificate’ or ‘Certificate of Completion’. This indicates that the building was compliant when the work was finished.
However, some mortgage lenders want evidence that the work still complies now, even after the building has been occupied for a number of years. This is where the EWS1 form comes in.
External Wall Survey Form (EWS1)
The EWS1 process was originally designed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), to support the valuation process for high-rise residential buildings with cladding.
Lenders usually want to see a copy of an External Wall Survey Form (EWS1) before they will offer buyers a mortgage.
However, in order to get an EWS1 form, the whole building has to be surveyed, which makes the cost usually very high. In addition, the landlord may not consider it necessary, so may withhold consent.
Non-high rise buildings that still need an EWS1
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) advised owners of multi-storey, multi-occupied residential buildings that they need to assess and manage the risk of fire for buildings of any height.
In response, some mortgage lenders decided that the easy way to comply with this was to require an EWS1 form whenever there is cladding, irrespective of the building’s height.
However, RICS has now produced a further guidance note to clarify when an EWS1 is needed. They have laid out criteria where an EWS1 is needed in Section 2.1 of their document, along with numerous case studies.
You can read the RICS guidance.
The government’s five-point plan for the future
Recently, the government announced a £3.5 billion fund and 5-point plan towards the cost of removing unsafe cladding.
Under the plan, the government will:
- pay to remove unsafe cladding for leaseholders in all residential buildings 18 metres high and over (6 storeys) in England
- set up a finance scheme, to provide reassurance for leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres (4 to 6 storeys)
- charge an industry levy and tax to ensure developers play their part
- create a new safety regime to help ensure that a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again
- help rebuild confidence to this part of the housing market, including lenders and surveyors
You can read more details on the five-point plan.
The way forward
Due to leasehold residents’ concerns, the government has asked a small group of fire safety experts to further look into the issue of cladding. They have considered the evidence and advised on steps to ensure that stakeholders take a more risk-proportionate approach to fire safety in blocks of flats.
The experts recommended that:
- EWS1 forms should not be required on buildings below 18 metres
- known concerns should be addressed through risk management and mitigation
- there should be a clear route for residents and leaseholders to challenge costly remediation work and seek assurance that proposals are proportionate and cost effective
- government should work with the shadow Building Safety Regulator to consider how to check that fire risk assessments are following guidelines, rather than perpetuate risk aversion
- fire risk assessors and lenders should not presume significant risk to life without evidence
All major lenders have welcomed this advice.
However, in December 2021, the RICS announced they would keep their guidance note from March 2021, entitled "Valuation of properties in multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential buildings with cladding". This means that, in certain situations, the EWS1 form will still be required on buildings below 18 metres.
Buildings that don’t have cladding
The MHCLG confirmed in November 2020 that residential buildings with no cladding don’t need an EWS1.