Earlier this year, the government issued revised guidance on building safety standards for flats within apartment blocks. As a result, buildings of any height are now potentially in scope for requiring the EWS1 (external wall system) form devised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
If you’re thinking about selling, remortgaging or staircasing your home, you need to be aware of government advice and changes to lenders’ approaches.
EWS1 certification requires a new assessment of the building by a qualified, independent professional to establish if the external wall system meets the new fire risk standards, or whether remedial work is needed.
Without this new EWS1 form, many lenders will not offer a mortgage or remortgage on a property.
We understand this is a difficult situation and is affecting life-changing decisions for our customers where they’re unable to sell, remortgage or staircase their property. We apologise to everyone this is affecting.
We’re doing everything in our power to respond and adapt to the new system put in place by the government and the safety of our buildings remains our highest priority.
We're investigating the external wall systems on our buildings. We're now prioritising blocks under six storeys and expect to complete initial assessments this year. We'll update customers as soon as we know if any work is needed.
Why is this happening?
The government changed its building safety guidance following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 to dictate the standard of materials to be used on external walls.
Building owners need to prove that buildings meet these standards by carrying out intrusive inspections and, if they don’t meet the government advice note, they may need to do remedial work.
An EWS1 certification can be granted following this inspection, but it may show that remedial work is needed.
What is an EWS1 form and is it relevant to me?
An EWS1 form provides independent certification that the fire risk to the external wall is sufficiently low to not require remedial work. This is not a legal requirement, however some lenders request the EWS1 form before they will consider offering a mortgage.
The EWS1 form applies only to flats and is relevant to you if you’re a leaseholder or shared owner who wants to staircase (buy a greater share of your property), remortgage, or sell your property.
Why is this a problem for some people?
Unfortunately, there’s currently a large demand for EWS1 forms, but only a limited number of professionals qualified to carry out the assessments. This is causing delays in obtaining EWS1 forms.
And, if an assessor decides a building doesn’t meet an adequate fire safety standard and that remedial work is required, a lender is unlikely to approve a mortgage until the work is completed.
What is Clarion doing to help?
We’re doing all we can to support people affected and have accredited consultants carrying out these checks.
We’ll look to provide EWS1 forms wherever we can. However, this may not happen quickly due to the national demand and shortage of qualified professionals who can carry out assessments.
How long will remedial works take and how will they be funded?
If an EWS1 form states that a building requires remedial work, it can take time to do – sometimes months, or even years.
If further work is required, Clarion will complete this, prioritising our higher risk buildings.
There’s no government funding for buildings under 18 metres high and leaseholders may have to pay for their part of the bill.
Who can issue an EWS1 form?
Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an independent, approved assessor.
Some homeowners live in blocks Clarion doesn’t own, or where we aren’t responsible for the building’s structure. In these instances, it’s the responsibility of the freeholder or managing agent to obtain EWS1 assessments. But, where necessary, we’ll liaise with them on your behalf to try and obtain the form.
Can I arrange my own EWS1 assessment?
No, the forms need to be completed by the owner of the building, or the person responsible for the building’s structure.
Do all lenders require EWS1 forms?
No, each lender has its own requirements.
Who can I contact for more information?
If you’ve been asked by your lender to provide an EWS1 form, or would like more information, please contact us.
Has government guidance on EWS1 changed?
We’re currently reviewing the latest government guidance and will provide a further update soon.
Find out more
RICS website: EWS cladding Q&A
UK Parliament website: External wall fire review process
Government website: EWS update 21 November 2020