What is an EWS1 form and why are they needed?
Householders in flats should be able to have confidence that their home is safe to live in, and buyers should expect no less.
The EWS1 form is a cross-industry initiative from Building Societies Association (BSA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and UK Finance to enable a fire safety assessment to be carried out on properties clad with potentially combustible materials.
In line with government guidance, the EWS1 form was designed for mortgage valuation purposes to provide the information necessary for surveyors to assess the value of flats and apartments, facilitating lenders to lend. The EWS1 form currently provides the most consistent and reliable way for valuers and lenders to assess if a property with cladding might need remediation work which would affect its value, and that it is safe for habitation.
Following guidance from RICS, which is supported by the Government, valuers adopt a risk-based, proportionate approach, in determining when EWS assessments are required. Whilst it is a decision for each lender to make based on their own risk appetite, many lenders have implemented this guidance, which has resulted in an EWS1 not being required for 92% of mortgage valuations on flats.
Those buying a flat should understand that a decision made by a valuer not to require an EWS1 inspection is no guarantee that fire safety remediation works will not be required in the future.
If there is unsafe cladding on a building who pays for remedial works?
The EWS1 form contains various options. The fire professional will carry out a risk assessment of the building and if the risk is low, they may recommend no remedial works. However, higher risk buildings are likely to need to have the cladding replaced.
The Government announced that no leaseholder living in their own flat would have to pay to fix unsafe cladding and that it will pay for the removal of unsafe cladding in buildings over 11 metres. We are waiting further details from the Government on support for those in lower-rise buildings (under 11 metres).
The Government has written to the residential property developer industry asking them to contribute to a fund which would protect leaseholders from the cost of removing cladding.
I live in a flat that had unsafe cladding which has now been removed. I contributed to the cost of the remediation work, can I claim this back as Government has announced that no leaseholder will have to pay to fix unsafe cladding?
The Government announcement that no leaseholder living in their own flat will have to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding was made on 10 January 2022. Work completed prior to the announcement will not be covered retrospectively.
My flat is in a block which is eligible for the government to pay the cost of removing the cladding, do I still need an EWS1 form?
Following the valuer guidance from RICS which is supported by the Government, valuers will adopt a risk-based approach to the use of EWS1 forms. Many lenders have implemented this guidance and the number of EWS1 requests has fallen significantly. However, this is a decision for each lender to make based on their own risk appetite.
Is the removal of combustible cladding still necessary for a property under 18 meters to be considered safe?
Whilst the expert advice published on 21 July 2021 states there are no systemic fire risks in properties under 18m, the RICS guidance does not reflect this advice and lenders may still need to request an EWS1 for some properties under 18m to support lending decisions.
My building does not have cladding, do I need an EWS1 form?
No. Generally, buildings which have neither cladding nor a combustible timber balcony do not, and have never, required an EWS1. However, there are some buildings which externally look to be brick or stone built, but in fact have a brick or stone slip external wall system which constitutes cladding. Some buildings also have decorative panels between windows / floors which might mean assessment is still needed.
My lender has valued the flat I want to buy and agreed to give me a mortgage without an EWS1 form. Does that mean my building does not need remediation work?
Those buying a flat should understand that a decision made by a valuer or lender not to require an EWS1 inspection under the new guidance is no guarantee that fire safety remediation works will not be required in the future.
My fixed rate mortgage deal is coming to an end, can I re-mortgage without an EWS1?
Anyone living in flats affected by the cladding issue coming to the end of their current fixed rate mortgage will be able to re-mortgage with their current lender, provided that they are not looking to borrow any more than their current mortgage and their repayments are up to date regardless of whether an EWS1 is available. Borrowers should not have to move onto their lender’s SVR rate. It is true that switching mortgage lender or getting a further advance may be difficult as these are treated as new loans and so require a valuation which could trigger a need for EWS assessment.
My flat is in a block with external cladding, but I want to move out and sub-let it, will my lender permit this?
The decision on whether to provide a borrower with consent to sub-let a mortgage flat which is potentially affected by unsafe cladding, is for individual lenders to make based on their own risk appetite.
In a letter to lenders on the 12 January 2022, Government confirmed that issues of building safety could be considered as exceptional circumstances for shared ownership flats requiring a consent to let.