If you live in a flat, or are considering buying one, your mortgage lender may ask to see the building’s EWS1 form. Here’s everything you need to know about EWS1 forms, who needs one, how to get one, who pays and the associated issues.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster new fire safety regulations were brought in for cladding on residential buildings. To ensure external wall systems (EWS) were properly assessed for fire safety, the EWS1 form was introduced in 2018.
The form is evidence that a building with potentially combustible cladding has had a fire safety assessment. When first introduced, they were only required for buildings over 18m or six storeys in height. But, in 2020, the rules were changed to include all residential buildings of any height. Then, in August 2021, the rules changed again so an EWS1 is not required for buildings under 18m.
To get an EWS1 certificate, a qualified professional will conduct a fire-risk appraisal of the external wall system, or cladding. They will then sign the EWS1 form. One EWS1 form covers the whole building and is valid for five years in England and Wales. In Scotland, separate EWS1 certificates may be needed for each flat.
The EWS1 form, also known as an EWS1 certificate, was intended to reassure lenders so that mortgages can be offered on flats within a building that has cladding.
The EWS1 form isn’t the same as a fire safety assessment of the building. It is a report for valuers and lenders conducted by a specialist fire engineer of the external wall construction.
Based on that assessment, the building will be assigned one of the following ratings:
Option A – External wall materials are unlikely to support combustion. Split into:
- A1 – There is no cladding that contains significant quantities of combustible material
- A2 – A risk assessment of cladding has taken place and no remedial works are required
- A3 – Cladding is unlikely to support combustion but remedial works may still be needed
Option B – The cladding contains combustible materials. Then your building can be:
- B1 – The fire risk is low enough that remedial works are not required
- B2 – The fire risk is high enough to require remedial work
EWS1 and mortgages – what’s the latest?
Six of the UK’s biggest banks have updated their policies following new guidance published in December 2022 by RICS, which guides valuers on how to take into account any agreed remediation funding and timelines when forming an opinion on the value of properties in blocks of flats with cladding.
The lenders said they would offer mortgages on properties in blocks above 11 metres where there are safety issues providing an agreed remediation plan funded by either the government or a developer is in place. While some lenders may lend to leaseholders who are covered by protections in the Building Safety Act, even where a plan is not in place.
However, there are some variations in banks’ policies. For example, Santander will reportedly consider mortgage applications in England on properties in buildings ‘irrespective of the building’s height or whether remediation work has commenced, provided the correct evidence is shared’. And that it won’t require an EWS1 form ‘unless specifically requested’. While Lloyds Banking Group said it updated its position on 19 December stating it will no longer require an EWS1 form to ‘progress applications’ for properties in England that are in buildings five storeys or higher.
While this is hopefully positive news for some people living or wanting to sell homes that may be affected by this issue, time will tell how it works in practice. And if this does impact you it’s a good idea to chat it through with a fee-free mortgage broker who will be able to give you the run down on each lender’s positions.
My building does not have cladding, do I need an EWS1 form?
If your building doesn’t have cladding, or a wooden balcony, then it should not require an EWS1 form. However, don’t assume you don’t have cladding. Buildings can look as if they are built from traditional materials, but it is actually a brick or stone slip external wall system which is classed as cladding. Even some brick or stone-built properties may need an EWS1 form if they have decorative panels that require a fire assessment.
When do I need an EWS1 form?
If you are the leaseholder or freeholder of a property in a building that requires an EWS1 form, then you may need it when you are dealing with mortgage valuers ie when it comes to selling your home or remortgaging with a new mortgage provider. EWS1 certificates are not a legal requirement but mortgage lenders may require an EWS1 for them to offer a mortgage on properties within that building.
An EWS1 certificate allows valuers to know that your building has undergone a fire safety assessment and helps them to put a value on the property that considers whether remedial works are needed.
Which lenders don’t require an EWS1 form?
Lloyds Banking Group has stated it will no longer require an EWS1 form to ‘progress applications’ for properties in England that are in buildings five storeys or higher. But for the most up to date information on which lender don’t require an EWS1 form it’s a good idea to speak to an expert fee-free mortgage broker.
Who arranges an EWS1 certificate?
It is the building owner’s responsibility to arrange the fire safety assessment and subsequent EWS1 certificate. Leaseholders, valuers and lenders cannot arrange for an EWS1, only the legal owner of the building can do so.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 stipulates that a Fire Risk Assessment of a residential building must now include any cladding. This means if your building’s Fire Risk Assessment is several years old it won’t have included the external wall system. It is the owner of the building’s legal duty to have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment.
If the freeholder of your building is refusing to arrange everything for an EWS1 form, your first step should be to get together with other leaseholders in your building and write to the owner as a group. That will add additional pressure and hopefully resolve the problem. If not, you can approach your local council for assistance.
How do I get hold of my building’s EWS1 form?
If your building has an EWS1 form, you should be able to get it from the owner of your building. Alternatively, you may be able to find it on the Building Safety Information Portal, but there have been delays in getting all existing EWS1 forms uploaded onto the website.
How much does an EWS1 form cost?
The cost of the initial fire risk assessment (needed before an EWS1 certificate is produced) varies depending on the size of your building and the amount of cladding that needs to be assessed. Typically, it costs at least £6,000 but can rise to over £20,000 if the situation is particularly complex.
It is the freeholder’s responsibility to pay the bill, but they could pass a portion of those costs onto the leaseholders. It will typically depend on the terms of the lease between the building owner (the freeholder) and the leaseholders as to who pays for specific maintenance or safety works.
If there is no specific mention of fire risk assessments in the lease, the freeholder may still be able to use other wording in the lease (for example, in a ‘sweeping up’ clause) to justify passing on the cost to leaseholders.
If leaseholders are asked to pay, the cost is usually included in the annual service charge.
It shouldn’t cost you anything to get hold of a copy of your building’s EWS1 form.
Do I need an EWS1 to remortgage?
If the property you want to remortgage is in a building with cladding your lender may ask to see the EWS1 form – but this varies by lender and also on factors like how tall your building is and how much of it is covered in cladding.
If there is unsafe cladding on my building what then?
If your building has unsafe cladding it will be marked on the EWS1 form as either B1 or B2. B1 means that the risk isn’t significant to require remedial work. B2 means the cladding needs remedial work to make it safe.
If your building is over 11m tall, the government will pay for the unsafe cladding to be removed. The cost is being covered by a fund which major housing developers are paying into.
A new Residential Property Developers Tax was announced in February 2021 to raise funds to help cover the cost of making cladding safe.
At present, it is still the leaseholders who will foot the bill for remedial works on buildings that are under 11m in height. However, the government has announced that it doesn’t want leaseholders to be liable and is working on plans to help residents of lower-rise buildings.
Original Post from hoa.org.uk