Help for homeowners caught up in unsafe cladding process

The External Walls Systems 1 (EWS1) form will no longer be required for owners of flats in buildings without cladding to sell, rent, or re-mortgage a property, as announced on 21 November by the UK Government in an agreement reached with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies Associations (BSA).

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EWS1 is the external wall fire review process that was developed by the industry to assess the potential financial impact of cladding on high-rise flats above 18-meters tall. It was created for buildings with cladding but was being applied to those without, stopping some sales and house moves. Nearly 450,000 homeowners will benefit and there will be Government funding to train 2000 more building assessors to speed up valuations.

Industry bodies impact

Propertymark met with other industry bodies on 4 November, including RICS, to discuss the implications that the process was having on the home buying, selling, and renting processes. The main issue raised was that the UK Government’s Building Safety Fund was not being utilised and remedial work was not being undergone despite funding being made available. One of the main reasons for this was that to complete the EWS1 form, trained assessors are required and only a limited number are available to carry out the checks.

The £700,000 which has been made available by the UK Government to train more assessors, hopes to speed up the valuation process for homeowners in cases where an EWS1 form is required. It will mean up to 200 additional assessors will be qualified to carry out the EWS1 assessment within a month, 900 within three months, and 2,000 within six months.

The Government is also exploring ways to address ongoing concerns around the availability of professional indemnity insurance and welcomes the industry’s progress on developing a portal where lenders, valuers, and leaseholders will be able to find out if their building already has an existing EWS1, thereby reducing the demand for duplicate forms.

The requirement for an External Walls Systems 1 (EWS1) form has delayed or caused sales to fall through, as flat owners have had to depend on their freeholder to commission the work and so few buildings have the form already. It’s great to see lenders, the industry, and Government come together to take a far more proportionate approach to the need for an EWS1, ensuring that those living in buildings with no cladding will not require a form to sell or remortgage their property. Owners however will need certainty as to whether their building has any cladding so that they don’t get caught out during the process.

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Mark Hayward Chief Executive | NAEA Propertymark

I welcome the support we have received from RICS and industry to resolve this matter and will be working urgently with lenders to resolve these challenges, ensuring that EWS1 forms are requested only where absolutely necessary and that the number of surveyors able to complete them is increased urgently to meet demand.

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Rt Hon Robert Henrick MP Housing Secretary

Image attribution: "Robert Jenrick Official MP Portrait" used under CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original 

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