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Latest News Update – EWS1
Many will have seen, that over the weekend an announcement came out from the Government regarding an update on EWS1 guidelines.
The EWS1 process is one of the main initiatives introduced after the Grenfell Tower tragedy in order to assess the fire safety of the external wall construction in residential high-rise buildings (18 metres or more above the ground) or where specific concerns exist. Up until recently, the form could have an impact on the approval of mortgages as it has been widely requested by banks and mortgage lenders, regardless of height of building, or if any cladding is present. As a result, there have been great delays with the process leading to many flat owners being unable to sell or re-mortgage their properties.
According to the latest announcement, the Government ‘stepped in to help thousands of homeowners impacted by the EWS1 process who are trying to sell or revalue their homes’. On the face of it, this sounds fantastic. Exactly the headline homeowners up and down the country had hoped to hear for months. However, as we look closely at the message, we’ll unravel what it actually contains.
The statement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government starts with the phrase ‘Agreement that buildings without cladding not subject to EWS1’. This isn’t new, as it has always been the intention that EWS1 forms would only be needed for buildings with cladding, however, overzealous lenders had applied it to almost any type of multi-occupancy residential building. Moreover, the statement given by the Government has remained silent on blocks with balconies and how these are factored into the decision of whether EWS1 forms are required to facilitate a sale. Two of the largest representatives of mortgage lenders, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association have released a statement since the announcement was made saying that they weren’t consulted regarding the statement from the Government, and in their view, this statement ‘doesn’t really solve anything’. Until an alternative solution is agreed to allow mortgage lenders to confirm that buildings are fitted with cladding, it is likely that this situation will continue.
The statement also made a referenceto Government funding to train an additional 2000 EWS Surveyors. Whilst we support the need to have more specialists trained in the field of external wall systems, this move doesn’t solve the bigger problem, insurance. There are countless professionals already with enough training and experience who are unable to complete EWS1 forms, because of the barriers presented by the Professional Indemnity insurance market. The Government needs to step in, to clear this hurdle, allowing the already existing competent surveyors the ability to complete the forms.
Whilst this may be a step in the right direction, it is unfortunately only a small one, and in all likelihood will not do enough to clear the way for the thousands of leaseholders unable to sell their properties.