Potentially good news for frustrated Flat owners as Government scraps EWS1 forms for blocks under 18 metres
Since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, the government were forced (and rightly so!) to take drastic steps to ensure that the materials used to protect high rise properties from potential fire risks.
Enter the dreaded EWS1 form!
From our experience, when a lender requests an EWS1 form, we know we are either in for a real battle, or the Landlord will have the required documents to hand, and it’ll be a breeze to get a mortgage offer for our clients.
Sadly, more often than not, we find it is the former. Many Landlords either don’t have the EWS1 form already, or it is simply too costly and time consuming to arrange. This leaves many people stuck in limbo with no where to turn to get out of their potentially expensive mortgage deals.
It has just been announced however, that the government has reached an agreement with major lenders to scrap the requirement for EWS1 forms on properties that are below 18 metres
Although this seems to be a huge step in the right direction, many critics argue that the safety of home owners in these blocks remains unclear.
Following advice, the government says there is “no systemic risk of fire in blocks of flats under 18 metres. It says that EWS1 forms should not be requested for cladded buildings under this height “which should free leaseholders from cost and delay and provide confidence to the housing market”.
Some “high street” lenders such as HSBC, Barclays, and Lloyds Banking Group and others have agreed to review their guidance on EWS1 forms with “further details to be set out in due course.”
Housing minister Robert Jenrick says: “Today’s announcement is a significant step forward for leaseholders in medium and lower-rise buildings who have faced difficulty in selling, anxiety at the potential cost of remediation and concern at the safety of their homes.
“While we are strengthening the overall regulatory system, leaseholders cannot remain stuck in homes they cannot sell because of excessive industry caution, nor should they feel that they are living in homes that are unsafe, when the evidence demonstrates otherwise.
“That’s why I commissioned an expert group to further examine the issue, and have already agreed with many major lenders that lower-rise buildings will no longer need an EWS1 form, and the presumption should be that these homes can be bought and sold as normal.
“We hope that this intervention will help restore balance to the market and provide reassurance for existing and aspiring homeowners alike.”
Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Dame Judith Hackitt says: “I am pleased to see the support and commitment to returning to an evidence-based proportionate approach to fire and building safety.
“It’s critical, given the significant – and in many cases unnecessary – impact this is having on people who live in and own homes in blocks of flats.
“What’s needed now is for the remaining bodies and lenders to get onboard so we have a collective, fact-based system that is reflective of the reality of the situation and reassures leaseholders that they, their homes and their investments are safe”
Institution of Fire Engineers chief executive Steve Hamm says: “The IFE supports the expert statement issued today. We expect this will lead to a significant reduction in the demand for the EWS1 process from mortgage valuers, particularly for buildings under 18m in height. Today’s statement will support competent fire engineers to use their professional training, judgement and expertise to assess buildings based on professional appraisal of risk. This should enable a move away from the often risk-averse and overly cautious approach that has been seen in many cases.”
From our experience, Surveyors often request an EWS1 form, even when the building doesn’t meet the specified criteria, which is both confusing and frustrating for home owners. With more rigid guidelines being put into force, we hope to see more consistency throughout the industry, and more certainty that a mortgage is easier to obtain.