Many leaseholders (including shared owners) who want to remortgage, staircase or buy are finding their mortgage lender will need an independent certification known as an EWS1 form.
The External Wall System (ESWS) process involves a fire safety assessment by a qualified professional who handles completing the EWS1 form. The inspections are complex and intrusive and involve opening many sections of wall to check the materials they are made of. In some cases, we may need to complete remedial works as a result of the inspection. EWS1 forms are not a statutory requirement and not all lenders are insisting an EWS1 form is produced. Yet, some lenders may decide to refuse a mortgage application if one is not produced.
This is causing problems for leaseholders and building owners across the country and there has been a lot of publicity about the issue. There is a lack of qualified professionals available to carry out assessments and complete EWS1 forms, as a result the wait time is substantial. The situation is further compounded by reports of the insurance industry being reluctant to offer professional indemnity insurance to such qualified professionals and we will only work with professionals who are insured.
There are calls to reform the process and in June 2020 the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee called on the government to take control and put a faster and fairer process in place. We have been lobbying for change by raising questions with the Secretary of State and through our professional bodies. We hope this demand by lenders will change in the future and we will keep leaseholders informed about any updates.
We are seeing a move towards the government taking more control as they have recently announced they have been working with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies Association, to make it so that Leaseholders in buildings without cladding will no longer need an EWS1 Form to remortgage or sell their property. The government will also work towards accrediting more engineers to inspect buildings and to provide those engineers with professional indemnity insurance. We welcome these announcements as a step in the right direction.
We would like to assure leaseholders that all our blocks of flats will have received building control sign off at the time of build and have an up-to-date fire risk assessment in place. Although we have already inspected and risk assessed all our buildings, our confirmation is not enough for lenders who insist on an EWS1 form.
We are reviewing requests for EWS1 forms on a case by case basis. The EWS1 form is only valid for five years and we hope there will be more changes to when it is required. If you are looking to buy, remortgage or staircase then it is advisable to contact your lender or mortgage broker before beginning the process. Please also let us know straight away if your lender or your buyer’s lender wants an EWS1 form.
Please note, it is likely to take at least six months to produce an EWS1 form. It takes time to arrange an inspection with a suitable professional and we need to allow them time to analyse the materials and produce the report. If remedial works are required as a result of the survey, we cannot assess how long it will take to rectify at this stage. The sooner we know an EWS1 form is required, the sooner we can start the process. We may already have obtained an EWS1 form for the block your property is situated in and if this is the case, we can provide the form and advise about any remedial works required (if applicable).
You may live in a block of flats where we are not the building owner and do not have responsibility for the structure of the building. If this is the case, the relevant building owner or managing agent will be responsible for arranging the certification, producing the EWS1 form and carrying out any remedial works if required. If necessary, we can liaise with the building owner or managing agent on your behalf.
We understand and sympathise with leaseholders who have been affected by a need to produce an EWS1 form and are working towards making sure this process is as straightforward as possible. If you have any queries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org