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What is an EWS1 Form

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.

ews1 form

What is an EWS1 form?

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, is 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

Does my building require an EWS1 certificate?

If you live in a residential building that has cladding, or a combustible timber balcony, and is over 18m or six storeys, then it falls into the category of property that needs an EWS1. However, the Royal Institute of Surveyors (RICS), with the support of the government, published guidance in 2021 that helps valuers decide if a building needs an EWS1 form. You can visit the RICS website to see the latest EWS1 guidance updated in 2022.

The aim of the latest guidance is to reduce the number of EWS1 forms being required by mortgage lenders. The high demand for EWS1 forms in the past and a limited pool of qualified engineers to carry out assessments, led to unnecessary delays to the buying, selling or remortgaging of many properties.

Advice now states that the valuer should always have a rationale to justify the request for an EWS1 form. The criteria considers the height of the building, the type of cladding on it, and how much of the building is covered with cladding. The new guidance has led to EWS1 forms not being required for 92% of mortgage valuations on flats, according to the Building Societies Association.

Also, if you live in a block of flats that was built in line with 2018 regulations on using non-combustible cladding, you should not need an EWS1 form.

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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.

Get free advice from our mortgage partners at L&C. They can advise on your situation and shop around for the best mortgage lender and deal for you. Start the process online or over the phone now

Which lenders don’t require an EWS1 form?

There is no mortgage lender that definitely won’t ask for an EWS1 form.  If you own or are selling a property in a residential building with cladding, it is best to assume that you will be asked for the EWS1 certificate by mortgage lenders.

However, government data released in May 2022 and provided by seven mortgage lenders in the UK, shows that the vast majority of mortgage valuations for flats do not require an EWS1 form or equivalent. Between January and March 2022 there were 55,000 mortgage valuations for flats in the UK by these lenders, with EWS1 forms or equivalent being required in fewer than 1 in 10 cases.

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. Whether or not they ask is entirely down to the valuer who will use the RICS criteria to decide if it is necessary. The decision will come down to how tall your building is and how much of it is covered in cladding. 

Get free advice from our mortgage partners at L&C. They can advise on your situation and shop around for the best mortgage lender and deal for you. Start the process online or over the phone now

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.

FAQs

“We are about to sell our flat, built in 1968. Looking at Land Registry, there appears to be sales made in the last four years on a regular basis, four made in 2021. So, can I just assume that an EWS1 Certificate won’t be necessary?”

Repeated sales in your building doesn’t mean an EWS1 certificate wasn’t requested by the lenders. It is, however, a good sign that an EWS1 form exists, and lenders have been able to get hold of it. You may find when you sell, your buyer’s lender still requests the EWS1 form.

You could check the Building Safety Information Portal to see if it holds a copy of your building’s EWS1 form.

“I bought my flat with Help to Buy and want to pay back the loan in full and move. But my flat needs remedial work under the EWS1 process. What are my options?”

If your building’s EWS1 form shows remedial work is required, then it could affect the valuation of your home. You will need to have a specialist valuation of your property for the by a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The valuation will factor in the estimated cost of the remediation work, who is responsible for paying for it, and whether you, as the leaseholder, could be liable for some of the cost. These valuations cost around £1,500 plus VAT. Get a quote for a valuation now.

The government’s agency – Target – must approve the valuation before it can go ahead. Once you have the valuation you should be able to go ahead and repay your loan and move. See more in Selling a Home with a Help to Buy Loan.

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