What it is and what you need to know if you are buying a leasehold property in a block?
EWS1 are external wall fire review process forms, these were developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies Association to support the valuation process for high-rise residential buildings with cladding. An EWS1 is not a government or regulatory requirement nor is it a building or life safety assessment.
On 8 March 2021 RICS published guidance RICS Guidance on the criteria that should be used to determine whether a building needs an EWS1 form.
There is a low incidence of fire spreading in blocks of flats, and action is being taken to address industry and regulatory enforcement failings exposed by Grenfell Tower tragedy across the majority of blocks of flats where potential risks do exist. The Government on the basis of expert advice published on 21 July 2021 has been clear that it does not believe EWS1s are necessary on any blocks of flats below 18m in height, and is working with mortgage lenders and valuers to ensure their lending and valuation policies are more proportionate to real risk.
Requirements for EWS1s
Data received by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) provided by 7 mortgage lenders in the UK shows that the vast majority of mortgage valuations for flats do not require an EWS1. Between April and September 2021 there were 109,000 mortgage valuations for flats in the UK by these lenders, with EWS1 forms being required in fewer than 1 in 10 cases. Between July and September 2021 an ESW1 form was required by lenders for 8% of mortgage valuations for flats in the UK down from 9% between April and June 2021.
3 mortgage lenders provided data and height breakdown information, covering 54,000 mortgage valuations between April and September 2022, which showed that EWS1 are requested more regularly for higher rise blocks of flats. 52% of mortgage valuations for flats in buildings 7 storeys and above required an EWS1 form during July-September and April-June quarters.
From April to September 2021 mortgage valuations for flats in buildings under 7 storeys shows a large variation in the percentage requiring an EWS1 form by height.
• Flats in lowest-rise buildings (1-2 or 1-4 storeys) required an EWS1 in 2% of mortgage valuations during both the July-September and April-June quarters.
• Flats in mid-rise buildings (4-6 or 5-6 storeys) required an EWS1 n 23% of valuations in July-Stember and 18% of valuation in April-June quarter.
As the statistics show it is more common that mid-rise and high-rise blocks require EWS1 when purchasing with a mortgage. It is therefore important that you speak to your Conveyancer at the point that you are purchasing and applying for a mortgage on a property that you believe could be more than 18m in height, or is deemed to be a mid-rise or high-rise and could potentially have cladding. At Burtons we identify these requirements at an early stage and make contact with the management company (via the seller’s solicitors or agents) to establish whether an EWS1 has been prepared in respect of the flat being sold.
On a practical basis if an EWS1 has been prepared then your Conveyancer will review this and identify if any major works are required to be carried out by the management company (on behalf of the landlord) and whether the cost of any works would need to be met by the seller or yourselves as the buyer. If works are due to be carried out and no time period has been provided then your Conveyancer will communicate with the seller’s solicitors to request a retention so that the current owners would be responsible for the costs of the works. The retention would then be held by the seller’s solicitors under a contractual obligation and would be released to the buyer once the works have been completed and are due to be paid.
Please note that brick built blocks of flats do not usually have cladding but your surveyor, or the mortgage valuer, will confirm this at the time of inspection.
Data provided by Gov.uk