15 December, 2020
In August, we published an article on the cost of fire safety works in high rise residential blocks. We commented on the government funding available to support the remediation of unsafe cladding on high rises and discussed whether leaseholders should contribute towards the cost of fire safety works.
We have also seen the introduction of the EWS1 survey and understand many mortgage lenders were refusing to lend (or re-mortgage) unless the survey had been performed. The EWS process is a set way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external cladding system on residential buildings in scope above 18m in height has been assessed by a suitable expert. By exception there may also be some residential buildings below 18m which have 'specific concerns' and require an EWS form.
The process itself involves a "qualified professional" conducting a fire-risk assessment on the external wall system, before signing an EWS1 form, which is valid for the entire building for 5 years. The cost of an EWS1 survey is substantial so there are potentially massive cost implications for landlords and potentially its leaseholders, even where no fire safety defects are found. Moreover, the government remediation fund is exclusively for the removal and replacement of cladding so the surveyor's bill would land at the landlord's feet.
We understand there has been confusion over the form, with many banks unwilling to lend until the form had been signed, yet there are a limited number of surveyors sufficiently qualified to undertake an EWS1 survey. The EWS process had been blamed for a hiatus in second-hand flat sales, with many sales falling through.
The government, RICS and major lending bodies have now agreed that an EWS1 form should not be required, unless the building has external cladding. The government has also made funds available to assist with training surveyors to conduct EWS1 surveys. Whether this will help alleviate the issues and time delays remains to be seen.
For more information contact Emily Jordan in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 0333 207 1130. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.