Published: 26/03/2021As a result of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, the government introduced a requirement for an external wall fire review for high-rise residential buildings (i.e. buildings over 18m (six storeys) in height).
A process was agreed and adopted industry wide to confirm that the external wall system of a building has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert in line with government guidance, evidenced by an EWS1 form. The purpose of this form is to ensure that a valuation can be provided to allow lenders to offer a mortgage on a property.
The EWS1 form must be signed by a qualified professional who has inspected the building’s external walls. It will either indicate the presence of flammable materials, meaning the building requires remedial work, or that no remedial work is needed and a sale can progress.
Changes in government advice in January 2020 mean that all residential buildings regardless of height may need to be risk assessed. Since then, lenders have required an EWS1 form before issuing a mortgage for any flat in a block. The EWS inspection can only be undertaken by a suitably qualified professional of which there are only a very small number. This has resulted in serious delays leaving many flat owners unable to sell or re-mortgage their homes.
However earlier this month the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) published updated guidance as a result of an agreement with the government designed to ensure that blocks without cladding systems do not need an EWS1 form. This new guidance is to be implemented by 5 April 2021.
It can be summarised as follows:
Buildings over six storeys
EWS1 form only required where:
• there is cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building, or
• there are balconies that stack vertically above each other, of which certain elements contain combustible material
Buildings of five or six storeys
No EWS1 form required even if they have cladding and balconies, unless cladding covers more than 25% of the building and consists of ACM (aluminium composite material), MCM (metal composite material) or HPL (high pressure laminate) materials
Buildings of four storeys or less
No EWS1 form required unless there are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building.
This will come as welcome relief to many thousands of flat owners who have been unable to sell their homes.
EWS1 forms are valid for five years and are issued for an entire block/building rather than for individual flats. If you think your flat is affected, you should contact the building owner or their agent to ensure that the EWS process is initiated as quickly as possible.