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EWS1 Form – Everything You Need to Know

29th April, 2022

In this article we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the EWS1 form. The Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 saw residents of a high rise building tragically lose their lives to fire because of unsafe and combustible cladding. The fire had a huge impact. Both on the families of those who lost their lives, and on government regulation to improve fire safety in multi-occupancy buildings. The outcome of this regulation was a process to assess multi-occupancy flats that are susceptible to fire or have fire safety concerns. This process also affects their valuation for selling or remortgaging these properties. 

Grenfell EWS1 Form

This process is captured in the EWS1 form, which has become commonplace in UK property lingo over the last few years. Many leaseholders have questions about the form. It has a huge impact on their ability to obtain a mortgage or sell their property. The EWS1 form has also been interpreted (and misinterpreted) in different ways by lenders over the past 4-5 years, so in this article we’re going to answer those questions.  

We’ll discuss what an EWS1 form is and whether you need one for your apartment. The cost of an EWS1 form and who pays for it. Whether you should buy a flat without an EWS1 certificate, and whether it’s possible to sell or mortgage a property without an EWS1 form. Looking for something specific? Use the menu below to navigate through the article quickly. Otherwise read on for everything you need to know about the EWS1 form.

What is an EWS1 Form?

Whether you live in a block of apartments or are considering buying one, the chances are you will have heard of an EWS1 form. But what is an EWS1 form? EWS stands for External Wall System. The EWS1 form is a method of assessing and recording the external wall construction of residential apartment buildings. It establishes their safety in relation to government guidelines, and is designed to give a clear verdict of that safety. 

Who can complete an EWS1 form? 

The form can only be completed by a competent person, adhering to strict criteria as defined by the UK government. This should be someone who has the expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall and attachment. They also have to be able to identify whether the fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been correctly installed. Whoever is signing off an EWS1 should be a qualified member of a relevant professional body in the construction industry. The expertise of the professional will depend on the materials that are used in the construction of the external wall, but more on that later. You can download a (non-exhaustive) list of professional bodies here

What’s the purpose of the EWS1 form? 

The primary intention is to give peace of mind to lenders that a property represents a sufficiently low risk asset for either a mortgage or a remortgage. The lender assumes that the asset is low risk because a competent and qualified professional has signed off on its fire risk. It is also a means for a building owner to confirm that the external wall system on a residential building has been assessed by a competent expert. 

How does the EWS1 form work? 

The signed EWS1 form has two options or outcomes, known as Option A and Option B. A brief description of each option is below. 

  • Option A: Option A means that external wall materials are very unlikely to support combustion. If a building means Option A criteria, then the form won’t need to be signed by a fire engineer. It will still need to be assessed and signed by a competent professional who can attest to the fact that cavity barriers have been installed correctly within the external wall, and that any attachments (such as balconies) to the external wall meet the same specification as the rest of the wall. 
  • Option B: Option B means that external wall materials are composed of materials that are known to be combustible. If this is the case, a fire engineer will need to conduct a risk assessment to either determine that the risk of fire is negligible, or recommend remedial work. 

Below you will find a visual representation of the form options and the actions that need to be taken for each. 

EWS1 Form Process


 

Do I need an EWS1 Form? 

The guidance around whether or not a building needs an EWS1 form has changed over the past couple of years. The form was designed with the initial purpose of assessing the external wall systems of buildings over 18 metres in height. 

This changed in January 2020 when the government published a Consolidated Advice Note (CAN), which brought all multi-occupancy buildings into scope. This required many residential buildings to have an EWS1 check conducted. Based on current RICS (Royal institute of Chartered Surveyors) guidance, EWS forms are required for properties under 18m in the following instances. 

Buildings over six storeys 

If a building is over six storeys an EWS1 for is required if either: 

  • There is curtain wall glazing or cladding surrounding the building. 
  • There are vertically stacked balconies on the exterior of the building and either the decking, decking and balustrades, or linking between balconies are constructed with combustible materials. 

Buildings of five or six storeys 

If a building is either five or six stories then an EWS1 form will be required when: 

  • There is a large amount of cladding on the building (anything over one quarter of the visible exterior of the building). 
  • There are vertically stacked balconies on the exterior of the building and either the decking, decking and balustrades, or linking between balconies are constructed with combustible materials. 
  • There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building. 

Buildings of four stories or fewer 

If a building has four stories or fewer, then an EWS1 form is only required if there are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building. 

For the latest guidance on which building types require an EWS1 form. Refer to the latest RICS guidance. 

Recent developments

The problem with the government’s Consolidated Advice Note is that it brought so many properties into scope that it completely overwhelmed the pool of qualified experts that exist within the UK. It left thousands of leaseholders unable to sell or remortgage their property without an EWS1 form, even if common sense dictates that it wasn’t really necessary. 

The government says that this is because their advice was misinterpreted. In January 2022 they published a press release announcing a plan to protect leaseholders, rationalise the approach to cladding inspection, and make developers and landlords pay for remediation measures. The key points of the announcement were: 

  • A Building Safety Fund will be opened to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings, with £5.1 billion of funding prioritised on the highest risk buildings. 
  • The cost of remediation work will be transferred to developers and landlords, and not placed on leaseholders. 
  • The Building Safety Bill will ensure that there should be no bills to fix unsafe cladding for leaseholders living in their own flats. 

Recent developments to EWS1 Form

These recent developments should mean that leaseholders are no longer hit with large bills to fix cladding issues. These should be funded by developers and landlords. 

How to obtain an EWS1 Form

The responsibility of obtaining an EWS1 form lies with the building owner. Leaseholders and sellers should therefore contact their management company or building owner to ensure that an EWS1 form has been completed or is ordered. 

If you’re unsure whether or not your building has a valid EWS1 form, the first port of call is to contact your management company or building owner. If your flat is owned by the local authority, they should be able to provide you with the status of the EWS1 certification.  


 

How long does an EWS1 Form take? 

The process to obtain an EWS1 form typically takes between 6 and 12 months. This may seem like a long time, but there are a couple of critical reasons why the timeframe is so long: 

  • The process itself is quite lengthy. It requires understanding whether the building is eligible for the document, appointing a qualified professional to carry out the form, the review of the inspection, and finally the production of the finished document. 
  • More importantly, there is a national shortage of qualified fire engineers who have the necessary insurance cover to undertake the inspection. As of March 2022 there were just over 100 engineers qualified and insured to complete the EWS1. With thousands of housing associations, building owners and management companies requiring their services, there’s understandably a large backlog. 


 

How much does an EWS1 Certificate cost?

Because of the acute shortage of qualified professionals to complete the EWS1 certification process, the price of an EWS1 form is high. Typically the absolute minimum that an EWS1 form should cost is £6,000. However, prices are often far higher. According to the telegraph prices are often as high as £28,000 depending on the size and complexity of the project, and the availability of qualified professionals. 


 

Who pays for an EWS1 Form? 

Whilst the responsibility for ensuring an EWS1 form is in place rests with the freeholder, the question of who actually pays for the inspection and certification is less clear. This will usually depend on the lease agreement with the freeholder. 

If you’re a leaseholder and you’re wondering whether or not you need to pay for an EWS1 form, check the terms of your lease. It will outline the extent to which you are liable to contribute to costs for safety measures such as the EWS1. If the work is encompassed in the service the landlord is obliged to pay, then it’s likely that leaseholders will bear (at least some of) the cost through increases in service charge. 

Of course, the latest announcement from the government (made in Jan 2022) seeks to change this and take the burden of cost away from the leaseholder and shift it towards developers and landlords. The government has given industry a deadline to put forward a proposed funding solution before they mandate one. 


 

What does a B2 rating mean on an EWS1 form? 

Whilst a B2 rating on an EWS1 form doesn’t mean that the property is unsafe, it does mean that there is remedial work to bring the building to a standard that meets fire safety guidelines. 

The fire engineer may give two sets of recommendations. Temporary measures to be put in place until the remedial works are completed, and then the long term recommendations themselves. Temporary measures may include things such as waking watches, or the management company may choose to move residents into temporary accommodation. 


 

Should I buy a flat without an EWS1 form? 

If you are thinking about purchasing a flat without an EWS1 certificate there are three things you need to take into account before doing so:

  • Consider if the property needs an EWS1 form. If the building is under 18 metres tall or less than five stories one may not, or may never be required.
  • It’s possible that you may not be able to obtain a mortgage on the property. Meaning you’d have to purchase the property with 100% cash. Although this may not be a problem for you, if at some point you decided to sell the property, you would run into the issue that there are very few genuine cash buyers on the market. So you could struggle to sell the property in the future. 
  • If you do decide to purchase the property, there may be upcoming works to be carried out on the building. The test itself to provide the EWS1 certificate can be quite thorough, and require scaffolding, drilling into the walls of the building, and removing sections of cladding. Then if the building were to require remedial work in order to bring it up to suitable standards, this may cost each individual leaseholder through a section 20 notice. It can also end up meaning you are living in a building with major works being carried out to it which may go on for long periods of time. 


 

Can I get a mortgage without EWS1? 

As with all things related to EWS1, the answer is not a straightforward yes or no. If you are using a fixed-rate mortgage then it’s likely that you will be able to remortgage using your current provider, providing that your repayments are up to date and you don’t want to increase your borrowing amount. 
 
Mortgage without an EWS1 Form
 
However, if you’re trying to obtain a mortgage on a property that meets the criteria for an EWS1 form and it doesn’t have one, you might run into difficulty. This isn’t to say that nobody will be prepared to lend on the property, but many lenders will value the property at what’s known as a ‘nil value’. This doesn’t mean that the property is worthless, it just means that they’re not comfortable enough with the level of risk to lend on the property. We recommend consulting a specialist mortgage advisor to understand your options. 


 

Can I sell my flat without an EWS1 Certificate? 

If your flat meets the criteria for an EWS1 assessment and there is no EWS1 form in place, you may find it tricky to sell your flat. Whilst having an EWS1 form isn’t necessarily a legal requirement, in practice some lenders aren’t comfortable with the risk of lending on a property without one. 

You can market your property without an EWS1 form, but you will likely limit yourself to cash buyers – which obviously drastically reduces the pool of prospective buyers you can appeal to. If you’re struggling to sell your property without an EWS1 form then you could consider a cash house buyer like SmoothSale. Because we’re experienced property buyers, and purchase houses using our own funds, we can buy any house in any condition. Our services are completely fee free, and we’ll even cover your legal costs. If you’re interested in receiving a no obligation cash offer for your property today then call us on 0800 368 8952 or get a cash offer today!

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