EWS1 Re-mortgaging, staircasing or selling your home if you live in an apartment block

In December 2019, the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) launched a new process for mortgage valuations. This requires independent certification that a building’s external wall system (EWS) meets new government safety guidelines. 

You can read more about external wall systems (EWS) here. 

Why was the EWS1 created? 

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, the government changed its building safety guidelines. 

Since the end of 2019, some mortgage lenders and valuers have been asking people living in apartment blocks who are looking to buy, sell, staircase or remortgage to obtain independent certification to show that the building meets government safety guidelines. An EWS1 form was introduced to try and help building owners provide this certification. 

This updated guidance makes sure external wall systems of multi occupied buildings have passed certain fire safety tests and are installed and maintained correctly. Some of these requirements were not in place when the buildings were originally built. This means that the building must be inspected against the new requirements in order to be able to provide certification. This certification is known as an EWS1 form. 

Lenders, mortgages, and valuations

When you're looking to buy, staircase, or remortgage a flat, some mortgage lenders will ask for an EWS1 form before lending any money.

Having an EWS1 form is not a statutory requirement, it provides information for valuation purposes, and not all buildings require one.

If your building is eligible, then a lender must have a valid reason for requiring an EWS1 form. This could be that it is in their lending requirements.

If a lender refuses an application on the basis of a building not having an EWS1 then this is their decision, it may be one of their requirements. If a lender refuses your application, you'll need to speak with them to find out why. 

The situation has improved and some lenders have relaxed their lending requirements. Lenders will still want evidence that measures are in place. This could be evidence of work completed, or evidence of a plan of work. We can provide this.

Before you submit an application it's worth checking what the lenders requirements are.

In some cases if the EWS1 certification is not in place then, it can make it difficult for homeowners to remortgage, staircase, or sell their home. Some lenders do not want lend without the EWS1 form, in this case you may want to try another lender.

We understand how frustrating it can be if an EWS1 form is requested and there isn't one in place. This is an industry-wide issue affecting many homeowners across the country. 

How can an EWS1 form be obtained?  

To prove that a building meets new requirements, building owners must complete complex and intrusive inspections. This can include opening walls to check the adequacy of fire stopping, and carrying out safety tests. In many cases remedial works will need to be completed in order to bring the building up to the new safety standards.

This work must be completed by external experts and an EWS1 form can only be provided to lenders once all work is completed. There is a shortage of qualified experts to certify the EWS1 form. This means it can take a long time to complete the inspections. 

It’s important to note that an EWS1 form is not a legal requirement. In some cases, lenders have asked for certification even when the construction of the building means that an EWS1 form is not needed. 

If you’re informed that your building will require an EWS1 form and you have a shared ownership property, the cost of this will be passed to the homeowners who live in the building. We will always explore if there’s an alternative to going through the EWS1 process. 

What have we done to ensure the fire safety of your building?  

The safety of our customers is our priority and we’d like to reassure you that our buildings: 

  • Received building control sign-off at the time of build 
  • Received approval from a licensed warranty provider after they were built 
  • Have an up-to-date fire risk assessment
    • We monitor and manage the frequency that these assessments are carried out
    • Assessments are undertaken by an independent fire risk assessor
    • Building safety improvements are documented and actions are agreed

How are we continuing to manage this situation? 

Where inspections have identified improvements we have a planned programme of work which will make sure the buildings meet new safety guidance. 

We have a number of buildings affected and we’re working with external experts and contractors to complete this work as soon as we can. We'll make sure to keep our customers updated throughout the process.

The government guidance is changed frequently and we'll update our customers with anything that affects them.

What can our customers do? 

We would advise any of our homeowners looking to re-mortgage, staircase or sell their homes to seek advice from their mortgage lender or mortgage broker before beginning the process. 

If you’re unsure if your building needs an EWS1 form, please contact our dedicated Fire Safety team at fire.safety@mhs.org.uk. They'll be able to confirm if an EWS1 form is required for your building. 

If you’re buying or selling a property and the lender has asked you to supply an EWS1 form and the building doesn’t meet the criteria, then we would encourage you or your solicitor to challenge the lender. 

If you do require an EWS1 form and have questions about selling your home or the cost implications, please contact our Home Ownership Team on homeownership@mhs.org.uk. Please allow three working days for a response.

More information and guidance for customers 

For more information and guidance about EWS1, please visit the Government website here or the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors website here.