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

In December 2019 a new process was launched for mortgage valuations which requires independent certification that a building’s external wall system (EWS) meets new government safety guidelines.

This process and certification is known as an EWS1 form and was developed to assess the potential financial impact of cladding on high-rise flats.Some mortgage lenders have been asking for an EWS1 form from anyone looking to buy, staircase or remortgage their flat before lending them any money.

In some cases if this certification is not in place it may not be possible for homeowners to remortgage, staircase or sell their home straight away and they may experience a delay.

For any of our customers who are trying to buy or sell a Shared Ownership property we understand how upsetting and frustrating this process can be if the EWS1 form is not in place and this causes a delay in the process.

is not just affecting us. It’s industry wide and affects other housing providers and owners of multi occupied residential buildings.

Below is some further information to help explain why this is happening and what we are doing to manage this situation.

What is happening?

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 anyone looking to buy, staircase or remortgage in some apartment blocks for independent certification that the building meets new government safety guidelines. An EWS1 form was introduced to try and help building owners provide the certification more easily.

The updated guidance is there to make 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 (an EWS1 form).

To prove that a building meets new requirements, building owners must complete complex inspections that include, opening up multiple walls to check the materials they’re made of, carry out safety tests, and, in many cases, complete remedial works to bring the buildings up to the new standards which exceed those in force when the building was completed. All of these are completed by external experts.

Only once all this work is completed can a certification (EWS1 form) be provided to lenders. There is an acute shortage of experts that are qualified to certify the EWS1 form which means that there can be considerable wait times to undertake such inspections.

In the short-term, some of our buildings are affected and unfortunately, we are currently unable to provide the certification that mortgage lenders are asking for. 

It’s important to note that an EWS1 form is not a legal requirement and e.g. a block of flats with cladding in place. In some cases, lenders have asked to be supplied with the certification even when the construction of the building means that an EWS1 form is not needed.

What are we doing? 

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

  • 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. Any building safety improvements are documented and actions are agreed. 

We have a planned programme of inspections for our buildings, and have started to carry out remedial works as necessary where inspections have identified improvements that are needed to meet the new guidance.

We have a number of apartment blocks that this will affect and our We’re working with external experts and contractors to complete this work as soon as we can.

We’d like to apologise to those residents who are looking to sell and will need to wait for their building to be inspected before an EWS1 form can be issued – you. Our team is  here to help answer any questions you may have.  

We hope to be able to provide you with more information and reassurance in the coming months, as more guidance and support is announced by government. 

What can you do?

Homeowners

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

Buyers

If you have applied for a mortgage on a property and the lender has asked you to supply an EWS1 form and the building doesn’t meet the criteria for this then we would encourage you to challenge the lender to overcome this obstacle.

More EWS1 guidance and frequently asked questions can be found on the RICs website.