Despite the government announcement on 21 November that “owners of flats in buildings without cladding will no longer need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage their property” these forms continue to be requested for almost all units in buildings in multiple occupancy. That is, in part, due to the government’s extension of “Advice Note 14” to buildings of any height in January 2020 and the requirement to demonstrate that, pursuant to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, a building is “safe”.
Due to the shortage of qualified surveyors and the prioritisation of taller, riskier, buildings, many flat owners have been left in limbo, unable to sell or remortgage property. The requirement to assess all buildings also prevents the limited pool of competent experts from focussing their assessments on properties where there is a significant risk to the safety of occupants.
Recognising this acute issue, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (“RICS”), who created the EWS1 form in December 2019 in response to the Grenfell tragedy, has issued proposed guidance on EWS1 forms for public consultation on Friday 8th January 2021. The consultation closes on Monday 25th January 2021.
RICS says that the “responses gathered from the public, valuers, lenders and other stakeholders will shape the guidance and seek to form a consensus on where an EWS1 form is required or not and, in turn, help balance the risks to mortgage lenders, existing leaseholders and borrowers where combustible cladding may be present on a residential building”.
RICS proposed position is that where a valuer or lender has been able to establish (within the limits of their competence) that the building owner has met the obligations of the consolidated advice note, or that a building over 18 metres has been signed off in accordance with The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018, an EWS1 form should not be required.
If it cannot be established that this box is ticked, RICS has developed – in consultation with the fire safety sector and lenders – the following criteria representing “reasonable circumstances where an assumption can be made that remediation work materially affecting the value of the property is unlikely to be needed, and an EWS1 should therefore not be required”.
Buildings over six storeys
- There is no cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building and
- If there are balconies where the balustrades and decking are constructed of combustible materials (e.g. timber), they are not stacked vertically above each other.
Buildings of five or six storeys
- There is not a significant amount of cladding on the building (for the purpose of this guidance, approximately one quarter of the surface façade is a significant amount) and
- There are no ACM or MCM panels on the building and
- If there are balconies where the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (e.g. timber), they are not stacked vertically above each other.
Buildings of four storeys or fewer
- There are no ACM or MCM panels on the building.