/ Home & Energy

Have you had mortgage issues due to an EWS1 form?

A survey designed to ensure high-rise blocks of flats adhere to fire safety rules is causing mortgages to be declined. Have you been affected?

26/08/2020: Scammers take advantage of EWS1 confusion

Which? has seen evidence that fraudsters are duping leaseholders into paying thousands for fake External Wall Survey (EWS1) forms.

Read the full story on Which? News

The forms forged the names and signatures of real chartered surveyors. The findings have been passed to the police and Action Fraud.

You can read more about the effect the EWS1 process is having on blocks of flats around the country here.

21/07/2020: Have you had mortgage issues?

Following the Grenfell tragedy, UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors collaborated to create the External Wall Survey (EWS1) in December 2019.

What is an EWS1 form?

The External Wall Survey was launched to ensure older blocks of flats weren’t built with combustible materials, such as the cladding or insulation, giving mortgage lenders confidence to lend on apartments built before changes to building regulations in late 2018.

The EWS1 is recommended for residential blocks of 18 metres or taller, and must be requested by the block’s original developer. One completed survey is recommended per building.

Mortgage complications

There are stumbling blocks in the EWS1 process which are causing headaches for home buyers.

First of all, the survey isn’t mandatory, and secondly, it was only launched last December. This means that some mortgage lenders require the form, but others are yet to implement it. 

Rules vary, too. When we spoke to two major banks earlier this year, one told us it only asks for the form for flats built before February 2019, and the other refused to outline its requirements.

The survey can be arranged with permission of the freeholder (often via managing agents), leading to huge frustrations for buyers seeing their moves placed on hold as various parties come to an impasse. 

We’re also now hearing examples in which lenders are refusing mortgages on blocks of flats regardless of the recommended 18 metre or taller height, leaving smaller blocks requiring the form to buy and sell.

A ‘slow and expensive’ process

Home buyers and sellers have contacted Which? telling us they’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to obtaining an EWS1 form, and frustrations are growing.

Last month, the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee described the EWS process as ‘slow and expensive’ and said it is ‘being applied to an unnecessarily wide range of buildings’.

It has called for the government to implement a ‘faster and fairer’ system.

Have you been denied a mortgage or had a move fall through due to the lack of an EWS1 form? What progress have you been able to make since?

Let us know your situation in the comments.

Comments
Steve says:
8 October 2020

I am on the verge of losing my buyer for my flat (which is a leasehold property and under18m in height) because of the EWS1. Although the EWS1 has been accepted for the cladding on my block the surveyor who carried out the inspection is not qualified to assess the balcony which is constructed of wood metal and glass. My solicitor and I have asked our management company for plans and elevation for the block to be passed on so that a fire engineer can do an assessment on the balcony and complete the EWS1 in accordance with the mortgage lenders request. My management company is not responding to emails and phone calls on this matter and we cannot proceed without this information. I stand to lose thousands of pounds as I have had to pay for independent surveys, area searches for the property I wanted to buy and legal costs. Its an absolute shambles and as it stands I have a property I can’t sell. Although I understand the need for regulations in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster the government has crippled and made worthless tens of thousands of properties. A it stands it depends on the mortgage lenders requests as to whether you are able to sell your property or not. For example other properties have sold on my estate with out his problem because some lender are happy with the basic completion of the EWS1 while others like the Halifax are not and want all the t’s crossed and I’s dotted. This whole process has brought even more stress to the whole house buying process

I don’t think you can blame the government if a property might be unsafe and require inspection. Grenfell simply focused attention on this potential problem. You could blame the developer if they ignored building regulations requirements; you could blame the local authority if they were negligent in approving and inspecting a building; the materials supplier could be blamed if they supplied cladding not to specification or incorrectly described. Otherwise I think purchasers of private property may need to recognise that, inadvertently perhaps, they are the owner of an unsafe dwelling and it needs to be remedied.

Personally, I think the freeholder should be responsible for ensuring their property met all necessary safety requirements when they purchased the lease but, if they have done that, then I think leaseholders need to rely on goodwill from someone or pay themselves. In the latter case I imagine that some owners who are not thinking of selling, or some who cannot afford the upfront cost, may not agree to chip in, so a collective remedy would fail. Perhaps it should be the freeholder who is made to pay the up-front cost and recover that cost through a much-increased lease charge and/or place a charge on each property that is recovered when the property is sold.

I agree. I don’t think the government could have foreseen that the lenders would take advantage of the new regulations to insist that every single multiple-occupation block required an external wall survey. The government sensibly specified a height threshold of 18 metres which would ensure that the inspection and remedial effort would be concentrated where it was most needed [this intention has now been badly compromised] and that the overall housing market would not be unduly disrupted as the overwhelming majority of properties would be exempted by the height threshold.

The government should be held to account in my view, however, for not intervening in the situation as soon as it became clear that the current impasse and blockage of flat sales was developing. It should have restored an orderly and risk-based method of proceeding with priority given to those blocks with the greatest number of residents at high level and with the least satisfactory means of escape, including any buildings which were built with external wall-cladding or had it fitted some time after construction.

paul says:
8 October 2020

Those who are not thinking of selling or cannot afford the cost (in some cases more than £100,000 each) will not have a choice wehn the section 20 notices arrive. every leaseholder in a block is responsible for their share of the service charge. those same people are already contributing to thousands of pounds a week waking watch costs and insurance premiums up by 700%. All put through the service charge. That means bankruptcy and homelessness 🙁

Philip says:
10 October 2020

In late January the 12 story building I live in received an EWS1 form, with an A1 assessment. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief, as apartments previously valued at zero were re-valued.
Now in October, the building manager (First Port) have told us the EWS1 rating has been downgraded to B1, but won’t provide any additional details. What they have done is serve a section 20 notice, although it does not give specific detail on what work needs to be done, or what it might cost.

To further confuse matters, the RICS say that “B1 is where there are combustible materials but in the fire expert’s opinion works are not required; this will be because other mitigating circumstances exist.”

First Port have not explained why they are planning to go ahead with works that are not required. However, they have said they are considering bypassing the remaining stages of the section 20 consultation.

Even after you have an EWS1 form, it can cause upset and misery many month later.

Erin says:
11 October 2020

Hello, is your property possibly in London Docklands or is it somewhere else? I live in a First Port managed building in that area where exactly the same thing has happened – trying to figure out if it is a coincidence or this is something First Port are systematically doing across all their developments! We had an A1 EWS1 issued in March, then they informed us a few weeks ago that it had been downgraded to B1, but haven’t provided the updated EWS1 form reflecting this. Similarly, they have also now provided a Section 20 notice. It is extremely suspicious that the EWS1 rating got downgraded just after a government fund became available and the Section 20 notice seems to be an attempt to get money out of the leaseholders for no good reason.

Alan says:
14 October 2020

I live in Lewisham’s Renaissance development, managed by First Port. We’ve also been given a B1 rating (no need for further works) but have been served a section 20 notice by the freeholder who intends for works to be carried out anyway.
How can they get away with potentially charging us millions of pounds for work that is not legally required? I know under section 20 we have the right to challenge the costs of works being carried out, but do we have to right to stop the works being carried out?

Annabel Czajka says:
12 October 2020

Just lost my 5th potential buyer as no mortgage lender will approve mortgage unless flat has EWS1. The frustrating thing is that there is no cladding and the flat is within a building that is less than 18 metres and built of solid stone as it was an old bank building. Emailed RICS to try and find an EWS1 surveyor but they have not replied. Very unfair system with little chance of sensible solution from Government or RICS.

Celia Soares says:
12 October 2020

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328201
I would recommend to sign this

I’ve lost my buyer, because of EWS. My managment company is not going to do the survey, because the building is under 18 meters. It looks like we are trapped in 1 bed flat with second child on the way.

Elizabeth says:
13 October 2020

As first time buyers, our first offer that was accepted on a property fell through after many months of waiting for an EWS1 form. It finally came back but with a B1 status, which the mortgage providers don’t accept. Then we started the whole process over again and made another offer on a property. This time we were assured it had an EWS1 form. This was not the case, and again two months down the line we are still waiting. Now our lease has run out but we don’t know if the sale is ever going to go through. On the other hand we also don’t want to be stuck in a contract for another 6 months whilst having to pay a new mortgage. So we’ve put all our stuff into storage and now live in (very pricey) temporary accommodation. We’ve also lost quite a bit of money already during the process for searches and surveys which was for naught. All in all it has been a very lengthy and depressing experience with no hope in sight of buying our dream property.

Lauren says:
14 October 2020

Our seller has been asked to provide an EWS1 form even though it is a house, it is not a high rise flat. We are baffled and so confused as to why this is required and it has completely slowed our process down. Even our mortgage advisor didn’t know what it was and our solicitor, neither did theirs. Not clear at all and the mortgage provider are making it out to be mandatory. Seems like an abuse of power.

EWS1 Form has been a nightmare . Not only sales are falling though but also we cannot remortgage the properties which means paying at bank’s SVR rate on existing mortgage which is 3 -4 times the normal interest rate. My question is – the company that manages the lease and property has not yet been able to get a survey for EWS1. It is due to their failure to secure a survey in good time to many people have to lose lot of money on existing mortgages as well as not been able to sell and buy. Can they not be held liable for adding to people’s misery?

Hi,

If you stay with your current provided and do a swap rate. I.e. change in product that should be fine. Most lenders allow you to do it online and don’t normally do any further checks

Susan Brown says:
17 October 2020

We live in London in a small block of apartments, within 10 yrs old. Our management company are Peabody (formally Family, another shared ownership provider). Our buyer is requested a small mortgage as he a good deposit, we hadn’t a survey done via countrywide, they didn’t even carry out a proper survey the guy thought we were only 20 apartments and didn’t check the connecting block. Therefore he deemed the cladding to be at 20/25% meaning Natwest have now asked for an EWS1 form. The buyers broker isn’t updating anyone but only gets paid of completion. I have made a formal complaint to surveyor company and am happy to take legal action and have already spoken to a solicitor. How can I move this forward? I am looking to get a fire and cladding risk assesment (not expensive a few hundred) but this isn’t an EWS1. Peobody have not confirmed when an EWS1 can be done, it’s likely we don’t have issues has we are new build and cavities etc may be around the small area of clad work.
Should I appoint a solicitor to talk to peabodies legal department?
I wanted our buyer to go with another lender who allow more wiggle room for these sorts of things but the broker keep putting referral to initial lender and WEEKS have passed.

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to fix a typo flagged up by the user in another comment]

Susan Brown says:
17 October 2020

Typo-formally another shared ownership provider.

Hi Susan,
Sorry I can’t advise you on your problem, but if you log in to post, you are then able to edit your post for 30 minutes. Another big bonus for logging in means you would be able to easily find your posts again when you look at your history.

Ben Illsley says:
18 October 2020

We’ve ran into this issue in the past 4 weeks…

We’re buying a ground floor appartment in a 4 storey block which is very clearly no cladding there, only exposed brick and glass on the external walls; there are no balconies bar a roof terrace for the top floor flat. Nonetheless the lenders surveyor has insisted on an ESW1 – with no clear reason to justify, and despite extensive fire safety reports, material details etc.

Mutliple flats have sold in this property in the past 6 weeks and we’re the only one that has faced this problem.

The freeholder is not against arranging an ESW1, quite the opposite – however they have a large portfolio and must focus on properties that are are above 18m and could reasonably be considered risky, or where all sales are being held up.

Surely there should be some burden of proof on the surveyors part for requesting an extensive survey at a time where there is backlog on properties that are truly a risk?

We’ve escalated a final appeal with the bank, but are very concerned that the extended delay will push us past the governments stamp duty holiday – which will cause our purchase to fall through…

Is there any other option? Can we press for a second opinion? Is there a specific declaration we can attain from the freeholder that may help bypass? Ant advice would be greatly appreciated

Ben it’s mad isn’t it

I’ve complained to every body I can think of – if my sale falls through I’ve lost money on surveys etc

Helen Brunton says:
20 October 2020

Yes my son is involved in this farce. He lives in a tower block built by Taylor Wimpey in 2015. He is now selling his flat and sale has stalled due to EWS1. His building has one which is states that the flats which have balconies (he doesn’t have a balcony) need wood replaced. His buyer’s mortgage lender is refusing to lend until a statement is made from management company. He will possibly lose the sale, be unable to remortgage, be unable to sub let and will effectively be trapped in a flat by an unworkable, complicated and widely abused system.

I have been affected as my lender is demanding this form but the managing agent has told me there is a shortage of fire inspectors to review and approve the forms and my apartment isn’t even 18 storys . My lender is being unclear if I need it but is demanding I do it anyway – the whole issue has been made worse as there is a massive backlog of mortgage applications because of this issue , Covid and the stamp duty being reduced

My seller is getting nervous band threatening to cancel the sale – although I’ve told them most buyers would face this issue, but that’s not true as not everyone lives in a flat.

It’s making a mockery out of the tragedy that was Grenfell, by adding red tape at a time when it’s already difficult financially for people.

I know the industry is lobbying govt , but it seems relevant bodies aren’t even reviewing .

May I add there’s definitely no cladding on my block !

Benoit Charles says:
20 October 2020

I think it is outrageous that leaseholders like us are being left at the mercy of owners/freeholders who are refusing to provide the EWS, and there is nothing we can do about it, as there is no legal obligation for them to do so.

Let’s start a campaign to exert pressure on the Government, RICS and lenders to find a solution to this conundrum.

I am currently stuck and have been for 10 months between the freeholder and the bank. We have pre paid for the ESW1 form via service charge as the bank was unwilling to release my pre agreed additional funds to buy back the outstanding share of my property. However the freeholder is prioritising other flats that are higher and is not even progressing with ours. In the mean time I am paying interest to the freeholder which I should not have to be incurring, as part of our contract in a year I need to have paid back the initial developer share loan and yet they are preventing me from doing so. The bank will not proceed without the form being completed. At this rate it may be quicker and less expensive for me to train as a chartered surveyor and complete the form myself!

Craig Hunt says:
21 October 2020

I am a mortgage adviser and I have had multiple applications and surveys completed on a converted block (just 4 story’s high) and all have come back as unacceptable to the lenders so I have buyers unable to purchase and sellers unable to move.

Building management company unwilling to get EWS1 form so everyone at an impasse.

I have tried most of the mainstream mortgage lenders and the result is the same. A ridiculous situation that needs resolving quickly!