/ 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?

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.

Most crucially, only the original developer can request the EWS1, leading to huge frustrations for buyers seeing their moves placed on hold due to its absence. 

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
Dov O'Neil says:
2 August 2020

Our story was featured in The Telegraph which might help to bring some more attention to the issue plaguing thousands of leaseholders up and down the country.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/mortgages/trapped-cant-sell-property-cladding-chaos-pushes-flat-owners/

Laura says:
2 August 2020

Our block is completely brick clad and well below 18m. All mortgage companies categorically still won’t lend to buyers unless an EWS1 form is completed showing the ‘all clear’.

Persuading the freeholders to do this was the first hurdle, getting one of these in -demand surveyors was the next. Getting into flats to do intrusive surveys the next (over 10 seperate blocks on our estate). Waiting for the results (currently 4 weeks now and counting) is the latest problem. Buyers falling through is so common place that the agents won’t let buyers apply for searches/progress anything until we get the form.

The procedural mess that the government has created has absolutely destroyed the buying process for any flats purchased by a mortgage. That’s a lot of transactions countrywide. Even if they retracted the EWS1 requirement I’m not sure lenders would eradicate the requirement due to their risk appetites.

It is a complete and utter shambles. I wait with bated breath that we get a good rating in the cert, otherwise we’re done for. Trapped in a home, for no reason other than politics. God help us all.

Emma Zaman says:
2 August 2020

I appreaciate the hardship of all the people in this situation but I also feel that those who did have the survey with recommendation for option B3 on the EWS1 form meaning remediation works need to be undertaken are also victims of the situation as lenders are refusing to lend without the work completed – which could take months/years. People who are in this position have been stuck for a long time as it is and now we are further stuck. A lot of estate agents are hoping that sales would happen because banks would have guarantee on cost, funding and completion date but this is not proving to be the case as they want the work completed. People who really need to sell are making huge loses on their flats by selling to cash buyers. This is extremely unfair.

John Smith says:
3 August 2020

I have got £0 valudation and an EWS1 request from Skiptos BS for a flat in a four storey building way under 18, and with brick cladding. The freeholder offers to get the certificate done in one month, however, I don’t think it’s possible to be done that quickly. I am thinking of puliing out of the purchase

Nigel Brueton says:
3 August 2020

Recently remortgaging a ground floor flat in block of 3 floors. So way under 18m high. Coventry/Godiva insisting on EWS1 form as valuer/surveyor did only an on line search and said there is combustible materiel on balconies and elsewhere. Rubbish! Spoke to builder of 5 year old block, they refused to fill out a form, but told me the materials used – all non-combustible (including steel balconies which do not burn!) Form can be completed and signed by a professional engineer or surveyor (I have along list of appropriate approved persons). As I am one of these, my qualifications were accepted and mortgage arrived, just in time!

Sarah says:
3 August 2020

Do you have to carry out your own testing or rely on the fire risk assessment completed on a block?

Sarah mcdonagh says:
4 August 2020

Do you need to carry out your own assessments or do you work off the fire risk assessment recently completed? You could be my saviour if not the latter!!

Hi all, what is your experience with finding a cash buyer in this situation? I suspect I’ll have the same issue soon and have Help to Buy on the property – I was planning to do a capital raise to pay off the loan and rent out my flat, but unless they change regulations this seems unlikely…unless some lenders don’t require EWS1?

Henry says:
4 August 2020

Echoing the same issues from most people. Have tried selling my property and twice has been rejected twice by two different vendors. The building has actually had all its external cladding replaced so the first part of the form it passes. The second part it did not. Despite the letters of confirmation from the building company the that the work to complete the walls to meet the standards would all be done and at no cost to the owner the mortgage was still not signed off. I am stuck and unable to do anything here to move it forward.

Craig Anderson says:
4 August 2020

I’ve had my home report marked as a 3 which resulted in a buyer dropping out as the home report was updated after lockdown. Two other flats in the same block don’t have the cladding highlighted as an issued and one of them is selling straight away. This will delay my sale and potentially cost me a lot of money.

Hi Craig, do you know who the other flats lenders were please ?

Rekha says:
4 August 2020

I’m in the process of awaiting the form to buy my first home. I reserved the apartment in Feb 2020, am not in a chain, the apartment is vacant as it’s a new build completed and all the paperwork for my mortgage is in order- the only obstacle is the EWS1 form which information about is constantly delayed since restrictions were lifted at the end of May in the property market. I have now lost all enthusiasm for this property and am 90% sure I will withdraw unless the developer give me firm dates for completion this week. I will not be renewing my mortgage offer when it expires in September.
It’s a shame as I will now rent an apartment instead as an alternative for the next year – this isn’t really encouraging first time buyers to purchase homes when costly delays like this occur.

Arzo says:
4 August 2020

We’ve just had the survey completed by the fire engineer and its come back with a b2 recommendation which means the apartment has not been deemed fire safe. Although its not dangerous enough for us to require a 24 hour fire marshal either. Im probably going to find out that my remortgage has fallen through in the next 48 hours or so. We have no idea when the remedial work will begin and I’m stuck. Does anyone know if there any legal grounds to push for the remedial work? Thanks.

Hoxtonman says:
5 August 2020

In a 2006 build. Got an offer within one week of putting my flat on the market. Buyers survey done yesterday. Surveyor wasn’t optimistic. The building freeholder / Managing agents provided a 2019 fire investigation deeming the building low risk and not having any ACM cladding. They won’t even give a date as to when an EWS1 test could be completed. So it looks like I won’t be able to sell. I will refuse to pay service charges going forward until the freeholder gives a date for the EWS1 and who should pay for any remedial work if needed.

Arzo says:
5 August 2020

Hi – any idea how this works legally? My quarterly service charge is due soon and I’m thinking of doing the same but not sure?

Chris says:
5 August 2020

I bought a one bed flat on shared ownership in 2015 – living on the second floor of a three story building (below the 18m threshold). We had our valuation survey done in December, and a buyer agreed in February – however, their lender is refusing to lend until EWS1 form is provided. The housing association is unwilling to release the list of materials used in the building, so we are unable to get an EWS1 form done privately – our low risk building is towards the back of the queue, so we need to wait until high risk blocks are completed (no idea if the remedial works needs to be completed before they will try and certify our building). We have two children under two – our second child was born on Friday 31 July. My wife sleeps on the sofa with baby 2, and I sleep in the bedroom with baby 1. Our MP Harriet Harman contacted the housing association 4 weeks ago, saying we should expect to receive a response, nothing has come to us yet but we know what the answer will be. We need the government to lean on banks to lend, and to lean on insurers to insure fire safety surveyors to be covered enough to carry out surveys.

John says:
5 August 2020

Hi all,

We are in the same position. We had an offer accepted on our flat in June- it’s a 3 storey building with some plastic panels under each window. Halifax have asked for the form 2 weeks ago , we asked our management company to assist and they said there’s absolutely no cladding on our building, but having read the thread I’m not optimistic at all! What I don’t understand is someone in the same block as us sold two months ago!! Does anyone know any bank that aren’t being as pedantic. I think it’s so unreasonable and is causing a lot of stress both physically and mentally. How are first timers buyers meant to get onto the ladder if flats aren’t shifting. Does anyone know of any petitions?

Thanks
John

Andrew says:
5 August 2020

Live in a 2 bed 9th floor flat. No ACL cladding and no mention of issues. 2nd kid on the way and so gone through the process of selling, found our dream home, only to find out from a broker that our flat will be worthless without Esw1. Now coming to terms with having 2 children in our flat and becoming mortgage prisoners for who knows how long. Sickened by what’s happened and how others are being affected. No idea how we will afford a SVR if we can’t remortgage.

Heather says:
Today 12:03

I live in a building where there is no cladding on the apartments themselves, but there is some near the car park adjacent to the apartment building. We have had the intrusive survey and they found a combustible material and the EWS1 can not be produced now until the remedial works are completed. The building management company have applied for government funding for the works to be done, but because we are under 18 metres high, they may not grant the funding. If we do get the approval letter from the government, I have heard that some lenders may lend based on this letter. But I’m not sure if this is certain and which lenders would accept the letter in the interim.
I am living in a 1 bed apartment with my 5 year old son, and it looks like I will lose both the house I am buying and my buyer. Other residents here have lost their buyers multiple times.
They are trying to boost the economy with stamp duty holidays and get people moving again, yet this is a complete road block and is so upsetting! Just feels like there is no way forward, and the lenders are blind to the issues their lack of guidance is causing.

saarthak says:
Today 15:14

I live in a 4 storey appartment (18m) building built in 2008. The fire safety report has confirmed that the timber cladding is very limited and hence the building and external wall system is of “low” risk. The management company does not feel the need for the EWS1 form for this reason. We have been trying to delay our following purchase as no bank is ready to lend on my current property to remortgage or sell it. I think we will have to give up on our follow on purchase.