/ 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
Astrid Lorraine Knoepfle says:
21 July 2020

I am trying to sell my flat which was built in 2008 and the building does not have the EWS1 form. The property management company are saying it will take months for this to be implemented and I will therefore lose my buyer.. Other flat owners cannot renew their mortgages..how can this situation be possible when people are now left stuck with their properties and no ability to remortgage??

I live in a 6 storey building. It took 6 months to get the EWS1 form completed (2 months of this delay was due to lockdown issues) and it then came back with a B2 response (a fail) due to a 2mm gap around some of the fire doors. I’m now having to wait for yet another fire survey to be completed, then for the work to be done and then for the inspector to come back and re-do the EWS1 form. Without it my buyer can’t get a mortgage and I’m pretty sure she is on the brink of pulling out because of the delays.

I appreciate the overall reason behind the initiative is to protect occupants from fire risks, but a 2mm gap has cost me £15k so far and may cost even more if I have to put my flat back on the market in the middle of a recession. There just doesn’t seem to be any common sense used.

I presume your block is just over the 18 metre height exemption so the EWS1 form is essential; it is a concern that conveyances in buildings below that level are being compromised by the decisions of some lenders to require an EWS1 form. I have no idea whether 18 metres is an appropriate height criterion but in the interests of remediating the most hazardous high-rise blocks as quickly as possible it makes sense to prioritise the highest so that limited resources are deployed urgently to the cases that are potentially the most serious. Once a deficiency in the cladding is found, however apparently minimal, there is probably no alternative but to issue a ‘fail’ notice to which lenders are bound to respond negatively.

I’ve just found out that Santander have said that they ‘recently changed our cladding policy and no longer accept an ESW1 form’. When a ‘the valuer identifies a potential issue with cladding’ they will ask for further information so it may not be the solution for everyone, but for anyone else where the EWS1 form is holding thing up for non cladding reasons, this may help a little….

I don’t know whether it is over 18 meters, but I’ve read somewhere that it is 6 storeys OR 18 meters so I’m guessing I’m hit because of that. The frustration comes from the fact that the cladding on the building is absolutely fine, it is an issue with internal doors. I followed up and was told ‘As you may be aware, many professionals are refusing to fill the EWS1 Forms in due to PI insurance, but those that are will only fill the EWS1 Form based on the findings in the report they produced to satisfy MHCLG guidance.’. So the form isn’t even being used for its intended purpose. All a bit of a joke…

My partner is trying to remortgage her flat in a 4 storey block that is well under 18m in height, but the flat is being valued at £0 due to the lack of an EWS1 form. Two mortgage companies have said the same thing so far. The housing association for the flat have no idea what they’re doing and don’t seem to even be attempting to get an EWS1 form.
I’ve contacted the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (as they seem to have created the form alongside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), and have asked for explicit definitions for when the form is required. They don’t seem to have this information, which is incredibly concerning!

I think this is at the lender’s valuer discretion when it’s asked for lower buildings, you can’t do much once this is asked but try to get the buyer to try a different lender beside trying a different lender and hope they don’t ask for it…

Victoria says:
22 July 2020

Hi. I am also in the same position. The EWS1 form has failed and needs further investigation as the freeholder hasn’t kept a record of materials used in the recent refurbishment. This has caused my buyer to drop price and I’m pretty sure he’ll pull out as my Flat actually sold in January 2020. I’m literally stuck, can’t sell and move, loosing money, can’t remortgage. I’ve been charged around £20,000 for all the major works. I still owe them £9,000 which is why I was selling as it’s ridiculously unacceptable and unaffordable.

Kati Jagger says:
23 July 2020

We are trying to sell our flat and have had a £0 valuation on the property because we didn’t have an EWS1 form. However our building is under 18m therefore one is not required under RICS guidelines, and because it is not required, Peabody will not be getting one for the building. Therefore we are in an impossible situation of not having a certificate that we cannot procure which is not even required but is still being demanded by surveyors and mortgage companies. It is unbelievably distressing. We are a family of four in a two bedroom flat and bought our next house before we realised we couldn’t sell the current flat. We are facing financial ruin because of this ridiculous situation which no one seems to be able to solve. How surveyors and mortgage companies are able to do this is just beyond my understanding.

I want to sell my flat but am currently unable to because of the lack of EWS1 form. I have spoken to several agents but they have confirmed that the mortgage lenders are not lending as the valuation of properties are £0 due to the lack of the form and multiple news outlets have confirmed the same.

The housing association will not give us a concrete timeline of how long remediation will take, how much it could potentially cost and will only issue the form when remediation is done so all the leaseholders are just waiting.

Also now the government is enshrining in law that leaseholders are responsible for the cost of the remediation, despite not owning the building which is neither equitable nor fair. Leaseholders are just drawing the short straw throughout this whole problem despite not being the cause.

Emma Ward says:
23 July 2020

Our property is affected too. We live in a four storey, <11m building with cladding on it and our sale fell through earlier in the year as the buyer could not find a mortgage company who would lend, and we got a 0 valuation. The buyer then pulled out. Our freeholder, Gala Venture, has flat out refused to start the EWS1 process as it’s not required by law. It’s an incredibly stressful situation with no way out – we cannot sell, remortgage or move on with the our lives until this is sorted.

Daniel says:
23 July 2020

We’re stuck as well 🙁 We live on a second floor on a 6 storey building without cladding. We were in the process of remortgaging but our lender requested an EWS1 and couldn’t provide one.

L&Q, our housing association can’t provide a clear timeline for getting the building assessed. So we can’t sell, remortgage or rent our flat (not possible under shared ownership scheme) until we get an EWS1 approved.

We’ll have to wait probably years until the building is assessed, then we’ll have to wait to see if there are any works needed, most likely there will be as this is a great opportunity for L&Q to overcharge us for some works… Then wait for the works to be done AND finally we’ll have to pay for it!!! (as the draft building safety bill is proposing).

Utterly frustrating

James T says:
23 July 2020

Daniel,

I’m with L&Q and they have given me permission to sublet. You might want to ask permission as I know of others who have had approval too.
Lots and lots of costs involved though – be warned. Good luck mate, you’re not alone. I’ve posted my experience if you want to read.

Hi James, thanks for sharing, it looks like subletting will be a temporary relief for many of us!
Can you share what sort of subletting permissions have you been granted? Is it for 6 months, 12 months? Also, what are those very high costs that you mention; does your housing association require you to pay fees!? Good luck to you.

Hi Konstant, L&Q currently allow 12 months subletting if you are a shared owner affected by EWS1. The costs presumably may be paying the tax on the income generated from subletting.
Leaseholders with L&Q have a closed group on FB called Homeowners of L&Q where many can answer your questions.

Some Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements require leaseholders to pay a fee for obtaining permission to sublet their property. The fee would be payable on each change of tenant(s) and annually otherwise [or such other period as is specified in the tenancy agreement]. It might also be necessary to supply a copy of the agreement each time when applying for permission. VAT would also be payable on top of the fee as it is for the provision of a service.

A Graham says:
23 July 2020

I am currently going through this process and it is a total nightmare. The difficulty in Scotland is that Scotland, all the apartments are owned outright; there is no leasehold. A such it is very difficult and expensive to get such reports commissioned as individual owners cannot commission, but surveyors also will not provide reports via a joint commission from owners via a factor. I am aware that lenders have still refused to lend even where the EWS1 had been obtained and no issues indicated.

Michael says:
23 July 2020

I am a first-time buyer and the lack of an EWS1 form is holding up my mortgage being approved. I’m worried I will lose the property, the only small consolation being that others will presumably be in the same situation.

Hannah says:
23 July 2020

We are in the process of trying to sell our flat at the moment. It’s 16m high, completed in 2017. We have one wall with external cladding which was upgraded to class a solid aluminium panels in 2018 and we have the building control sign off etc to support it. However, our buyer’s lender (Barclay’s) has valued our property at £0 without an EWS1 form, despite the fact it’s under 18m and we have no combustible materials present. We provided all the other documentation to the valuer but they don’t seem to have taken it into account. Peabody have told us it will take 10 years to provide an EWS1 form for us block as we are low risk and they are focusing on their high risk stock first. We’re at breaking point. We had an offer accepted on our dream home close to parents and as newlyweds had dreams of starting a family. Staying in our flat will prevent us from doing this as we don’t have the space. We can’t put our lives on hold for 10 years but we have no options to compel Peabody to produce this form and lenders don’t appear to be taking a reasonable approach. They’ve just said we should be able to get one easily, even though it’s not in our control and our block doesn’t meet the spec.

Adam says:
23 July 2020

We are trying to sell our flat which was built in 2017 and is 16 meter in height. It had the cladding removed and replaced in 2018 with non combustible class A 3mm solid aluminium panels and our balconies are also made of non combustible materials.
Our buyers mortgage has recently been declined with a valuation of £0 without an EWS1 which our freeholder doesn’t plan on obtaining.

James says:
23 July 2020

We’re in a one-bedroom flat in a shared ownership development. The building is < 18 metres in height yet many of us are stuck, now unable to sell, remortgage or staircase. Shared ownership is designed to get young people on the housing ladder, so many of whom then move on as they get older and begin to have families etc. Now their HAs are turning around and saying nothing is likely to be done re. EWS1 for years, ie put your lives on hold indefinitely.

I have been trying to sell my shared ownership for 4 months now, got a very keen buyer but they won’t provide the cladding safety EWS1 form – bear in mind my building is well below 18meters as per govt guidelines but apparently lenders decided to ask regardless – and therefore the buyer can’t get a mortgage (tried several providers).

The HA simply responded that they’ll work on it and it might take years.

I had to move to a different region (property in London, I’ve been sent to work in NI) so they let me sublet the property to the interested buyer – but I’m terrified that I’ll be stuck with this property and will also be charged for the cladding remedial works.

SHAME

Zoe Bartley says:
23 July 2020

We have been trying to sell our first floor one bedroom apartment since January 2020. The building is 14m tall with minimal cladding on the top/ 5th floor and timber floored balconies on less than half of the properties. We received our EWS1 form after 7 months this week but it has revealed safety issues with the building which we were not made aware of prior and still don’t know what they are as the Housing Association refuses to disclose.

Our buyer was unable to get a mortgage without the EWS1 form and is now unable to get one with the form as we got the wrong result.

Jake says:
23 July 2020

We have had an EWS1 survey completed, and received a B2 rating. A subsequent RICS valuation came back as £0.

We are now unable to sell, and will most likely incurs exorbitant costs due to the inadequate Building Safety Fund.

Luis says:
23 July 2020

I can’t sell my flat until the remedial work is completed but the issue for me at the moment is that I couldn’t remortgage at the end of the 2 years fixed rate, my mortgage provider Platform refuses to maintain the rate and therefore now I’m on the standard variable rate what is costing me over £200 per month more than I used to pay, that with the 50% increase in the service charge is putting me in serious difficulties but even though I explained this to Platform they refuse to help me, when the only think I asked is just revert to the original 2 years fixed rate that I had with them

I’m in a very similar situation to yourself, including having Platform as my mortgage provider. I can find very little info (outside of your post) about how difficult it will be to remortgage with them. Would you be able to share a little of what they said when you hit the end of your fixed term and why they wouldn’t let you move to another of their products?

Emma says:
23 July 2020

We lost our buyer last week due to no EWS1 form. Our buyer could not get anyone to lend on it. Our housing association have conducted two tests on the cladding/insulation and identified that the insulation behind the cladding on the 7th floor is non compliant however our flat is on the ground floor and our insulation conforms to current building fire safety. We are now stuck in a 2 bed flat with 2 small children and very limited options open to us. The only people who could potentially purchase our flat would be cash buyers which would be at a significant discount. This situation is causing a huge amount of stress and worry.

Zoe says:
23 July 2020

This situation rather than legal feels illegal. Peabody our management company have said will take years to get the ews1 certificate and that we will likely need some work done which again will take years. Meanwhile as a shared ownership we cannot sell our flat or rent it out and we are just meant to stop our lives for years! This negates the very reason that shared ownership was created. Additionally now we have to pay for it even though we don’t own the building!
The government put so much emphasis on no stamp duty but seems they don’t care at all by fire safety and all the thousands of people that can’t sell . Surely this is a scandal!

Ollie says:
23 July 2020

We want to try and sell our flat but have been advised this isn’t possible without an EWS1 cert. Peabody our housing association and freeholder is refusing to give any timelines as to when it will be complete. We are stuck and unable to move on for what could be years!!!