/ 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?

04/05/2021: Take our survey

Which? has launched a survey of leaseholders caught up in the UK’s ongoing cladding and building safety crisis.

Take the Which? leaseholder cladding survey here

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
Esilio says:
6 September 2020

Here is a petition from free leaseholders trapped in the new EWS1 form bureaucracy hell, sign it and spread the word!

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328201

Miriam says:
7 September 2020

I tried to list my flat for sale last week as I want to move out of London and the Estate Agent said I would need the EWS1 form before they list it for me. They said apparently it becomes law on the 1st October?
I have no idea what to do now.

Our management company (Clarion) procured an EWS1 form, but my buyer’s lender’s valuer won’t accept it on the basis that the signatory did not have “chartered” status. The signatory is a member of the Institution of Fire Engineers (he is an Incorporated Fire Engineer, one rank below Chartered status) with 15 years experience, a degree in fire safety and suitable professional indemnity insurance.

RICS guidance on this matter seems to change by the week. I actually spoke to RICS regulatory team last week and they provided written confirmation that the fire engineer’s qualifications were satisfactory, but this seems to conflict with various pieces of public guidance they have put out only last week.

In addition to this EWS1 form we have presented a fire safety certificate giving the building a clean bill of health.

Notwithstanding the above, the lender’s surveyor is operating on a binary yes/no basis approach, clearly not undertaking any analysis and taking a ridiculously risk averse approach. To be clear, the valuer spent about 5 mins at my property and has asked no questions, but merely repeated that the property is valued at £Nil regardless of the provision of these documents. How on earth can he make any assessment based on not carrying out any analysis or asking any questions???? Surely as a chartered surveyor he is able to use his training and some thought in the process?!?!

We don’t see what else we can do and no doubt our building management company will refuse to undertake ANOTHER EWS1 survey, so we have no idea what to do and in all likelihood our sale will fall through this week. Absolutely devastated. Are we now trapped until this parliament legislates?

The whole process is a farce. We have today received our EWS1 form our management company – also Clarion – stating that our flat which is just over 4 years old – has a score of B2 so is not deemed safe! This is while out property is under offer from a buyer who is requiring a mortgage to purchase. As requested by the buyer’s solicitors and mortgage providers – this form has had to be passed on to them and from what I can gather from reading online and speaking to our own mortgage advisor for the property we have made an offer on, he expects our buyers to now no longer be provided with the mortgage to purchase our property. So now until clarion make these amendments which is hardly an overnight job I assume we will lose our buyers and the last few months of what felt like a great time selling and buying our new property will fall apart

Same here buyers lender is not interested in the per-flat EWS1

Our son is trying to arrange a mortgage for the apartment he has lived in for the last five years since attending university in the area.
He was informed that an ESW1 survey was required. This was done and the surveyor failed the apartment block. We are amazed by this as there is NO CLADDING AT ALL on his block. The walls are brick built. There are areas of rendering on some blocks within the development which are presumably where insulation materials have been used. Is the whole development represented by such surveys or should individual apartment blocks be assessed. In addition the building is a five storey block with an under-croft. The height between floors is approximately 3.1m-3.4m. So the ground floor to roof is less than 18m.
We would like to know whether it is worthwhile to seek legal representation and see if an ESW1 form should be required in this case or not.

Lauren B says:
7 September 2020

I’ve just found out about this by chance and I’m in the process of buying a flat with external cladding and balconies. Although the building’s only 3 stories tall, I worry that it will need an EWS1 form and that even if I can get a mortgage (we’re currently waiting to hear back on our application) we might end up trapped as so many others seem to be. Is there anyone else in this situation, and can anyone help point us in the direction of more information? It seems that solicitors, estate agents and our mortgage advisor know very little about this situation and I don’t know whether to proceed or withdraw our offer.

Martin says:
11 September 2020

There’s a chance that you may get the property and then not in the too distant future landed with a bill which could end up being £10,000’s per leaseholder. Literally, tens of thousands. At that point you probably wont be able to even re-mortgage as your property may be valued as worthless, for the time being anyway, so you would have to find the money from somewhere, somehow !? Solicitors are normally paid when a sale completes so you need to bear that in mind – they want the sale to go through but it may not be in your best interests.

If I were in your shoes I wouldn’t buy a leasehold flat for the moment and see how this all pans out. You could literally be buying into a nightmare (and I run a management company on behalf of a block of flats so I know what I’m talking about!)

J. King says:
7 September 2020

My re-mortgage took 5 months to go through at the end of last year as the surveyor gave a value of “n/a”. After months of getting no help or guidance from the developer or building factors I eventually found someone at the council who checked the building warrants and could confirm that the building was not deemed a high-rise as it didn’t meet the 18m.

Now, while trying to sell the property, the home report has come back with a category 3 for the main walls as “urgent repairs or replacements are needed now”. I’m not going to be able to sell with a category 3, and we won’t be able to get the cladding replaced because our factors are useless. I’m scared to get an EWS1 incase it fails and I’m trapped here forever.

Stefano says:
7 September 2020

My developer is delayed the provision of the EWS1. More than 1 month wait. Can I sue him for negligence and get recompensed from the cost I have incurred?

Desperate to sell but can’t until I have an EWS1 for the entire block of flats. The factoring company are working on it but it won’t be a quick fix. Government must step in.

My partner and I experienced a very similar scenario, had an offer accepted on a flat in a 4-storey building under 18m, but our mortgage lendor refused to proceed without an EWS1 form in place.

After a four-month wait (which doesn’t seem too long based on some stories here!), the surveyor found polystyrene insulation under the render which is not entirely flame-resistant, hence the building needs to be completely re-rendered at a cost to leaseholders of approximately £200k. As many have said, even buildings primarily made of brick may fail due to other concerns.

We’re continuing to search for a flat but are asking estate agents up-front if the EWS1 form is in place. I’m also checking to see if any sales in a given block of flats have proceeded within the past few months—I would take that as a positive sign.

Emily says:
8 September 2020

I am trying to sell a flat in a 4-storey building that was completed in 2011. Due to the lack of EWS1 mortgage providers will not lend money against the property and so I cannot sell until the EWS1 has been provided. However, the process seems to be taking months and nothing seems to happen, but perhaps this is due to subpar management agents?!

We are currently trying to buy our home which is a simple 2 storey terraced property with external cladding, the cladding is certified as non combustible and we have all the paperwork to prove it but yet the building society is still requesting an EWS1 form and they will not finalise the mortgage until they have the form! The process has now been going for 15 months and we have simply run out of ideas on what to do! Please help

Saffie says:
8 September 2020

I’m a shared owner and have had 2 estate agents over saying that they would definitely have interested persons buying but without EWS…see you later, I called Clarion to complain as to why they are not advising people of this before they start they resale process?

Their are abort and cancellation fees that persons would have to pay as well as fees for packs to be produced at the cost of the leaseholder even though the HA are the majority shareholder..

Shared ownership is a rip off, the cladding scandal is a joke and the EWS1 is well a complete and utter shambles. I seriously believe it has opened a Pandora’s box as the amount of unsuspecting people that are being affected is colossal.

I saw a story where they were asking for an EWS1 for a terraced house? They will bring the entire housing market to a grinding halt which will be catastrophic.

Stop building homes and fix the ones that are in existence! Also allowing people to remain in unsafe homes is just well callous.

All I want to do is sell and move on but seems to be a mere pipe dream now

I have a buyer for a flat and this buyer has all the pre-requisites ticked for a mortgage. The block has the EWS1 form and it confirms that no remedial work is required. The fire risk review was undertaken by a fully qualified and approved firm in accordance with RICS/UKFI etc guidelines. The buyer’s bank; in spite of the freeholder obtaining this report, is demanding that the freeholder sends a covering letter confirming themselves that the review was undertaken in accordance with the rules/guidance and that no remedial work is required. This seems bizarre and negates the whole purpose of the report. The freeholder obviously doesn’t want to provide this letter on top of the fire report it expensively obtained. Has anybody had a bank requesting this letter too?

Sophie says:
9 September 2020

Exactly the same situation as many above. I can’t buy the flat I have had an offer accepted on. The block is only 3/4 storeys high so the management company don’t need to get an EWS1 form however lenders wont owns without it!?!?! The government needs to step I somewhere!

I’m trapped in selling or even borrowing against my flat which has wooden cladding until an EWS1 is provided even though it’s under 18 meters tall and 5 floors. Nationwide’s surveyors can’t give any valuation even though I have £160K positive equity until the EWS1 is completed and bring wooden cladding could even fail. My lease provider for the block tells me they are not obliged by law to provide this as the block is under 18 meters as stated clearly on the EWS1 form itself and they cannot even provide a solution or advice how I can resolve this. I’ve heard there’s a shortage of qualified surveyors as this is quite a new issue and the ones who are can charge up to £10K per EWS1 survey that may even fail and that’s hard luck for the owner as nothing else can be done unless the block leasehold agrees to change the cladding which they are not obliged to do so. The government needs to act on this complete mess.

I fortunately got a mortgage offer just before lockdown to enable me to staircase ownership of my shared ownership property. I now may lose this offer because I can’t get the EWS1 form – obviously the offer pre-lockdown was much more favourable than anything I could get on the market now in terms of LTV %.
The offer was extended due to Covid situation and surveys etc had to be done – fine. Bank did their survey but won’t confirm the value until they get the form. Housing association have been radio silent for 3 months (probably covid and resource related – understandable) but have only now confirmed they haven’t even done the survey nor know if it’s their responsibility as they are not the freeholder.

All this has related in 7+ months of delays, a lost mortgage offer and probably inability to staircase to take advantage of the government stamp duty offer before March 2021. In total this delay is going to cost me an additional £30k! Would love to know if there is anything that can be done!

Can anyone recommend a company that can provide me with a fire cladding survey not the ESW1 form. The bank has requested this.

I am in the Essex area. Thank you

Maggies_Spot says:
11 September 2020

What a hot mess… 2020 what is going on????? I am in the process of remortgaging and my potential new lender. Will not make an offer until they obtain the ESW1 form. Just found out by my service provider that currently the flat I live in has failed. 😔😔😔😔 I am actually fed up. Who wants to give me £1m??????

i have a flat in Carlton House Illford. External Wall Assessment has been done by FDS Consult. It is a comprehensive report. Not sure if it meets the requirements for external wall and cladding or do we still require an EWS form 1.

I accepted an offer on my flat in November 2019 and the EWS1 survey has just been done, and found that more invasive investigations and remedial works are necessary. I think my buyer will probably pull out so I’m considering renting the flat out instead as it sounds like it’s going to take a significant amount of time to complete. Has anyone been in a similar situation and looked into cash buyer companies like webuyanyhouse? I know they give you less than market value but I’m starting to think it would be worth it just to get rid.