/ 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
Philippa says:
14 September 2020

My daughter is in the process of purchasing a flat using shared ownership. She is now stuck in this hell even though the block is only 3 stories and there is no cladding! Looks like it will all fall through, well done on stuffing up the flat market Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by effectively broadening the scope for the EWS1.

I am in the same boat as your daughter, I had Halifax tell me the form was required but now waiting on an offer from Barclays to see if they require the form, if it is then it will all fall through for me as well and this is only 3 stories like your daughter, its so stressful

Andrew Hennell says:
14 September 2020

I am the Leaseholder of three flats in the Wandswoth Council area where Wandsworth is the Freeholder. Being a responsible Landlord I want to enure that the flats in which my tenants live are safe with regard to fire regulations. I contacted both the Council directly and Co-Op Homes who manage the Freehold properties on behalf of Wandsworth asking them to issue me with a reply as to whether they have got or will be getting EWS1 compliancy in the freehold blocks in which my leasehold properties are located. I also raised the question about front door fire compliancy to each of my flats as they open onto communal areas – raising the concern that I am unable to replace the front doors and frames as the Freeholder has installed electrical wiring for the main door entry system through all of the front door frames which I as leaseholder am unable to re-route as that’s a freeholder responsibility. After numerous telephone calls and emails I still have received no reply from Wandsworth Council or indeed Co-Op Homes. Selling flats without EWS1 certification is not easy as various mortgage lenders refuse to fund property purchases which are deemed to be non fire regulation compliant which in turn limits the funding opportunities for potential purchasers.

I had an offer accepted for a red brick old mill flat in March 2020. After COVID lockdown it finally got valued by the lender and came back as £0 requesting an EWS1 because they identified a small amount of cladding. I was very surprised considering it is a brick building and was told there was no cladding issues by the estate agent. The developer has promised to remove the cladding and pay for the works, but I don’t want wait anymore. Would you have to wait for the new external outer shell to be installed before the EWS1 could be completed? Also considering how long it takes for these forms to be completed and only being valid for 5 years, I fear I won’t be able to remortgage because the lender will request for a new EWS1 and will have to wait potentially years for it to be signed off and in the mean time pay higher variable rates!

Marianne says:
15 September 2020

I own 30% of a 2 bedroom ground floor flat in East London with Clarion as the Housing Association responsible for it. For a decade I lived there happily with my disabled son. Last year after getting married and falling pregnant I put the flat on the market. A buyer was quickly found but couldn’t get their mortgage to go through due to a lack of a fire cladding report (it dragged on for months before this was finally confirmed). In the meantime my husband and I found our dream home and moved out feeling sure that another buyer would be more successful. Another buyer has indeed now been found but now after hearing of all these experiences I fear that their mortgage will also be unsuccessful. I have asked Clarion many times what is being done about a fire cladding report but they just ignore me. We are now paying the mortgage on our new home as well as the rent, council tax etc on my flat which is not sustainable, especially as I’m on maternity leave and my husband’s hours have been cut due to the Covid situation. I worry a great deal for the future at the moment.

I also have a flat in east London with Clarion and they have been helpful with trying to push the assessment forward but it’s the property managers/freeholder that have been difficult. I managed to re-mortgage without the form but it’s very stressful

Lynsey says:
23 September 2020

Hello. I’m in a similar boat trying to sell my share of a Southern Housing flat. It’s ridiculous as social and affordable housing are much needed in London. Is there any way, a time period following no sale, to force the housing association to buy back our shares so they can reallocate the much-needed (and actually perfectly safe) homes?

Naomi Majury says:
24 September 2020

Who were you able to re-mortgage with?

Anya Mir says:
15 September 2020

Can not sell, can not retrieve hard earned equity. Feel betrayed by the ignorant government, feel scammed, taken advantage of and neglected. Feeling lonely, quite devastated. All I want is to sell and move on.

John Pyke says:
16 September 2020

I live in a block of maisonettes, the building is 3 floors and the UPVC cladding represents around 16% of the external wall area. The technical specification states that it is self extinguishing and meets British Standards.
Despite this Halifax after sending me a mortgage offer, have now rescinded the offer for lack of an EWS1 form. I assumed stupidly that having reviewed the valuer/surveyor report prior to the offer being sent that this was a greenlight? So now I have incurred fees and building works underway with no finances to pay for them, and no incentive for the freeholder to undertake the investigation to provide an EWS1 form.

amerjit kang says:
16 September 2020

Hi. I am having similar issues as noted by a lot of other people here and it looks as if my new home will also fall through. i have contacted the lease holders of the flat and there is not much they can do at the moment. they are looking at having the work completed early next year but this does not help me 1 bit

I’ve spent 6 weeks and 3k on surveyors and a solicitor only to find out that the flat I was going to buy needs EWS1.
The thing is, the state agents knew it and they kept quiet, even now they have 3 flats for sale in that same building!
This is highly unethical from sellers and state agents as they are trying their luck with buyers knowing that the process is going to failed. New buyers are going to waste time and money.
Is there any protection against this ? anyway has any experience ?

Conrad Binding says:
16 September 2020

So I and my partner have had a sale agreed since January, the buyer has been so patient and thankful he’s still around.

Our building is 12 metres high 3 stories built 2 and a half years ago. we have been running tiredly trying to get the managing company to agree. I have spoken to the freeholder who has admitted its the company and them to pay. still nothing…

The quote is only £8,750 for them to do the whole building, I appreciate it a lot of money but you have ones in Cardiff fixing costing £7 million pounds to fix…

My partner feeling so stressed and suicidal as we feel trapped and laughed at is there a way to put legal action or to put pressure to get this sorted this is beyond its basically brand new!

Beacon House Ffordd Y Mileniwm , Barry, CF62 5BF

If anyone got any advice – conradbinding@gmail.com

Really need some help.

Thanks

Ashleigh says:
16 September 2020

I have been trying to sell my flat that is only 3 storeys high since January my buyer has been in place from 2 weeks after I put it on the market.

I have been struggling to obtain an EWS1 form as no one wants to claim liability. My block of flats is only 3 years old. We pay a service charge every month that covers us for fire safety but still we are getting told the home owners might have to pay for the work to be done.

Also I have been informed by the management company that all fire doors within the building do not meet regulations. My home is classed as unsellable at this moment in time and has been since January and still no news on even if the work is going to get done for me to obtain the EWS1 form. It’s actually terrible

Nicola Thomas says:
16 September 2020

My partner and I had our offer on flat accepted back in February, covid months later, and EWS1 submitted from vendor to Halifax, alongside all other documents, us as applicants….no problem, but now the Halifax underwriter wants proof of qualifications of surveyor who provided the certified forms. Feels like there is no end in sight. Considering pulling out now. Saved so hard, feels like I’m wasting my time, money and effort. Poor vendors too, trying to do all the right things. Again, the little people at the mercy of the big, monied people. Plus, only 3 stories high, not over 18m. Lenders can invoke these issues. Frustrated +++

Leon Ferguson says:
21 September 2020

I’m in the process of buying a flat. Management got EWS1 form very quickly, brick built all steel balconies. The Mortgage Works surveyor now disputing the qualification even though it was inspected by a member of the Institute of Fire Engineers. A member since 1984, TMW are saying a Graduate member is not a full member, when it’s merely a level of membership. He fully complies with the govt criteria for qualified inspectors.

What can i say , I think most scenarios are covered in the previous comments. As a couple we did everything that a responsible couple should have done . We delayed having children for 8 years so we could save enough for a deposit for a flat ( we could not afford a house ) . We both worked and built our careers and when we wanted to relocate , we found that we cant sell our flat as the potential buyers are unable to secure a mortgage due to the EWS1 requirements. The funny thing is that one of the mortgages rejected is actually with a bank with whom we have our present mortgage. So essentially me , my wife and my 5yr old son are prisoners of our bank . Our only hope is to pay off 185k ( which is close to impossible ) . I would be lying if i said that i have not had suicidal thoughts …

Please don’t despair! Change will come…….things always change they never stay the same. Let us continue to fight with hope!

I cannot get an EWS1 FORM
I HAVE ALL OTHER SAFETY DOCUMENTS
THERE IS NO CLADDING
WILL ANY LENDER GIVE ME A MORTGAGE

Neil Miller says:
17 September 2020

Just had this following a petition that I signed on the issue. Clearly lenders have jumped on a bandwagon, that the EWS 1 inadvertently created. It is now time for them to jump off again!

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Free leaseholders trapped in new build properties by post-Grenfell EWS1 form”.

Government responded:

We share homeowners’ concerns and do not support the blanket use of EWS1 forms. We encourage lenders to accept other forms of assessment in relation to external walls.

We share homeowners’ concerns in the way EWS1 forms are being used. We also recognise the difficulties and uncertainty they now face in obtaining mortgages. The government continues to encourage and work with industry to resolve these issues quickly.

We understand that lenders need to assess a property’s value and whether any major building work could be required to both inform their lending decision and protect the buyer. To support the valuation of high-rise buildings with cladding, the Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS), in conjunction with lenders devised the EWS1 process. While we appreciate the EWS1 form helps provide consistency and clarity for valuation purposes we do not recognise the EWS1 form as a safety assessment.

The Government is aware that some lenders are requesting EWS1 forms for lower rise properties. We do not support a blanket approach to the use of EWS1 forms on buildings and encourage lenders to accept equivalent or other forms of assessment as evidence for valuation purposes.

Building owners and managing agents should also make available relevant information, to reassure residents about the safety of their homes. This can also be shared with mortgage lenders, valuers, potential buyers and leaseholders to enable swift and informed decisions.

The Building Safety Minister has had assurances from lenders that they would look at applying a proportionate approach to assessments and valuation. We understand they are reflecting this in their policies and guidance to valuers and some lenders have said they would be open to other evidence on value-affecting matters, in line with the approach we outlined above.

We recognise concerns about the capacity within the fire engineering sector for assessing external walls and we are working with the fire engineering industry, including professional bodies such as the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Fire Sector Federation and the Fire Industry Association, to ensure there is a strategy to help industry scale up capacity in the profession.

MHCLG and the Home Office have jointly funded an industry-led proposal for the British Standards Institution to produce technical guidance to support fire risk assessments of external wall systems. This will also support the fire safety sector to upskill more individuals to assess external wall systems.

We are aware that many construction professionals have experienced challenges in securing Professional Indemnity Insurance. This is a particular concern for fire engineers who are crucial to assessing fire safety. The Minister for fire and building safety is holding regular roundtables with the insurance industry to encourage the availability of PII for those professionals essential to buildings safety. We understand the industry is also considering the role of building surveyors in the assessment process. We will continue to work closely with industry and stakeholders on this issue.

Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Sarah Wheat says:
17 September 2020

We were in the process of selling. Our flat received an A3 outcome on the ESW1 form, which means that the cladding and external walls are perfectly safe but the balconies require some change of material. The risk here is extremely low. Our balconies have decking but they are contained in an iron shell. The point of the form was to ensure a fire could not spread easily and ensure people would have the chance to get out of the building. The rest of the building has been assessed as completely fine and safe. Our building is also only 5 stories and under 18m, but lenders will not lend to our buyer until the work is complete. The management company will take between 6-12months to do the work. So we are stuck, despite our cladding being safe and the risk being deemed as ‘low’ – I don’t understand how this is fair. The gov need to step in and provide stricture guidance to lenders!!!

Sue Massingham says:
21 September 2020

Hello Sarah

I am a Director of a Freehold where there are two blocks, 20 in each block, I cannot find a company who will carry out the EWS1 work, can you say who carried the survey for your apartment? This all seems such a nightmare. We had major works carried out to the blocks despite them being built in 2007 under the new home warranty. They were re-clad and the works signed of by the local authority subsequent to the Grenfell fire. Thank you for sharing your story, it surly is a mess.

I’ve been stuck in this process too. Been waiting to buy my flat since June. It’s under 18m but the lenders are not having it! 🙁 Hopefully will get sorted soon..

P. HOward says:
21 September 2020

We have A small 1960’s, concrete flat, no external cladding, on the 3rd floor of a four storey block. This sale is now in limbo/failing because the purchaser wants a 50% mortgage and the lender (believed to be Barclays Bank) is insisting on an EWS1. From our understanding, the Minister of H, C and LG did NOT want such a blanket approach but only safe housing. The lenders have gone for the blanket approach so gold plating an agreement that was supposed to apply to 30 metre high blocks ( I.e. 10 storeys and higher). Brilliant, now we have a flat standing empty and as there are insufficient competent ( trained and experienced) surveyors to undertake this certification it could take years. In the meantime I now have a toddler son and no family home. Come on lenders, come on Minister, sort this silly situation out. You are causing hardship.

Kellie says:
21 September 2020

I am in a flat that is over 10 floors. I have read most of the comments on here and feel none of us should be treated this way regardless of what floor our homes are on. I have my flat on the market and had a lot of interest but have had to do my own research and advise my estate agents on what is happening with these ridiculous forms. My management company are being useless (no surprise to any of you) and I am in the same position of being held captive in my current home. So the viewings are on hold and the estate agents are now in a position they have to tell any one wanting to purchase a flat that it’s a no go unless you’re a cash buyer but even then I am sure the form will raise it’s head and then it will be another stalemate! So let’s all keep the pressure on the people who can make a change to this and stop the banks from hiding behind this facade because they want to reduce their borrowing!!!! I am sure somewhere there is a positive to this scenario but none of us have found it yet!

This is a nightmare. What can be done about this? I can see that forms have been circulated for people to sign in support of change, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon! It just doesn’t seem to be priority, which is so wrong. I’m reading frightening posts all over the internet of people saying that they’ve considered suicide due to the stress of it all. It’s disgusting.

I’m on my 2nd mortgage application with Halifax and I am fully expecting this one to fall through too, even though there is no cladding and the estate agent hasn’t had an issue with any of the other apartments in the building. They asked for an EWS1 form for the previous apartment which I was trying to purchase because it’s made of concrete, and opening said that it’s not to do with cladding…it just doesn’t make any sense.

It’s all very well the Government saying that lenders shouldn’t be using EWS1 forms as a blanket standard, but shouldn’t they be enforcing this somehow, rather than focussing on the Nanny State 10pm pub closure guidelines?!

Something needs to be done ASAP