/ 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

Hi – we are in a similar predicament however we have received two separate reports carried out by two separate companies – one dated Feb 2020 that gives a B1 opinion and one dated July 2020 that gIves a B2 opinion. We are just over the 18 metres in height requirement.
Our building owner has told us to ignore the B2 opinion as they didn’t instruct for that report to be carried out, they instructed the one in Feb, whereas the managing agent has instructed the one in July – at the leaseholders expense so it seems – even though one was carried out in Feb.

So we are stuck as we don’t know who to believe.

The managing agent has now been let go by the building owner for whatever reason but we can’t help but think this has something to do with it.

The building owner has said they won’t be carrying out the works and if it needs to be done we as leaseholders would have to pay for it.

The building owners report also only focuses on the top two floors which were added on as extensions and have some cladding, whereas the rest of the block doesn’t. And their report says it is fine as it is.

However the managing agents report indicates issues with above mentioned cladding, wood being used for balconies and also recommends a Fire Risk Assessment Type 4.

So both are complete opposite opinions!!

There are a number of people trying to sell but now no one no’s what to do

Any help would be much appreciated

An EWS1 form lasts for 5 years. If you have a EWS1 B1 form signed by an appropriate professional dated Feb 2020, then it is still valid. Lenders should accept this.

“B1” means that there are combustible materials present, but that in the opinion of the professional, pose nothing more than a low risk of fire spread. In your case, it could be that the small amount and specific placement of the combustible materials is the thing that makes it low risk. For example, small amounts on high floors.

The EWS form is an opinion, which could explain why a different surveyor came to a different opinion, presuming nothing changed on the building in between. Or it could just be a managing agent fishing for work.

Just check your B1 form was signed by a qualified surveyor or fire engineer and you’re good to go.

D

Enzo says:
5 November 2020

I am trying to remortgage my property. The flat is located on a ground floor of 4 story block, lower than 18 meters.
The lender still asked for a EWS1 form, even though on the RICS web site states that you are required to provide a EWS1 form for building shorter than 18 meters only if there is an issue to evacuate the building like in a care home.
When I try to have a reason for the form request the lender say it’s because of the valuer says there is a potential risk of of combustible. But when I ask the e tell me it’s the lender requesting the form.. so I am stuck between the 2 and now paying lot more in my monthly mortgage payments

Hi, We are selling our property and the buyers lender have requested the ews1 form even though our property is a ground floor flat domestic property and is not sharing any communal areas so apparently exempt from the requirement of an ews1 form, but we are very frustrated waiting for what they now have to say. Is your property also exempt for those reasons? Have you managed to resolve the issue? Thanks

Hi, i am also selling. Building is sub 18m but yesterday a surveyor requested an EWS1 to satisfy the lender, as the balcony has a wooden floor (?) and all have wooden dividers. The implication of not having this is a £0 valuation apparently. No cladding on the building at all so this is super frustrating.

I am in exactly the same position – If you listen to Radio 4, they are all over this – thousands of people caught up in it. I have not yet heard of one person that has got through this mess. Actually, I believe people are interested in talking about it but have no interest in resolving it. The Government need to write in to Legislation that Lenders have to disregard the need for EWS1 Forms where buildings are under 18 Meters. What the Government are actually saying is that it is not legislation that the Forms are needed – and that it is the lenders that are requiring it. It is an absolute farce!!

We are in the exact same position. Is anyone dealing with any reasonable banks on this matter. Or finding some sensible resolution?

If you are affected by this issue please sign the petition to take this debate to parliament https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328201

I am trying to get equity out of my flat (under 18m – 3 floors building). Mortgage for new house is sorted but the remortgage for the current flat is still hanging, valuer did not give any valuation saying that the property is not acceptable by lender. So the bank points out valuer, and the valuer points out lender. I am stuck. for the past 2 months I am going nowhere. My new house is now slowly slipping out of my hand. Does any one provide the names of any lenders that have not implemented the EWS requirement for lending? Thanks

Phil says:
9 November 2020

Apparently, Santander doesn’t require an EWS1 form, only a form signed by the management company. Also heard, Barclays and the Bank of Ireland don’t however even if they don’t require it, maybe the person who does the valuation says its required

It is true that some banks (such as Santander) are no longer requesting the form, however they are asking a set of questions for Managing Agents to sign that are specific to the testing and compliance of the external walls. This includes whether a survey has taken place, or is set to take place in the future, along with asking if any costs are set to be passed on to leaseholders.

As a result, people are still running into exactly the same issues.

Sophie says:
13 November 2020

Completely agree – just went thru Santander process in a hope that they will agree to lend without the form, but got stuck with the set of questions they asking managing agent to sign.

Has anyone tried to carry out a transfer of equity while their building has not got an EWS1 certification? I will be looking to do this but worried I may not be able to do it.

Phil says:
9 November 2020

Trying to buy a flat, even though the building is under 18m, our lender won’t value the property or issue a mortgage unless there is an EWS1 form

Rosie says:
9 November 2020

We are having similar problems it seems in that out buyer is having the same issues as you Phil. Also under 18m.

Florent says:
10 November 2020

Anybody understands why the bank refuse to lend any money on a flat that has a cladding issue as opposed to take a haircut on the valuation? I would expect insurance fees to be higher rather than asset value to be zero? It sounds really strange to me…

I am not able to sell my flat because MTVH would not provide ESW1 form. Their response is that our building doesn’t align with their current focus of blocks over 18metres and high risk residential blocks which means it could take ‘a few years’ to obtain this. This is ridiculous!!

The sale of my flat fell through for the same reason. The bank didn’t want to give a mortgage without the ESW1 even-though the building is less than 18m. The building management barely responds and says they are looking into it, maybe mid 2021. I am in the process of buying a house and I need to sell my flat to do so. I lost my buyer and I am so frustrated at the system right now. Is there anyone in the government that we could contact to get some support?

Write to your MP (you can find their email address online). Explain the situation and ask them to pressure the government into sorting this out. That’s what I did yesterday.

I am in exactly the same position but the management company are being responsive.

Yes, i actually did that last week. Hopefully if we all put pressure on them it will work..

Andrew says:
13 November 2020

My partner and I are buying our first home, and just hit this unexpected issue. The property is a 1980s block, 3 storeys tall and only partially clad, but after the valuation survey our lender has refused our mortgage. We’re now trying to speak to the seller / estate agent, as it’s likely they are not aware of the problem. It’s also meant us trying to find a new (more expensive) mortgage offer, and will also delay the whole process for at least a month or so, potentially longer. We weren’t in a chain and everything else had gone so smoothly we were hoping to move in by end of January, but if it drags on much longer we risk missing the stamp duty holiday. And more importantly, the purchase itself could be at risk; we don’t want to buy a property that we will struggle to re-mortgage or sell ourselves in future due to these issues.

N Eyers says:
16 November 2020

Hi Andrew, I’m so sorry to hear this! I hope you’ve managed to get further? I’m a producer doing a piece on how ruthless the property market is for first time buyers is at the moment and would love to have a quick chat with you – would this be possible?

We are trying to sell our flat in Bristol. We are in the same position as everyone else who has written comments. Please keep publicising this because that is how a change will come about.

I am trying to get a remortgage and release equity and have been told by the lender I must have an EWS1 form. I am running out of time and waited a month for the surveyor to come out already. The apartment block management agency are looking into this now but all landlords must agree for the quotes and pay out. I have no idea where to turn and the apartment above me sold with no issue 2 months ago! I can try a different lender but it’s generally the same surveyors in the area so I am still stuck. This is very stressful and I cannot get straight answers and the lenders will not lend.

Bethany Brown says:
16 November 2020

We are also in a strange position.

We sold out flat (2nd floor modern flat in Glasgow) and our buyers offer is on the conditions we have an EWS1 completed.

We have had this carried out buy a professional at £630. Sent the completed report over to our buyers solicitor and lender to be told that it is not for third party use. And if the buyer requires their name on it it will cost them £474. Which I can understand for our buyer is off putting – however we went with a company who was recommend by the surveyor who carried out our home report, and to the best of our knowledge we were just asked to get a EWS1 done. They’re was not specifics given.

So at the moment we are in limbo if the report on its own is satisfactory and our love will go ahead or if their will be delays.

Liz Green says:
17 November 2020

So, are you saying there is scope for effectively commissioning a survey yourself, with a Chartered Surveyor? and having your buyer’s name added to it? Even if it costs over a grand, it’s going to be better than losing our sale.
Can any Surveyor offer this, or do they have to be on some special list?
Thanks

Could you share the name of the Surveyor that issued the EWS1 Form as I am struggling to get any firm to do this. Hope you get the situation resolved… We need to set up a support group… although this forum is sort of acting as one!!!

I am currently buying a new build new build flat. This is made out of brick and has no cladding whatsoever, as well as being four stories high. My lender has asked for the EWS1 form although have been told it will be unlikely to get one. Has anyone heard of any banks not requiring this or lenders accepting detailed reports in lieu of the form, especially if the building has not got cladding? Furthermore it seems many are in limbo with this form and is there going to be any changes made this year? I would appreciate any help on this

Try Santander, they have just approved my buyer’s mortgage without the EWS1 but just needed some questions answering by the freeholder regarding the fire safety on letter headed paper

We made an offer on an apartment in early June 2020 and have only now received and come to realise the issues with a EWS1 form. Our lender has said that because of the “A3” status it cannot not accept the property as suitable security based on the information provided by the Management Company. We’re first time buyers, and just keen to press on ahead – hugely frustrating!

E Scott says:
19 November 2020

Yes, currently trying to sell my one bed flat in building of 4 storey’s containing 8 flats. 90% of the building is brick / Stone / concrete with some new flats built on the roof in 2017 with small amounts of cladding which confirmed to building regulations as at 2017. The surveyor Connell’s has advised the lender to ask for a EWS1 form. As regulations to include below 18m only came into for recently the building obviously does not have one with the implications being my buyer will pull out due to long delays in getting the form and I will also miss out on the purchase of my house. Bearing in mind I am at the behest of the management agent agreeing to get a EWS1 form in the first place and paying for it.
This will have a massive impact on my life, I wish to start a family and I cannot do this in a one bed flat.
I believe the majority of the current issue with EWS1 forms lies with the surveyors that are advising lenders to get the forms when they are simply not needed. For a building under 18m they should only be needed there is combustible cladding or balconies with combustible materials and therefore are a clear and obvious risk to life. This is not the case for my flat yet the surveyor Connells has taken the easy route to de-risk themselves and requested one, they are to blame for this scandal, in addition to the Government of course who implement guidelines without assessing the impact.

Hi all,

We’ve got an EWS1 form, however our buyer’s mortgage has been refused on the grounds that the form was not signed by a chartered engineer. Our form has been signed by a fire safety expert from a well known company but that doesn’t seem sufficient. Has anyone else had this problem? Grateful for your help.

Hi Ayesha, I might be able to help – please could you email conversation.comments@which.co.uk with some further information about the company used? Thank you.

Hi – we have just today encountered the same problem as buyers. EWS1 submitted to a lender with a signatory who is a full member if the Institute of Fire Engineers. Lender says this person is not sufficiently qualified.

Hi George, I emailed you yesterday. Any help you can offer would be great. Thanks so much. Ayesha

Hi George – emailed you. Any help you can offer is appreciated.

Can I ask which bank it was? Apparently Halifax and Natwest are causing the biggest problems with this.

Thanks Steve. That’s hot from the press. I hope that it helps many people move forward.

Good, Steve. This seems to unblock the way for those caught in an unintended nightmare. It is also heartening to see that there will be more qualified people to evaluate those properties still with suspect cladding. However, I do not see any requirement forcing the owners (freeholders) of these buildings to request inspections nor, if a building is found to be unsafe, how the remedy should be financed. Has that been addressed?

Unless I misunderstood the report, the BBC News item on this [ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55030342 ] seemed to be saying that the mortgage lenders are denying that they have insisted on EWS1 forms for buildings without cladding. This seems to fly in the face of the evidence from hundreds of residents who have communicated with Which? directly or through Which? Conversation.

The BBC report also said that UK Finance and the Building Societies Association have warned that “some blocks which appeared to be built from solid brick were in fact ‘clad with unknown materials behind the brick’ “. Are they making this up? Have the building control departments throughout the country been comprehensively fooled? Some of the people who have been seriously affected by the external wall survey debacle live in low rise pre-war blocks of double skinned brickwork and fireproof construction with self-contained apartments on which mortgages have been obtained for decades.

This serious issue has descended into an unseemly spat between the different parties – government, lenders, and surveyors collectively – that has caused untold but unnecessary anxiety for hundreds of thousands of people and even now they are arguing over the scale and impact of the problem. This has also pitted leaseholders against freeholders neither of which groups should have faced the threat of massive survey and remediation costs for which no contingency funding is available. The original developers and builders of the more recent blocks which do have wall cladding, and the owners [including local authorities] of older blocks which have had cladding applied for insulation or cosmetic purposes, seem to have escaped scrutiny in all this.

I am unclear from the BBC report just what is being said when the BSA and UKF say they didn’t agree to the press release. Here is the Guardian’s report https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/21/post-grenfell-safety-checks-lifted-for-homes-without-cladding.

It is quite understandable that lenders will need to know the value of the property they are taking on as security against their loan. So a suspect property that may be inherently a safety risk will be unattractive. The real problems then are logistical, how to determine which properties are safe and which need remediation, and financial in how much it will cost and who pays. We have had plenty of time to sort out the logistics by training more inspectors. As for who pays, I have no answer to that. I suspect the starting point is a legal one, examining lease conditions and, perhaps, building insurance.

However, back to John’s point, it would be useful to clear up the difference of opinion over the government’s press release and the BBC comments.

My fixed rate was ending with HSBC a month or so ago. Having paid the mortgage for two years, reducing the balance and the bank increasing the valuation of the property, I have increased my equity, reducing my LTV. Based on this both myself and my financial advisor expected a better rate on a product transfer to another two year fixed mortgage with the bank. From his experience, a product transfer in this situation (the bank having to lend less against a higher valued property, with a customer that has paid on time every time) always results in a better rate and with the base rate at a record low it almost seemed a certainty.

However, HSBC offered very unfavorable rates given the circumstances, meaning my mortgage payments would increase by a fair amount each month, when they should have been decreasing. The obvious option was to remortgage, other banks were offering far better rates with the legal fees being rolled into the mortgage, resulting in a far lower payment each month.

Around the same time I found out from someone attempting to buy a property in my development that they couldn’t get a mortgage due to an EWS1 form. The management company had failed to notify residents that the blocks had failed the fire safety survey. This left me stuck with the information at the last minute and I was unable to remortgage with another bank. So the implication of the EWS1 form (and the total lack of communication from the management company) was that I was trapped with HSBC’s rate and higher monthly mortgage payments.

I had no choice but to fix with HSBC at a very high rate relative to other lenders or risk taking the extortionate floating rate until things got resolved. Now the government has addressed this stating that buildings without cladding will not need the EWS1 so leaseholders are able to remortgage. Because of the timing though, I’m left tied to this fixed rate, financially worse off every month because due to this EWS1 problem.