/ 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

We live in a flat within a grade 2 listed mill built late 1800. The mill is 4 floors high with 8 flats in total. The exterior is wooden cladding which has just been renewed within the grade 2 listed requirements. We now cannot sell our flat. Help

Su – Selling should be possible if a mortgage is not required. To protect their own interests and to facilitate insurance cover the buyer would need a satisfactory survey.

Because the mill is a listed building and of non-standard construction it might have been difficult to get a standard bank or building society mortgage at the best of times. Specialist lenders exist to enable purchasers to proceed in these circumstances but the terms and interest rate will reflect the characteristics of the property: age, condition, conversion standard, loan duration, length of lease remaining, etc. When you wish to sell I would recommend using a specialist estate agent with experience of period and character properties and with access to specialist funding sources.

Jeffrey Collins says:
2 December 2020

We live in a block of flats under 18mtrs tall and have twice lost a sale. We have an EWS form signed by the building management, local fire service, a fire safety office and the local environment health authority. The last mortgage was declined for a conflict of interest as the building management company had signed the form. It appears Mortgage companies are using any excuse not to lend against these buildings.

Im currently selling, the block has an EWS1 form A1, but the mortgage lender will not accept this without a letter from the freeholder confirming an inspection was carried out and no works are required. They will not provide this (I suspect due to liability worries), so it seems even with a valid EWS certificate some mortgage lenders will not lend.

Hi Caspar
My daughter is also trying to get a letter for her buyer’s mortgage provider who aren’t satisfied
with the EWS1 report. Have the freeholder refused or is it the surveyors refusing. We are trying to do research on this and it appears to be a common problem?
Thanks

Tanya C says:
4 December 2020

We’re in the process of re-mortgaging our flat (new build) and we have EWS1 report (four pages of Form EWS1 with Building Societies Association / RICS / UK Finance logos, signed etc. followed by report itself). But the lender (Barclays) wouldn’t accept it without a covering letter on the letterheaded paper of the provider (Arup & Partners) confirming their area of expertise, that they produced the report in line with government guidance and it was themselves who inspected the property. All this information is already covered in Form EWS1, it is just the letterheaded paper that is missing! Arup told us that they didn’t produce the letter at the time and they don’t see this as an issue… does anybody have a solution?

Hello Tanya,

I had a similar issue, as a last resort i decided to contact the Surveyor who signed off the EWS1 form and asked him if he could produce this. He was only too happy to help, albeit very busy.

Rem

I am appalled that given government encouragement with help to buy and shared ownership many first time buyers now find themselves trapped in accomodation which stops them having families, affects mental health and potentially in financial ruin. I feel this is a massive scandal and needs to be addressed immediately.

Mhairi Montgomery says:
8 December 2020

I’m in a building below 18metres and the building owners (Berkeley Group) will not provide me with an EWS1 form as they don’t think the building is in scope, but Barclays will not provide me with a mortgage (additional lending) without one. I have been given building plans by Berkely Group to give to the bank who still won’t lend to me without the form. So am absolutely stuck!

My flat in on the 6th floor of a 10 floor tower block and their is no cladding hence the LA are not required to do a EWS1 form. However I wanted to remortgage my property and it has been refused because this EWS1 form has not been completed. All fire safety checks and risk assessments have been provided. If EWS1 form is not required for my property as has no cladding (concrete building) then why is this form required. If someone can help would really appreciate it.

Thank you

Hello Lisa,

Banks are trying to protect themselves by nitpicking. My flat was covered in brick, but i still required the form as they wanted to ensure the brick was not cladding. Also if there are structures attached to the building such as balconies, these may be a different material. My balcony was made of wood, which is combustible.

I am in the process of selling a one bed flat. There is an EWS1 certificate in place but as with the previous comments, Barclays are refusing to give my buyer a mortgage, despite having a covering letter in addition to the EWS1 certificate. They now want to know that the professional who completed the assessment, has adequate public liability protection! It has been 6 months so far and Barclays have not adhered to any of their response rate timescales. It’s totally soul destroying.

Hello Sue,

I had a similar experience, i contacted the surveyor who signed off the ESW1 Form and asked him to speak with the mortgage lender directly. He was nice enough to, which solved the problem.

It had taken me 6 months too up to that point.

Patrick Taylor says:
9 December 2020

I look forward to Which? coming into bat on this.

However I might be disappointed. Writing to your MP and to the Banking Ombudsman please sdo directly as surprisingly the MP’s can be effective. As for the Banking Ombudsman it is a matter of logging an issue where you are being brushed off. In due course there may be a case of compensation for unreasonable service. Don’t forget to change yor account if you bank with them if you get no satisfaction.

Ms J says:
9 December 2020

I live in a part ownership flat, I’ve twice now got to the stage of having the valuer for the mortgage lender come out to value the flat, so I can purchase the rest of the shares of the flat, and both times they have asked for the EWS1 form. I cannot supply the EWS1 form as Hyde Housing have not completed one and if you read their guidance on their website, they basically say they are not obliged to complete one. It’s even more soul destroying to read that even if you do manage to obtain an EWS1 form, you then need a special cover letter from the supplier. Our building is confirmed as less than 18 metres, it has one floor with cement fibre tiles/cladding, confirmed as fire proof by building control, has an up to date fire risk assessment. I feel completely stuck, like most people commenting on here. I am just hoping to find a lender with a common sense approach. How am I supposed to purchase the rest of my flat and staircase to 100%? Also won’t the entire property market collapse if they stop lending to most flats? There has to be a more logical solution than this, for example why isn’t a commitment to a survey by Building Control in the next 12 months and to undertake appropriate remedial works in 24 months, with additional safety measures in place meanwhile sufficient? I want to know why all the power and control in this situation has been handed to RICS and the lenders, thanks very much to the government, what an absolute total and utter mess!

Agree totally with you as I’m in the exact situation as yours & with Hyde housing group as well.
Halifax surveyors are unequivocal about ews1 on one hand & the housing association can’t provide it on the other hand, because it’s new legislation , slow and expensive process & the biggest culprit is the government who acts in a knee jerk reaction and just watches the mess unfold.

Hendrix says:
10 December 2020

As many people here Im on a shared ownership schema and I want to sell my shares or staircase to 100% but I cant due to this nonsense EWS. If there is no solution to this in the next 3 months, I have told the Housing Association that I wont pay them the montly rent until they provide a proper inspection and a EWS1 form. I want to sell my house and I cant. I suggest all people here to do the same thing, dont pay until they provide a solution. Easy

This entire cladding review / form EWS1 requirement is nothing more than extortion. We already have comprehensive Building Regulations which are reviewed on a regular basis and quite rightly, stricter measures are brought in all the time.

The EWS1 form is NOT REQUIRED by legislation – it is something that RICS, Building Societies Association and UK Finance have come up with to better protect their own interests. The form itself is hardly worth the paper it’s written on, since it provides such little clarity that an accompanying report is required from the professional who conducts the survey – begs the question why we need such a form, just a survey from a competent person would suffice. The EWS1 form is not to be relied upon by third parties, it is for the instructing client only – so again, banks should not be asking for, or relying on, this form.

The requirement for the EWS1 form to be updated every 5 years is also simply nonsense. It should be updated when there is renovation/change to the external wall structure or cladding. There could be an onus on the maintenance companies to ensure that regular inspections are carried out to check the status of the existing cladding without requiring a new EWS1 form and survey to be completed.

In the modern age, the approach is one of a risk-based approach and this is how the cladding risk should be addressed. Every building which is 3 floors or more should have a comprehensive fire safety programme – that’s just common sense. It is right that buildings assess their fire risk again after the terrible tragedy at Grenfell. But one size fits all is not correct and looking at cladding in isolation is not the answer.

It is inconceivable that private organisations have conspired to trap leaseholders in a costly insurance exercise. It is a huge overstep of their remit. The government should be stepping in to assist leaseholders if this additional insurance and rectification to the cladding is in fact required. Or alternatively, an insurance levy could be added on to household insurance policies to cover the cladding risk (in the same way that the Flood Re Scheme works).

I find it amazing that we allow home owners to do their own electrical wiring, which is extremely dangerous, and we do not require home owners to update their electrics to existing standards if they met the Building Regs at the time of installation. Double standards, much?

No-one should be facing increased service charges to cover unreasonable insurance premiums due to a new, draconian requirement that applies retrospectively.

I encourage you all to sign the petitions below and share them:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328201
http://chng.it/QvZLctvPH6

Write to your local MP – demand change.

Where possible, move your financial products away from the organisations that support the EWS1 form and tell them that you have left for this reason. RICS like to think that they are the only surveying organisation in the UK but you could use the Residential Property Surveyors Association or the SAVA School of Surveying, and frankly the quality of your survey (as with everything) will be down to the individual rather than which membership body will protect them in the event of liability.

If you’re struggling, seek help from mental health professionals and debt charities – don’t suffer in silence and know that you are not alone in dealing with this.

Amaltheia, I’m not clear what your proposals are. It seems that, whether the Building Regs at the time were adequate or not, there are buildings with potentially dangerous cladding that needs to be identified in a formal way so see what remediation is necessary. As a separate issue, but very relevant, there are buildings where the fire protection was faulty – not in accordance with regulations. Both these issues could lead to devastating consequences in multi-storey dwellings. So they need dealing with for the safety of residents.

The fire risk and consequences are high so premiums will be increased substantially. The worth of a flat will be greatly diminished because of the risks and will not return to market value until those risks are reduced to a normal level.

Applying regulations retrospectively is not the norm. I do not know whether that is being done here because the cases reported generally seem to show they did not comply at the time for one reason or another. But, if a regulation were found to be so defective that it is now seen to pose a severe risk to life then a change should be made retrospective.

As regards electrical wiring, amateurs are very limited in what they are supposed to do themselves. Mainly adding a spur, I believe, something many people are quite capable of doing safely, as is wiring a plug. Of course some will do it incompetently but we would not function if every task of that kind – servicing your car, using a circular saw, replacing a light fitting, changing a wheel, was prohibited.

That’s my point Malcolm, that applying building regs retrospectively in a blanket fashion is excessive in this case. Each building needs to be assessed on its own merits, it is very much a case-by-case basis. You are right that there are buildings where dangerous cladding needs to be changed now, immediately. However, for many of the buildings, it has not been installed incorrectly and there are good fire safety measures in place. These buildings should be updated too but the risk profile is different and the building management should be entitled to manage that risk until the remedial works are carried out.

I am in the process of purchasing a shared ownership flat in London and was due to exchange today. The lender has issued us with our mortgage offer which is all in place. Today at the last minute they sent my solicitor an email to explain that they are not accepting liability of the EWS1 form, this means we will have so many problems when coming round to selling, staircasing or re-mortgaging. The thing that gets me is that our lender has lent to more than 50% of the buyers in our property without any problems, but they are now causing problems with us. Our property is less than 18m high and has 4 floors.

Our solicitor has gone back to the lender to ask them “to do their job” and accept the EWS1 form to enable us to exchange. If they have already lent to numerous flats in the same building, why are they causing these issues for us?

We wanted to exchange and complete before Christmas but this is looking completely unlikely now. Has anyone else had the same issue? Has your lender then come back to agree the EWS1 form and have you then subsequently exchanged contracts as per usual?

Also, if standards change or we end up staying at this flat for more than 5 years – are we liable to pay for a re-valuation to obtain another EWS1 form if we want to re-mortgage or sell?

I’m super stressed out and completely exhausted with the process! And this is my first home!

Jordan says:
11 December 2020

We are in the processing of selling our flat and have been battling for around 10 weeks to get the EWS1 check completed. Surveyor finally came today on a cherry picker and drilled into the walls etc. Rather frustratingly he said he couldn’t give us an answer either way and that he was just there to take photos and report the materials. Another “expert” would need to go over the findings… Rather naively we thought that today would be the last hurdle but it seems there will be further waiting.

Our building is under 18m and mainly bricked apart from the top floor which has metal panels on the outside.

I’m in a shared ownership 1 bedroom flat with Hyde New Homes with 14 flats in total. There is some wooden panelling on the building but its mostly brick. The flat is under 18m and 3 floors therefore Hyde wont provide a EWS1 form even though lenders are asking for it. We have had one person lucky enough to sell and slip through without their buyers lender asking, but someone else I know has now been held up 2 months as their buyers lender is requesting it and Hyde are refusing to do anything. A Fire Risk Assessment form has been completed in 2020, although it flags up that management should “confirm that the external wall cladding meets Building Regulations requirements with regards to limited combustibility and surface fire spread properties.” When I have approached Hyde about this, they have said thats just ‘standard’ stuff they say, and they are still not required to follow up as the buildings below 18m. I feel that unless I’m totally lucky, I wont be able to provide this FRA form even as a back up because of this comment. I feel that those of us are really stuck with buildings under 18m. Theres no help for us, and we are being trapped! Its taking a toll on my mental health and I’m exhausted by trying to speak to people about it and getting absolutely nowhere. I’ve written a letter to my MP, but in his response he seems to flag up all the help for blocks above 18m and it wasn’t helpful.

simon gwynn says:
17 December 2020

Hi Natasha,
we were looking to buy a similar property in the Bournemouth area using downsizing so in lucky position not to need a mortgage, but thought we would get a survey done. When I spoke to several local surveyors they both advised they have pilled out of the market for any falts in a block more than 3 stories because their PI insurers have told them to. The estate agents fobbed us off saying no issues and they have sold lots of flats recently with no problems. My concern was the managing agent has just been told they can not get buildings insurance cover without the cost increasing five fold and service charges next year expected to double to 4k because of this. We decided not to go ahead but for potential buyers this is a nightmare as you do not know if any issues will arise in the future. Your best bet is to try and get a cash buyer.

Mike Kumar says:
17 December 2020

I am trying to sell my flat which was built in 2008. The building barely has a few feet of cladding on it, and the EWS1 process has been on going since June of this year. The process is excruciatingly slow, expensive, and just seems like it will never end. In the meantime, I am paying for upkeep of this flat, since I am non – resident. I have also been told by my agent that they cannot really sell it until the EWS1 is completed.
In my opinion, this really is an example of regulations that are detrimental to the individual and the economy, as it give out the wrong message.
Personally, my experience has been so jarring that I am scared to ever have to go through this again.

Sarah says:
17 December 2020

I am unable to sell my flat due to issues with confusion and lack of clarity around EWS1 forms. I had a buyer and onward purchase in place. We have spent thousands already on solicitors fees, surveys for our onward purchase etc and at the 11th hour our buyers have pulled out because their homebuyers survey flagged that our estate *might* need an EWS1 form. Our estate does not meet the criteria for EWS1 – it is low rise, below 18 meters, and was built in the 1960s. But because it hasn’t had the report done their surveyor flagged that this could be an issue (but not that it actually even is!) Because of this the chain has been broken, we have lost out on our dream home and are effectively trapped in our current flat until government regulations around EWS1 are clarified.

We are trying to sell our flat and have been asked by the buyer to provide the EWS1 form as required by their lender. Our building has 5 storeys and was built in 2016 by Linden Homes (builder Crest Nicholson). All our balconies have wooden slats. I have been chasing our management companies and the developer for an update on the EWS1 form for the last few months, but have not had any update, which is utterly frustrating. We don’t have a number for the developer that we can call and they are not responding to emails. We don’t know whether they are in the process of arranging a building survey at all.

Claud says:
13 January 2021

I bought a flat off plan 2017 it was finished November 2019. It’s a two story flet, there is cladding for the floor of the balconies. Me and my partner would now like to buy a house but the surveyors are requesting an EWS1 form. The building management company have not done this and have said they don’t plan to until later in the year – it’s only. Two story flat they are brand new it’s ridiculous and causing a lot of stress. We got a mortgage fine just over a year ago and now it’s proving near impossible to sell as lenders won’t give our buyer a mortgage without the form!