/ 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
Emanuela Canziani says:
13 January 2021

I am in the process of selling a studio flat, in a 3 storey brick building (less tha 18 metres). The block of flats is less than 10 years old. The management company is in the process of obtaining a EWS1 but they told me there is a backlog so no timeline has been given.
Because of this our buyer has issues with his mortgage.
Does anyone know of a mortgage lender who would lend in this situation?

I am in the process of selling a , in a 1 storey building (less than 18 metres). The block of flats is less than 5 years old. The management company is in the process of obtaining a EWS1 but there are delays.
Because of this our buyer has issues with his mortgage. Does anyone know of a mortgage lender who would lend in this situation?

Anon says:
19 January 2021

Jan’21 – Barclays refusing a remortgage on my 1880’s Grade II warehouse flat.
No cladding whatsoever on the building.
Building doesn’t have the form and, according to the Nov’20 government guidance, it doesn’t need it – but try convincing Barclays of that!

Evelyn says:
24 January 2021

I was thinking of buying a 1960s flat, then a 1920s warehouse flat, but reading these comments it looks like neither will be possible!

Suzy says:
25 January 2021

We had our mortgage application rejected today – the property has been valued by the mortgage lender at ‘zero’ because it doesn’t have an EW1S certificate. It is a building of three stories maximum containing a mixture of town houses and flats. I would estimate there are 20 dwellings at most. It looks to be built with brick and was built within the last 15-20 years. There is a bit of wall cladding near the windows at the side that looks like plastic slats.

To be honest I was a little bit wary of buying a flat anyway with the whole doubling ground rent scandal (another scandal!), but we finally found a place with ground rent that was not too bad. I did not think the cladding issue would affect us because the building is relatively small. This is the second time a purchase has fallen though for us. We will not be able to get a 25 year mortgage if we don’t get it agreed soon as my partner just turned 50 and most lenders do not seem to allow it. It is so frustrating, we really want a flat and not a house, but it just seems so risky.

I’ve been trying to staircase for 9 months but have been unable to as lenders keep asking for the EWS1 form. My block is <18m tall and has no ACM cladding, so my housing association is refusing to get an EWS1 form/survey done, even though lenders are requesting the form from them. I'm hoping the new guidance due later this month will mean more lenders are able to provide a mortgage to us without these forms, especially when our blocks appear low risk.

Aimee says:
1 February 2021

I’m currently trying to sell my flat in a 3 storey (less than 18m) building. Mainly brick and render but small amount of cladding on the side. The buyers are going through TSB and the surveyor signed it off all fine but TSB are asking for a EWS1 form which my management company refuse to do because it’s a building under 18m. I hope the government make some quick changes because this whole situation will surely start to effect the property market significantly and ultimate economy.

I have been in this situation for some months and have contributed to this debate before. It was also discussed in parliament on Monday 1st Feb: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-02-01/debates/1FCA1A68-0CCF-42BF-889D-EDD2CA92165F/UnsafeCladdingProtectingTenantsAndLeaseholders – Unfortunately, even if Government make a directive that Lenders “must not request EWS1 unless the Building is over 18m etc”…, the lenders have become so risk averse that they will not now let it go. The scenario being, if they forego the need for an EWS1 Form and at a future date a fire occurs, they are worried they will be sued… The Lenders set the conditions for lending, not the government. The only way out of this fiasco, in my view, is for Lenders to take out indemnity insurance such that they are indemnified against future litigation – they would, of course, charge the borrower for the insurance… But that is preferable to the impasse/inertia we are all suffering… The other option is for all on this forum to get together and lobby parliament directly!! I feel everyone’s pain.. and let’s hope for some way out… If anyone wants to talk/message, my number is: xxxxxx – if nothing else we can share stories and maybe devise an approach!!!

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove personally identifiable information, as this is not allowed in the Community guidelines. Please don’t post people’s names, addresses, or other personally identifiable information – even if you suspect it is made up. This is to protect everyone’s privacy.]

Patrick Taylor says:
16 February 2021

Yours is a sensible solution Gerd and certainly feasible. However I would apprecaite if W? are onboard with trying to sort out this impasse. This could be supporting your idea or promoting something else with MP’s.

For the here and now a list of awkward BS and accomodating ones would be nice.

It does strike me that, as in an example above regarding the TSB, that the Govt. could actually pass an Act easily that forbids requests for EWS1 on buildings under 18m. It seems to be able to get most things through quickly if it wants to.

I am in the process of selling my 2 bedroom flat in Scotland. My managing agent sent us copies of the completed EWS1 form in Jan 20 which I sent on to my buyer’s solicitor. They are now saying that my buyer’s lender want an updated EWS1 in my buyers name and that I have to pay for it ! Surely if a buyer has chosen a lender who requires a EWS1 to be issued in the purchasers name, this should be paid by the purchaser ?

Hi Stuart, as far as I’m aware the EWS1 form is for the whole building, so it shouldn’t need to be in the buyers name, but just the name of the building. Unless that has now changed too?

Susie Cambridge says:
9 February 2021

I own a flat in a 4 storey block with no cladding . I have been refused a new mortgage because there is no EWS1 form. The managing agents have said that one is not needed, and would cost £10,000 and take months. I have written to my MP who says that an agreement has been reached with relevant parties, but I still cannot get a new mortgage. February 2021

Danielle says:
10 February 2021

We are in a slightly different situation we have had our survey but have been waiting in limbo in actually receiving the report. one flat in our block has already had their sale fallen through due to this delay. we are in a difficult situation as our Management company technically request the form so we are unable to speak to the company who conducted the survey for updates. and our management company are very sporadic in chasing any updates on our behalf so we are just stuck in limbo waiting with no one to chase or no one to escalate our concerns to

We are in the process of selling our shared ownership flat. It is less than 18meters and brick but our buyers lender insisted on an EWS1 form. We are in the process of having this completed, but it has delayed the sale process so much that we will inevitably miss out on obtaining the stamp duty discount on the property we have lined up to buy. We started the process in November last year thinking that would be plenty of time. It is extremely frustrating.

Robert Harris says:
12 February 2021

I sold my leasehold flat in October and bought about a house about a week later. Our buyer’s mortgage company (Natwest) spent about 8 weeks asking the freeholder for the EWS1 form. They refused as they’re not legally required to provide this. A few days ago, our buyer has started applying to other banks. We’re not at risk of missing out also on the stamp duty discount (which will cost us £15k). It is even more frustrating as we’ve just paid £15k to our freeholder for works they have done to the building.

Cathy says:
14 February 2021

Just had remorgage refused by Godiva – despite there being no combustible cladding and the flats being less than 18m tall – so the management company does not have to provide EWS1 form. Now stuck with high remortgage rate with existing provider and probably can’t sell if we wanted to

Exactly the same situation as me!! I have found a broker who has identified a lender who may disregard the need for EWS1.. although even that is not guaranteed as once my remortgage application is submitted, if the surveyor identifies a need for this wretched form the whole thing starts again… This forum is a kind of Support Group… but we need action – I am at a complete loss!!!

It would be good to know of any lenders that are offering mortgages if the building is below 18m with no cladding. I was in the process of selling my flat but an EWS1 form was requested by my buyers mortgage company even though the building is below 18m. If anyone manages to get a mortgage offer can they post the lender on here so that we can start to see which lenders are more flexible.

That would be so good to find a lender that will not ask for this. Its crazy government said last Dec that they don’t need this form. I think it is down to the surveyor as he or she can use there discretion.

Monica Wilson says:
15 February 2021

Hi,

I’m trying to buy at the moment and today was told my valuation would only be completed on the basis of the seller providing an EWS1 certificate. They don’t have it but have provided a fire risk assessment. Do you know if that is taken into consideration by the bank?

Thanks,

Hi Monica, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the fire risk assessment might not be enough. In the process of trying to staircase my housing association shared their fire risk assessment with the lender and they still asked for an EWS1 form after.

Hi Monica, I would like to also confirm what HC has posted. My buyers lenders were provided with a Fire Rating Certificate from the management company but the lender still insisted on the EWS1 form.

The situation ended in a stalemate as the lender wanted an EWS1 form and the management company insisted one was not required as the building was below 18m.

chris says:
17 February 2021

A buyer who had done the survey, the block has no cladding or wooden balcony, and the lender is insisting for EWS 1 before approval of fund. Now the local authority/property management does not have clear information on it. Cannot even find out the point of contact in the local authority. I am lost.

I am in the same situation trying to buy a flat. It is in a block sub 18m only 4 stories. There was a fire RA carried out June ’20 saying the block is a tolerable risk, no action needed. 7 different lenders have declined a mortgage with out the EWS1 form, even though we have the risk assesement and a covering letter from housing assocation stating the form is not lefally required. Since mine have been declined the current owners have found out other people in the block have been able to obatain mortgages in the last 6 months, but not that lender can’t offer me a mortgage on the same block..

No one seems to fully underdstand the form and be able to offer guideance. Will be informing local MP in the hope that if enough people do the same evetually something will be done about it.

I really don’t understand why lenders need a EWS1 form if blocks of flats are covered by building insurance ? It should be an insurance issue not a lender issue. The market has not changed, there are people still interested in cladded buildings, it’sthe introduction of the EWS1 and the lenders who have made it impossible to sell/buy. Also , statistically, the chance of another Grenfell is very low considering the fact that historically non cladded buildings have caught fire many more times than cladded buildings , in aggregate making many more victims than Grenfell. The building I live in is cladded but it is compliant to the regulations in force in2012; Grenfell wasn’t . Surely if my building was safe enough before Grenfell it would be now? What’s the point of spending so many millions in works if there are no regulations that can make any building 100% fire proof? Ultimately, if a flat in a cladded building is now valued at 0, surely the mortgage should be cancelled to the leaseholder and the freeholder who received the money for the sale should refund the bank? The EWS1 should be scrapped and in its place a law with deadlines requiring carrying out remedial works to ALL cladded buildings should be made . This would give certainty to lenders and there would be no issues with holding the remortgage / sale of these properties.

Mohamed Kakar says:
23 February 2021

Hi Gents
Santander offering mortgages without EWS1 form, as long as long as management or free holder provides the letter word by word as per Santander 2 phrases.
Thanks

Thanks for sharing Mohamed, this is great news. My mortgage broker actually suggested them, but we are waiting on the outcome of the EWS1 consultation before pursuing.

Robert says:
24 February 2021

Interesting, what are the phrases? Can you post them here or link?

Jamie D says:
2 March 2021

Interesting regarding Santander. Thank you. Is this regarding all properties or only those in buildings under 18m?

Santander may not be asking for the form itself, however in my experience it is asking its own set of questions that are akin to ‘has an external wall assessment been carried out’ , which will unfortunately put the majority of people back in the same position.

Monika Kusstatscher says:
20 September 2021

My mortgage with Santander gal through despite having the form as they are saying they do not care about the form but they want letter as per their guidelines. Management Agency refuses to do it

Laura F says:
2 March 2021

I am trying to sell my property and have tried to obtain an EWS1 form from my building for the past few months, after huge amounts of nagging they are at quotation stage, with an unknown timescale to carry out. Like others my building is less than the required height and less than 10 years old but still I am unable to either remortgage or sell my home. This whole thing is a way for everyone to make more money.