/ 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

Currently in the same position as you all. Trying to buy a ground floor flat in a block that is below 18m – 4 floors at highest point, and only one floor above the flat we’re trying to buy. NatWest are requesting EWS1 without any grounds other than they want it. Seller and their solicitor have been pushing the management company who don’t seem to be budging. I’d like to find another lender, but apprehensive as no lender is a sure thing and I don’t want to put in loads of mortgage applications!

I have an ESW1 form rated B1 but my buyer has pulled out because his lender will only accept an ESW1 from a fire marshal. My ESW1 was from a surveyor.
Has anyone else had this issue ? Any advice please ?

Hi Pauline, I’ll email you as I may be able to help.

Hi,

Has the similar issue here. Barclays says the EWS1 form I provided is not signed by a chartered engineer with fire expertise but a chartered surveyor who is memeber of RICS and Fire Safety Manager. The report is B1 too.

Hi George,

It will be great to have some suggestions as I am in the similar situation which illustrated below, and I am the buyer.

Thanks!

No problem – I’ll email you.

Peggy says:
5 March 2021

Hi George, I have similar situation where the EWS1 form for a B1 report is not signed by chartered engineer. Can you please assist?

Francesco says:
5 March 2021

Hi George, I am currently in the process of dealing with my Housing Association as I am planning to staircase but I am finding difficult to obtain a further advance from a lender without an EWS1. My Housing Association is planning to obtain an EWS1 only when remedial works will be completed. As far as I am aware EWS1 can be obtained pre-remedial works with an A3 grade, and some lenders will accept that, if supported by a solid remedial plan.
Could you please advise what I should aim to obtain from my HA in order to move faster in the process? Really grateful for your help.

Hi Francesco, my apologies for the delayed response. I don’t have too much experience of staircasing but I can do my best to point you in the right direction. Let me know if you’d like me to email.

Dana Taylor says:
17 March 2021

I’m in a similar situation. Buyer hasn’t pulled out yet but it’s very nerve wracking! Other flats have sold recently but apparently it’s no longer sufficient. Any advice?

I have same experience with Barclays.

It’s frustrating having EWS1 saying all ok, but still not able to re-mortgage.

I have this response from Barclays:

“Following a recent communication from the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) to its members advising that only members who are also Chartered Engineers (C Eng) or Incorporated Engineers (I Eng) should complete Option B of the EWS1 form, we are unable to accept this EWS1 form.
An EWS1 form and accompanying letter signed by a Chartered or Incorporated Engineer are required.”

My EWS1 is signed by “BSc in Fire Engineers and being a Member of
the Institute of Fire Engineers” and this does not suffice.

Nelson says:
20 April 2021

Hi George, I’m in the same situation … my EWS1 form is signed with option B by a non chartered engineer and that is causing lenders to reject it. Any advise would be great! Thank you!

Hi George. As many others, I have a similar situation where the EWS1 form for a B1 report is signed by a chartered surveyor rather than a fire engineer. Any advice that you could provide would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance. Dan

Howard says:
6 October 2021

A little late I know…but if you examine the EWS1 Form carefully, an ordinary Building Surveyor (RICS) is only capable of assessing Option A situations ….and not Option B circumstances where ‘a higher level of expertise’ is required in the assessment i.e. from a member of the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE)

George H says:
3 March 2021

Same story here. Flat under 18m, I have moved for work and hoped to remortgage to BTL. Multiple lenders have said no EWS1 no mortgage. Management company says as the building is under 18m they will not be arranging the EWS1. So now I am paying rent and a mortgage for an empty flat. Only hope is to get consent to let, but I’m going to have to agree to a new fixed term next month and I’m terrified they are going to refuse because of asking so soon after renewing.

Francesco says:
5 March 2021

Hi George, sorry to hear about the troubles you are also going through. May I please ask you at what stage lenders requested you EWS1? I’m in the process of applying for a mortgage but it doesn’t seem like it’s nothing that will come up until their valuation takes place, am I right?

George H says:
5 March 2021

That’s right. Theu undertook the physical valuation and the comments from the valuer said the lender will require an EWS1.

HC says:
8 March 2021

Hi Francesco, Yes it comes up during the valuation process as part of the mortgage application. So when the lender’s surveyor comes round they will determine whether an EWS1 form is required.
Looks like new guidance has been released today for implementation by beginning of april, meaning some blocks will no longer require this form thankfully. so hopefully this will improve the situation for many people here.

Francesco says:
16 March 2021

Thank you both for your kind replies. A physical visit of my property (I own a share) has been scheduled for later this week. From what I read online, I think the lender I went with, Nationwide, is the most unforgiving, and surely after the valuation report they will ask for more information. I hope they will be happy with what I have or I’ll attempt with different lender to be able to staircase and stop paying rent on the part I don’t own.

8 storeys here, Housing Association completed inspection, cavity barriers needed, we don’t know yet if constructor will take costs or leaseholders will have to partially/fully pay. HA waiting for remediation to be completed (date not yet set) before instructing EWS1 survey.

Maxine says:
5 March 2021

Hi all

We are in the process of getting our mortgage from Leeds BS but there has been a delay before offer as they are not accepting the EWS1 form due to the signatory as they want it to be signed by a chartered engineer. This has been frustrating as they have accepted us on our docs and everything else but this form seems to be the only thing in the way for us to get our offer. Any advice on how we can overcome getting the form signed by a chartered engineer urgently? Our Housing Association are getting anxious with timescales so not sure what to do.

Trying to buy top flat from council. Morgidge Advisers declined. Aasked esw1 form but council said they not provide it.
Building wa built in 1963 y.at this time it was no cladding at all.
Someone can give me advice how to process to right to buy?

hi, the flat I’m hoping to buy is under 18 metres with the A3 EWS1 status. My mortgage advisor applied for a mortgage with Accord two weeks ago, valuation took place last week and the advisor was told they need further information as remedial works might be reqd. Ideally they’d like for all work to be completed and the EWS1 form to be signed off. I think there might be timber decking on the balcony. No cladding present. I have contacted my solicitors and the estate agents today but not sure if any of them can help? Is there are anyone else with the A3 status and if so, what are the chances of getting a mortgage?
@HC, you have mentioned the new legislation, can you please share more info re this?

Has anyone else had the A3 status issue? Any advice please? Thank you.

HC says:
8 March 2021

Here’s a link about the new legislation. It is very clear about what requires an EWS1 form and will hopefully be in effect from 5th april if not before.
https://www.mortgagefinancegazette.com/market-news/cladding-rics-offers-clarity-lenders-ews1-form-required-08-03-2021/

Thank you! really hope the lenders will take this into account.

I wonder how many potential buyers will be more selective about the properties they look to purchase, or tenants rent. And there is no mention in the guidance of the separate issue of other fire precautions that may be defective, reported here a number of times.

Are all “current building control certificates” to be accepted? The inference has been neglect in issuing them, otherwise we would not have had non-compliant buildings released for sale, would we?

I certainly think buy-to-let purchasers will be more circumspect in future when buying leasehold apartments. They could be caught in a double bind – much higher service and insurance charges to cover remedial work and ‘waking watches’ but lower rental potential if the building is perceived to have safety deficiencies.

The people who seem to have got off lightly in all this are the freeholders who appear to have no liability whatsoever for the condition of a block since all maintenance responsibility is transferred under the lease to the leaseholders. Periodical repair and maintenance is one thing [and is factored into property valuations] but substantial reconstruction is quite a different story that the government has studiously sidestepped.

Leaseholders who live in a flat in an affected building face higher charges but cannot sell to upsize or downsize until a clear EWS1 is issued, nor can those on shared equity ‘staircase’ their ownership share.

It will be interesting to see whether any construction companies or architects get sued for erecting non-compliant buildings. They could rightly claim that the work was certified by the building control system but does that in itself exonerate the failure to install firebreaks and other protections? That would suggest poor on-site supervision.

Hi HC, I’m in a similar position to everyone else….3 story building with 18 flats. No cladding as such, just a 1m square panel above each lounge window, so 18 panels in all. The management company are non-committal and based on the information in the link you posted, it looks like a check on the composition of the panels could be all that’s needed ie 1) panel coverage is minimal, and 2) are non-combustible or acceptable fire rating.
The snag is, the management company still need to arrange this check. If the panels are deemed a fire risk, even though the coverage is small, as they reside above/below windows there will still be an impasse until they are replaced. This could be months, loss of sale, costly sellers pack and solicitors fees for nothing. In the meantime the whole block is valued as ‘zero’ in the eyes of lenders!

Hi, this details the updated guidance:

https://www.mortgagefinancegazette.com/market-news/cladding-rics-offers-clarity-lenders-ews1-form-required-08-03-2021/

More info is on the RICS website about responsibility of the housing association too.

Our buyer is trying to get a mortgage with NatWest. An EWS1 form was provided with a B1 rating. NatWest have said that the form needs to be signed by an chartered engineer. This is despite the report stating that the signatory is a chartered engineer! Nevertheless, we asked the management company for a covering letter which specifically states that a chartered engineer had undertaken the report. This was provided to NatWest but they have just come back and refused again saying that he is not a chartered engineer!! We can clearly see that he is registered on the chartered engineers website and have confirmation of his qualifications from the management company both in a headed covering letter and on the EWS1 form. I can see a few of you have also experienced this – have you had any success since? George, are you able to help me please?

Maybe we all should write to BBC/Chanel 4 (i.e. Panorama) to investigate and raise awareness. If this is aired we then can do a petition and hopefully enough people will sign so it will be debated in parliament. I will do my bit tonight but I also encourage everyone to do the same, otherwise we will be talking about this for months to come and nothing will change
Good luck everyone.

I sent a message to the BBC via their online portal and on their whatsapp, I have contacted two MPs one of which sent a reply for my phone number, Halifax did don’t want to deal with me nor did the financial ombudsman as I am not the buyer, but when you come to think about it, it effects the seller(me) more than the buyer as they are blocking the purchase.

I am writing to Panorama as we speak… I believe the more people will write the more likely they will the scale of the problem.
I will also write to my local MP and see what happens.

Let`s keep this one moving!

I am trying to sell my apartment, the building has no cladding, no balconies, no glass curtains and does not fall into the EWS1 requirements as issued by the government in November 2020 and then reinforced on the 8th March. Halifax is refusing to lend on my property as they are requesting an EWS1, which goes against all government guidelines, what is the point of setting out guidance if Halifax refuse to take it on board, it is very very stressful for both me and the buyers that I have managed to secure. Can anyone help advise me of a lender that is not as backward as Halifax please, so that I can relay this onto my buyers.

Whit says:
10 March 2021

The new guidance from RICS hasn’t helped the sale of my flat. It is 4 storeys and has some ACM cladding around the penthouse apartments. The rest of the block (3 storeys) has no ACM. The Management Company won’t instruct an EWS1 check to be carried out as they believe it is not required due to them having certificates that show the ACM is of a safe composition.

I am once again stuck as my buyers lender wants an EWS1 but the Management Company won’t request it.

I’m currently in a process of buying a flat with the A3 status (balconies and window panels containing combustible insulation) and struggling to find a lender. The more issues are being thrown my way, the more suspicious I get and simply put off by the whole thing as is there a guarantee I won’t be charged for these works if the sale was to go through (very unlikely at this stage)? I get existing owners are stuck with the additional charges and I feel sorry for them but what about the potential buyers? how can they protect themselves, so they won’t end up paying the bill for remedial works?

Why would you want to buy a property that is potentially unsafe? Surely find one that is safe.

Unsafe and potentially unmortgageable. Not a fan of houses but I think the only solution is to start looking for one.

Hello George,

Similar story to many others – mortgage lender is refusing our application until they see an EWS1 form signed by a Chartered Engineer. Would appreciate any suggestions you have about mortgage lenders who are complying with the very latest RICS guidance and NOT requiring an EWS1 form for 4-storey properties without ACM/MCM/HPL cladding.

Hi, I’ll get in touch by email as soon as I can.

Thank you!

This is such a frustrating situation. I am currently selling my apartment, which has had an EWS carried out in September of last year and passed with flying colours (apparently..) however, when the valuer came round yesterday on behalf of my buyers bank he said he would have to value my apartment at £0.00 as I did not have the certificate. My building lease company have sent a covering letter to all lease holders to say it is complete and no problems were found, this he saw but said it wasn’t good enough. And now the lease company won’t send me a certificate saying that the request has to come from a conveyancer. Help 🙁

Tim B says:
13 March 2021

Has anyone in <18m building whose managing agents refused to arrange EWS1 previously had any success since the new RICS guidance?

Mike Quest says:
17 March 2021

I have a flat for sale and my buyer has just pulled out as he cannot get a mortgage without an EWS1. The block was built new and occupied from mid-2019, it is 4 stories high at it’s highest point (my flat is top floor in the 3 storey part), there is some cladding to the 4th storey and communal stairs which I have no details about and can’t get hold of any. Having read the latest RICS guidance I don’t think an EWS1would be needed but the mortgage company isn’t interested. The managing agent isn’t interested and I’m unable to contact the freeholder/leaseholder company. I’m stuck – the flat is empty as I live elsewhere and bought it pre-Covid for working away which I no longer do. It’s costing me a fortune in mortgage and fees and I need shot of it. Other than renting it out, what can I do? Is there no legal obligation of the landlord to provide the EWS1 as it’s a safety matter as much as anything else!!

Hi Mike, have you tried the developer directly? They should have records of the materials used as it’s such a recent build. The managing agents and freeholder should also have the O&M manuals.

Hi George, catalyst housing are insisting that they do not need to produce a form for building under 6 storeys. Is there any legal path to force them to get this done?

carl says:
19 March 2021

I am about to lose the buyers to my ground floor flat, which is in a building of four floors. Their mortgage provider is insisting on it despite my management company insisting there is no flammable cladding. This is ridiculous, does anyone know if these can be obtained privately?

Sam says:
20 March 2021

I have now lost the buyers as all lenders are ignoring RICS’s latest guidance and insist on seeing EWS1 or a signed document from the managing agent that confirms the fire safety of the building. The managing agent refused to provide this document. I guess they are afraid of legal consequences of it, My building has 6 storeys and does not have any cladding. Unless RICS updates the EWS1 form with an option to exclude those buildings under sex storeys without or with 25% less cladding, nothign will change.

Hello all,

I am currently trying to sell my H2B flat but we have not been issued with an EWS1 form. The building developer is not helping at all saying at the time of development it was inline with gov standards. We have just had the apartment block re-cladded. The management firm are pointing us towards the developers and we are going around and around in circles with still no EWS1 form and no sign of ever getting on. Estate agents won’t even list my property due to this, I can’t re-mortgage nor can I rent/sublet due to H2B restrictions. Has anyone got any advice for me please we are pretty desperate now.

My bank is asking for an EWS1 despite my building high being less than 18m high, and no external cladding (only render). Despite the information I have provided, their reply has been: “Following the publication of the MHCLG guidance “Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings” in January 2020, where there are concerns relating to potentially combustible attachments, the requirement for an EWS1 form has been applied to all multi-storey, multi-occupied residential buildings of over two storeys above ground level, whatever the height of the building. In view of this, we will still require the requested EWS1 form.”

I’m trying to work through this but its all a bit frustrating. Any ideas/suggestions on what to do? or shall I just take my business else where!