/ 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

Same boat as many others, made worse because the EWS1 form is inadequate as it does not support the Scottish model of flat ownership – this means it’s currently very, very hard to find anyone who is able to do the form.
Can’t sell and due to remortgage in March, with the likely outcome I can’t so costs will increase. To add more insult, should I raise a deposit to be able to move (hard but not impossible) I’ll pay an enhanced stamp duty since it will be a second property. What a mess.

Dan C says:
23 July 2020

I live in a shared ownership block measuring 18.75 metres with no cladding. Peabody have deemed us ‘low risk’ and told us it could be 10 years before the assessment is even undertaken – at an estimated cost of 57k. A number of us residents have even offered to each contribute and cover the costs to have ews1 assessment undertaken but Peabody have refused (we found a quote at 13k vs. Peabody’s 57).

All of this while Peabody (A so called ‘charity’) continue to build 100s of brand new identical flats next to ours, even throughout the pandemic. Prioritising profit over people.

I’m desperate to sell as this property no longer meets my needs (1 bed). The prospect of being trapped for 10 years and putting my life on hold is soul destroying.

I’m in an L&Q building and have been told by the fire brigade that their initial assessment of our building (in July 2017) determined it did not have dangerous cladding. Whilst that is a good thing, unfortunately it puts us at the lowest priority for L&Q to complete an EWS1 survey.

We’ve been given an apology letter with no timeframe whatsoever on when an inspection will take place. L&Q own hundreds of buildings so it could be years and years…

We are in a small 4th floor flat with a new 2 month old baby and a dog. Before we found out about EWS1 we thought we had the equity and savings to sell Our flat and buy a 3 bed house with a garden. Now we’re facing the prospect of being stuck in an unsuitable home for years.

We will not be able to have a second child if we’re stuck in this situation. It causes me stress on a daily basis and has disrupted my sleep on numerous occasions. I’m angry and upset, none of this is our fault and yet we’re suffering due to inept policy.

I live in a shared ownership block measuring below 18 metres.
Nottinghill Genesis have deemed us ‘low risk’ and told us it could be 10 years before the assessment is even undertake.
I have even asked about paying for the EWS1 assessment myself but NHG have refused.
I have had two sales fall through because we don’t have a EWS1. I am stuck but don’t qualify for any of the government grants or any apply as only the Freeholder can do that and NHG will not.
Our warranty runs out in two years.

George Panteli says:
23 July 2020

Yes, trapped in and awaiting form so can remortgage… might lose my tax rebate on second property of not done within 3 years.

Kunal says:
23 July 2020

TSB has kept my remortgage on hold for six months pending an EWS1 form. They are saying its their valuer not them, although they appoint the valuer. The banks need to have a bit of discretion. TSB is completely inflexible here.

Gemma Williams says:
23 July 2020

Same experience as many others. No EWS1 Form and radio silence from our management company on the proposed further investigations and remedial works. Appears to be no end in sight. The most remarkable feature of our building is that despite not having an EWS1 Form and currently deemed unsafe, a planning application was approved in May 2020 to add a further 11 flats to the top of the building.

Marie says:
23 July 2020

Unfortunately I’m in the same position. Property under 18m but EWS1 requested by my buyers lender(Halifax). I’ve been told by my HA it’ll take at least 2 years. I need to move overseas and now I feel I can’t move on with my life or start a family. I’m hoping something changes soon.

Mr Rupert Berkeley says:
23 July 2020

This whole situation is one of the biggest and most widespread scandals to engulf a generation in modern times. The government either have no grasp of the extent of the problem or are unwilling to act definitively to sort it. Either is unacceptable.

Mike says:
23 July 2020

This is destroying lives. I’ve missed two job opportunities from being unable to sell and relocate. Our building is 99% brick and it’s costing £15k just for the EWS1 test, that’s before any issues may or may not be identified

Anne says:
23 July 2020

I have been given a £0 valuation by Leeds Building Society’s valuers, due to lack of EWS1 form on a brick-construction and facade building under 18m (5 stories) – the valuer said it is required due to the fact it has balconies. I started the purchase in March 2020 as a first time buyer going into Shared Ownership with no chain and it has occurred to me that the delay could be a blessing if leasehold law reforms implemented soon, as described by the Law Commission recommendations this week (I am doubtful that will happen but if it does, the delay will be worth it. Otherwise, the form is just a nightmare and seems like a post-COVID excuse not to lend to a first time buyer.

Alex Cummins says:
23 July 2020

I am a shared ownership leaseholder at a notting hill development (below 18m I think but NH so far refuse to confirm my building height) in Clapham, London. Same as others, tried to remortgage in dec 2019 and was asked by my lender for ews1. Now want to sell. Have been provided permission to sublet but would prefer to get equity from my flat. Worried that even if they change guidance re application of EWS1, prospective buyers will be put off by the risk of having to pay for remedial works later down the line. Also do not think we will be getting survey for 2 years at least

James T says:
23 July 2020

Shared ownership leasehold property over 18m in London.
Building has no cladding. We can’t sell until Freeholder (in my case, the largest housing association in the UK) assess building and is declared safe by the EWS1.
As building has no cladding our building is at the bottom of the list with the Freeholder informing us it will take years for the building to receive it’s initial assessment.
Bought the property with my ex, we have since split up but are being forced to live together in a one bed as we can’t sell and can’t afford to rent another property and pay for this one.
Freeholder has given permission for us to sublet the property, but we need to pay their legal fees and ours to add a new clause to our lease at the cost of £1k. Subletting also makes us liable to pay income tax. Were not renting to make a profit, just to cover the monthly costs. We will need to find c£600 per month to cover the income tax amount, as well as the costs of renting somewhere else in London.
We are lucky we don’t have cladding however we are still facing severe mental and financial costs, as we are at the mercy of our freeholder obtaining the EWS1.
100% of the costs attributed to the EWS1 (assessment and any remedial work required) are being passed to Leaseholders which is averaging around £30k – £100k per flat. A life changing amount being passed on to those who don’t own the building, nor created the issues that need fixed. We’re expecting a huge bill to pay at some point.

James T says:
23 July 2020

Forgot to mention, can’t remortgage due to lack of EWS1 and have been forced onto the more expensive variable rate.

Cladding Victim says:
23 July 2020

Building under 18m
We have an EWS1 cert (no remediation needed)

2 banks accepted it for neighbours. 2 banks rejected it & for different reasons.

We’re now a family of four trapped in an inadequate flat.

This is the governments fault at every stage. Poor regs that led to unsafe buildings & then Advice Notice 14 which pushed lenders to ask for EWS1 for any multi occupancy building without considering the impact.

Most leaseholders have no idea they are trapped. The housing minister has many allegations against his name & this is a scandal that is going to grow exponentially.

I live in a low rise housing association block. Based on their web page statement it could take 14 years to carry out the required survey. Given that any survey is only valid for five years this situation is only going to get worse. This also means that Social rented tenants are highly likely not to be inspected at all. So far have lost one buyer. Not likely to get another.

I couldn’t remortgage so am stuck on the variable rate and paying an additional £500 a month. Hyde are impossible all they do is ignore emails or send holding responses, no time commitment. Have tried both MP and local Councillor but no action

It is good that Which? has raised this serious problem. It has revealed a most unfortunate situation for a very large number of home-owners – possibly much more serious and distressing than Which? first thought.

The extent of the detriment is surprising and all because the valuation and mortgage side of the housing industry cannot apply the simple principles that were drawn up to between the main parties to limit the application of the EWS 1 agreement to properties above 18metres high [generally, six or more storeys]. It is being used as a filter for mortgage applications and that is patently not fair. It also appears that it is not compatible with the Scottish system of house purchase. As has been pointed out, this is not consistent with the government’s drive – and the housing industry’s reputed desire – to meet the chronic housing demand in many areas and enable people to move up or down the property ladder as their needs dictate.

So Which? having brought this to our attention and seen what a problem it has become, I feel it is fair to request Which? to explain what it thinks should be done about it. It’s no good just ending this Conversation with the words “Let us know your situation in the comments”. People will rightly expect the UK’s leading consumer organisation to make high-level representations to the government seeking urgent action to get the main actors in this – UK Finance, the Building Societies Association, and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – to sit round the table and thrash out a sensible solution, with Which? on board to press the consumer case. Only the government has the authority to do this but there does not seem to be any action on the part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government despite the efforts of the Parliamentary select committee and its recommendations.

Contributors have also raised the issue of their potential liability for any remedial work to the buildings they occupy. To a considerable extent the necessity for repairs and modifications to the external walls arises from deficiencies in the building regulations or in their application and enforcement. The government has some responsibility for that situation which it should honour in order to relieve unknowing flat dwellers of the heavy costs facing them in due course.

There are other important issues raised by this Conversation such as the reluctance of certain social housing providers to expedite the assessment of buildings and, although we have not heard their side of the story, there does seem to be an element of laissez faire in their approach to the problem. No doubt, without any assurance of government support, they are understandably cautious of entering into expensive commitments, but is it right that they seek to shift the liability onto their current leaseholders or shared-ownership partners; after all, it was they who built or bought these blocks and will continue to own them long after the current occupiers have moved on.

I hope Which? will address these concerns and engage seriously with those affected by this problem.

Further to my previous comment [above], I am disappointed that after three weeks of serious and responsible commenting by many flat-owners there has been only one intervention by Which? –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/mortgage-refused-ews1-form-cladding/#comment-1603824

This is an extremely complex situation that needs government intervention but we have no evidence that Which? has yet managed to do anything to help resolve it. Which? has not even explained what it thinks should be done about it.

On 30 July, Stephen Maunder stated that he would be “speaking to some of the key stakeholders behind EWS1” but we have not heard any more about their response or what Which? has proposed. It would be interesting to learn whether the MHCLG is one of the “key stakeholders” that Which? has spoken to and how it intends to resolve the impasse.

I am also surprised that the estate agent community has kept very quiet over this issue which is blighting property sales and causing stagnation in the housing market.

It was a laudable aim in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy to implement a survey and certification process for external walls at high residential buildings in order (a) to provide assurance to homeowners and freeholders, and (b) to generate remedial action where necessary, but the resultant scheme has turned into a nightmare and is being used for unintended purposes.

Which? now has lots of evidence of the implications and impact of the EWS1 problem, so may we have a progress report please?

Mate, chill. Which? Is a private media that will be doing what it can. What have you done? I’ve written to my MP and am talking to all leaseholders I know to warn them of their impeding doom and spread the word about the situation. Although it would be nice to see some action from Which? too of course. 🙂

Thank you, Stephen.

I was not implying any dissatisfaction with your action but I am surprised to see that you seem to be on your own within Which? in taking this forward to Government and the other organisations. I would have expected that a team, including high-level representation, would be assembled to get to grips with the problem and take action. My criticism is of the culture within Which? which declares a big scandal and extremely urgent issue and then leaves it to plod forward one step at a time.

To Konstant – It is good that you have written to your MP and informed your co-leaseholders. I have no direct personal interest in this as I do not own or live in a flat, I am not buying or selling, and I have no relatives affected by the issue. But I am taking a keen interest in it because, first, I think Which? is probably the best hope of getting a resolution since no other organisation appears to have the representational clout required, and second, because the distorted interpretation of EWS1 is a major obstacle to free movement of the housing market which is vitally important at a time when supply is so heavily constrained.

I have written to local MP’s and contacted influential people within my orbit who I know have the ear of government to press them to find a way of bringing common sense to bear. Perhaps naively, I also happen to think that the substantial subscriptions to Which? that I and regular contributors to this site have been making for several decades give us the right to express our hopes and expectations.

I had sold my flat but it was valued at £0 because no EWS1. The buyers mortgage refused by HSBC and I lost buyer. My Management Co have had a survey, we don’t have ACM cladding but they have identified other concerns such as timber balconies and internal insulation. I have been told by my Management Co they have no idea how many years or months it will take to correct. I have no idea how safe my building is. I am trapped unable to move.

Anon says:
23 July 2020

A2Dominion are lying, incompetent and obstructive. It takes max. 1 hour to instruct an expert to undertake the EWS process. Experts have availability to start the process within weeks. There is no justification for any delay. A2Dominion also want leaseholders to pay a bribe in order to have their building prioritised. A2Dominion think making money and exploiting vulnerable people is more important than the mental health and financial survival of residents.

F Evans says:
23 July 2020

The problem seems to be the lack of guidance around the ESW1 (a form which lenders themselves created), and how it should be used. I’m in a block of flats under 18m that has balconies. As the building doesn’t have any cladding I was completely naive about the regulatory changes. I was told by seven different lenders they couldn’t remortgage without the ESW1. I finally got the report (after endless chasing) and it has indicated an issue with the timber that needs remediation.
No timeframe for the balconies to be fixed (best case scenario is sometime next year) so currently stuck in limbo unable to remortgage or sell.