/ 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
Dave says:
15 June 2021

CAN MANAGING AGENT REFUSE TO GET ESW1 ?

I am selling my flat. Block is under 18m tall (4 floors) and has only 22% cladding.
Managing Agent (Bartley Management) say that we don’t need EWS1 and will not obtain one.
My buyer’s lenders (they tried Nationwide, TSB, Santander) will not lend, hence buyer has pulled out.

Can I arrange (with other flat owners) to get EWS1 done privately? Or ask firebrigade to survey? Should I withhold my monthly service charge payment to managing agent until I am sold?

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Regards

Dave/… (Havant, Hampshire)

Dave – It has been stated previously here that only the freeholder can apply for an EWS1 form. The route to the freeholder probably lies through the managing agent. Your block is below the height level above which an EWS1 is mandatory. I do not know the implications of the 22% cladding.

The government and the housing industry [primarily lenders and property surveyors] having introduced a ‘safety certificate’ procedure, the lenders are not prepared to advance money to mortgagors unless the property has EWS clearance by authorised surveyors as well as rectification of any other fire or emergency escape deficiencies.

I would not advise withholding your service charge payments as that could lead to costly penalties and legal action against you; it would also adversely affect an eventual sale if a debt was registered against your property.

Dave says:
15 June 2021

All very good points John. Many thanks for the information and advice.
Will keep this forum posted if I make any headway!
Regards
Dave/…

Louise says:
16 June 2021

We are in the final stages of selling our apartment and delays are now caused by the buyer’s lender re EWS1A. The building has no cladding whatsoever, it’s brick built. It’s taller than 18 meters but only 4 stories high.
Our freeholder does not provide EWS1.

If our sale falls through because of this, how can it be legal? When the document isn’t a legal requirement whatsoever. And there’s no way to get hold of one.

zoe crosse says:
18 June 2021

I cannot remortgage I was refused and management company say they do not need to provide ESW1 because building is only four floors and drawing plans show the cladding is not a fire hazard – what to do now?

I believe the answer to this continuing problem for people either buying or selling in apartment blocks under 18m high [and with no external cladding, timber balconies, or other building deficiencies] lies squarely with mortgagees.

The lenders seem to be acting perversely and unreasonably and I believe the government should start knocking some heads together. To use this pretext as an excuse to impose lending restrictions is not a proportionate response. The risks in such low-rise and medium-rise buildings of solid and fireproof construction did not suddenly change so the mortgage freeze on them is opportunistic and unjustified in my view. Unfortunately the government seems to be impervious to reason and good policy in the operation of this part the housing market which is the entry level for many first-time home-owners.

Are the lenders [and freeholders who refuse to commission an external wall survey] hoping that if they are obstructive for long enough the government will be forced to fund the surveys or provide some financial safety nets? Shame on them if that is the case.

Has anyone else experience this? Our buyer has submitted an ‘old’ version of the EWS1 form – pre March ‘21. They are saying that the Halifax underwriters have said they won’t accept this and they must submit a new EWS1 from – from March ‘21. We phoned Halifax mortgage helpline tonight and they said they had no distinction between old and new form, additionally can’t see anything in the policy on the intermediary site. The RICS website also says that the new form doesn’t make the old one obsolete and the old one lasts for 5 years. Any help would be much appreciated

Can anyone recommend a mortgage lender which WILL provide a loan against the purchase of a property which does not have an EWS1 certificate, but which doesn’t require one as the building is compliant?

Jo says:
25 June 2021

I have heard Santander does not care about the form but it is all anecdotal. We are in the same situation (no ESW1 but should not be required) and applied for BTL mortgages with two lenders (Barclays and Nationwide) so we should now soon if any would go through

Laura says:
13 July 2021

Any updates?

Hi. Do you have any updates on mortgage providers that will lend?

Hi. Do you have any updates on mortgage providers that will lend?

Steve says:
6 August 2021

I have just been told today that Santander have rejected my application for a mortgage which was supported by evidence from the Management Company showing that my building is not in scope for EWS1.

It seems as though the entire mortgage industry has now closed ranks and decided that it is not their problem.

Hi. Does anyone have any updates on mortgage providers that will lend on a EWS1 A3 rating?

For context, I am trying to sell my flat. My building is compliant except for wood on the balconies. The management company have the work out out to tender but will not commit to dates. I have had one sale fall through because of this any my current buyer’s lender is saying they need a new EWS1 that is not A3.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hi, Nationwide are the only lender openly working with people who have an A3 or B2 rating at the moment. You need to be able to prove funding is in place and/or a remediation plan.

Hi we are in the process of a remortgage for a Buy to Let product but couldn’t obtain an EWS form through our management company. Our flat is on 2nd floor of a 6 story building. Has anyone had a similar experience? Appreciate any advice on this.

The sale of my flat fell through because although we had an esw1 the lender said it was 0% mortgage able as the balconies need work. This was last year and I wondered if new legislation means that this is no longer the case?

Lorraine says:
3 August 2021

Our house sale has fallen through because our buyer was selling an apartment which didn’t have an ews1. Although it didn’t legally need one their buyers lender required one . We are annoyed because our estate agent didn’t flag up the problem of a buyer selling an apartment . We feel our agent should have looked into the potential problem more . Some things cannot be predicted but we feel this situation is well known in the property industry and sellers should be made aware of accepting offers from people selling apartments . It got all the way to signing contracts before it was flagged up . We now have to pay legal fees for absolutely nothing

Lorraine — Traditionally, buyers were expected to be “ready, willing and able to proceed” and it was regarded as the estate agent’s job to make sure that was the case when dealing with offers. Ability to complete by being clear to sell an existing property on which the purchase is dependent is as critical as having all other funding resources in place. I feel you have been let down by your agent. It is also open to question whether the conveyancers on both sides have failed to carry out due diligence.

At present, the EWS1 problem is continuing to affect apartment block sales despite government attempts to resolve it for low-rise buildings. Until the RICS changes its advice to valuers and lenders, which is not expected for a few months yet, any buyer who has to sell an apartment must continue to be regarded with caution unless they can demonstrate independent funds.

Some of your legal fees [e.g. for contract preparation and for completion of property information] might stand in good stead for a subsequent sale. The prospective purchaser will also have substantial costs [e.g. for searches] but that is no consolation to you. I would suggest you talk to your legal people and to your agent about how they can limit the damage — although you might prefer to use a different agent if you are not tied-in to the present one.

Sal says:
3 August 2021

Hi I am traing to sale my property but the buyer is having some problems because of ESW1, my propiety doesn’t excide 18 metres and there is no cladding. Do any one knows if the last government announcement of 26th of July will make any effect on lenders regarding the a valuation and a mortgage approval.

Sal — It should do, but not immediately. As I understand the present position, lenders, valuers and surveyors are waiting for the property profession’s governing body, the RICS [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors], to issue new guidance which is currently under consideration.

Mortgagees [building societies and other lenders] might also have other reasons to be cautious with loans in the current economic circumstances.

trevor says:
9 August 2021

My son wants to sell his flat. It is in a 2 storey building and does have some hard timber cladding. After many months of pushing from my son and other would-be sellers, the freeholder recently got an EWS1 done, but it failed. The assessor says (off the record) that the issues are relatively minor and the timber would not burn (materially) if there ever was a fire. However, the freeholder is looking to claim all remediation costs from the developer and has said that this will take years. Ultimately, it could however involve the current owners having to share in the remediation costs. 2 weeks later, the government changed its guidance to say EWS1s are not required for his type of building. The difficulty now is that the failed EWS1 cannot be reversed and the works will not be done for years. This is going to make sale difficult. Any bright ideas on how to proceed/ get these issues cleared/ resolved earlier?

We have just had our mortgage refused on the basis of the ESW1 form.We are(or were) buying a fourth floor flat in a block 7 storeys tall. The managing agents are insisting the form is not necessary as the building has no cladding or balconies or any of the other materials listed as a hazard. We have an in-depth surveyor report from when the building last had repair work done which clearly shows this to be true, but the bank will not accept this. We are literally a few weeks from being homeless as our current property has sold. Why is this not mentioned at initial stages by estate agents. I had to pay for a valuation and solicitors before this came to light.

Jerome says:
17 August 2021

Attempted to sell shared ownership property (ground floor duplex) due to a relationship break up. I’ve been stopped due to EWS1 requirements. This is understandable. I’m not impressed that Clarion Housing allowed me to pay for a valuation when they knew the property required an EWS1.

Now stuck in the property cohabiting.

The next worry is my remortgage due this Oct – Dec and whenever or not Halifax would allow a remortgage

Clarion’s response…
The assessment for the block that your property is located in was previously
completed and the External Wall System (EWS1) form returned to Clarion with a
“B2” categorisation, which means the “adequate standard of safety has not been
achieved”.
We are currently finalising a scope of remedial works that are required to the block
and I understand that a further update letter will be going out to all residents within
the next 2 weeks.
I would encourage any resident to contact us if they are struggling financially or are
unable to sell their homes as we may be able to offer support and advice. Our web-
site http://www.myclarionhousing.com has a page which has the latest EWS1 information
for leaseholders and shared owners on it which you may also find useful.
Please be assured that Clarion are committed to supporting their shared owners and
leaseholders.

Mahjabeen says:
4 September 2021

Hi Jerome. Are you able to say to the valuer/lender etc. that in the event of a fire you can just jump out of the window, because surely the argument is around safety in the event of a fire?

Monika Kusstatscher says:
20 September 2021

Hi all, my mortgage application with Santander was rejected despite the EWS1 form scoring B1 and all signatory qualifications being met. Reason for it is that they do not require the form but want the Management Company providing a YES/NO headed letter. Anyone else having similar experiences? Also any other lender to recommend?