/ 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

I found a buyer for my flat in October 2019. Ews1 was requested by buyers lender in December 2019. My housing association A2dominion promised this for 4 months before telling me in April, this was likely to take 3 years. Absolute farce. We moved out 5 days before the ews1 form was requested after the birth of our 2nd daughter thinking we were close to completion. The HA knew this and still had no moral fibre to give us the required information to complete our sale. Theyve now ignored me for 3 months…..my flat sits empty and we are breaking our backs trying to pay for 2 properties and avoid financial ruin. We’ve worked all our lives for this property only for it to be deemed worthless and effectively a noose around our necks.

Mark says:
24 July 2020

Requested EWS1 form back in Jan 2020 after finding a buyer for our flat. Six month later still no EWS1 with every excuse you can imagine and now no buyers. Nearly 1000 flats on our development currently rated at a value of £0 due to not having it.

I’m a shared owner of an apartment in a building below 18m. I live elsewhere (having moved for work) and am spending all my savings on the monthly costs of an empty 2nd home. The current buyer needed a survey and the surveyor requested an EWS1. The Housing Association provided a recent fire risk assessment and said they don’t have an EWS1 as EWS1 is for buildings over 18m and this building is lower than 18m. The surveyor said it does need an EWS1 and valued it at £0. There followed a protracted and utterly kafka-esque dialogue between all parties. The lender said they suspect the cladding contains combustible material and need an EWS1. The Housing Association said there is no combustible material. They commissioned the construction of the building which was completed in 2008 and named the materials. The lender said that’s not sufficient and they need EWS1. The Housing Association said they won’t get an EWS1 because it would be difficult, expensive and they are not legally obliged to. This has been going on for months with still no solution in sight.

Nicola says:
24 July 2020

We’re tried to sell but our buyers were unable to get a mortgage without the EWS1 form…Housing Association (L&Q) have said it could be years before this can be provided but are unable to provide a timeframe. We need to move but can’t.

Ryan says:
24 July 2020

We live in a block of flats under 18m but the banks still refuse to approve a mortgage for our buyers so we are now stuck in a 1 bed flat with an 18 month old. We live in an L&Q block with shared ownership in London but have new jobs starting in Exeter in September where we were hoping to get a better work life balance and a garden for our little one. We’re now in the position where he can’t buy a home and will have to rent in Exeter and leave our London flat empty as we can’t even get hold of the L&Q subletting team!

Anon says:
24 July 2020

In a one bed with a baby and no hope of moving. Our sale fell through in May, 6 months down the line as no one will lend on our shared ownership, brick built flat under 18m without EWS1. We can’t even remortgage without the form and our HA says it could take 5 years plus to get the form as our building is such low risk.

I live in a new build estate by L&Q housing association, completed in 2013, consisting of 3 just-under-18m blocks. Little cladding on top floor only. The housing association is refusing to come up with the EWS1 certificate, saying ‘most of our buildings will need remedial works’ and that ‘it will take years’ to even arrange the EWS1 survey since we are ‘low priority’. I would like to sell my flat but I am afraid I will not even be able to remortgage come December when my current mortgage deal expired and that I will be put on high variable rate which under covid19 situation I cannot afford. My neighbour has tried to sell in vain several times – all sales have failed through and it has majorly impacted her mental health. It is a hopeless situation and the housing association L&Q further tortures us with unbelievably unprofessional communication full of contradictory information and has no ability to train their front line staff to professionally reply with in-depth knowledge on the matter. Lets them throw in any random comment or opinion, even if completely untrue, making leaseholders chase their tails. The govt is also failing to resolve the issue around EWS1 certification. First time home ownership turning into a nightmare and the biggest mistake of our lives for so many leaseholders and shared ownership tenants.

James says:
24 July 2020

Bought property in 2015 on Help to Buy scheme, was in the process of remortgaging to pay off the equity loan. Had to have a RICS Valuation carried out £250), paid Help to Buy admin fee (£200) and instructed solicitors (£200). Halifax have requested an EWS1 form. There is no cladding on the building, its brick built with windows housed in metal frames where there are inside balconies. I am now in the situation where I have to stick with my current mortgage provider Nationwide and from October, I am expected to pay interest on a loan I never had any intention of keeping. I have
highlighted this to my local MP (Boris Johnson) and to Target HCA to understand whether they will waiver interest charges until the government get their house in order. After all, it is the failings in the building regulations that they are responsible for that has led us to this shambles of a position today. Its an absolute disgrace and needs to be highlighted through the media.

We are stuck in a one-bedroom flat with 14-month-old twins because we can’t sell our flat due to the lack of an EWS1 form. L&Q say they are doing what is necessary, but are using the excuse that they have so many buildings to inspect for why this could drag on for months if not years.

Joanna Wilby says:
24 July 2020

I have been told I won’t be able to sell without the form and yet no one seems to have any information or timeframe for when anything will move on/change. In short, am trapped in a location that no longer suits, at a price I no longer want to pay.

Freddy says:
24 July 2020

We live on the fifth floor of a building under 18 metres in Hackney, London. We have been refused a mortgage from Nationwide because of a lack of an EWS1 form. We are currently stuck on the SVR so are now paying about £450 extra per month on our mortgage and we are unable to sell our property. No firm timelines on when we will get the EWS1 form from our Housing Association, besides asking us to wait two months for them to try to recover costs from the original construction firm.

Same situation here. We’re in a shared ownership scheme with Poplar Harca in London, our building is below 18m. We needed to move out and had found a buyer for our flat. The buyer’s lender requested an EWS1 form which we were not able to provide. The valuation remained at nil and the sale fell through. Poplar Harca has no timeline to offer to carry out the survey on our building; they say they are prioritising taller buildings. A very sad story indeed.

Mayowa Adebiyi says:
24 July 2020

Trying to buy a flat to move into for extra space after having a baby who’s now 8 months. Building is 4 storeys yet bank’s surveyors – Countrywide – are asking for a EWS1 form and their reasoning is that the Balcony has timber flooring. HA are refusing to get one done because the building is less than 18m, yet the guidance put out by the government still leaves discretion with surveyors which means there is a blanket demand from mortgage lenders.

#stuck

Bought a new build flat in 2013, it has a tiny amount of fireproof cement-fibre cladding as a backing to some balconies, the entire block is lower than 18m. Every lender we’ve tried has refused to help us without an EWS1. We can’t get one of those without the Landlord commissioning the survey and they’re ignoring us – there’s no incentive for them to do it. We’re a student and a nurse stuck on an extremely expensive variable rate with no options to remortgage or sell. Completely trapped!

Steve C says:
24 July 2020

I have lost £2,000 in January, trying to remortgage my current flat built in 2002 and buy another, both of which had aluminium solid cladding rather than ACM. Both mortgages were refused without the EWC1 form, which the Housing Association could not provide, despite the cladding that had previously been inspected and deemed safe. I am still waiting for the new inspection to take place.

Karen says:
24 July 2020

I’m in a block just under 18m and my lender will require an EWS for me, not only to sell, but remortgage also. So if I can’t get the EWS form by the time my fixed term contract is up, I will have to move onto a variable rate mortgage putting significant financial pressure on me. I can’t move to another lender as they are only remortgaging for existing customers without EWS (and even then only in some cases). As a new customer, an alternative lender would almost certainly require the EWS to offer me a mortgage deal. I have checked this with mortgage brokers and also from talking to other people stuck in the same situation as me. So even though my block should not require a EWS form, I’m completely trapped without it due to the approach taken by lenders.

We have been pressuring our freeholder to arrange for the EWS survey to be done and they appear to have commissioned it. I say ‘appear’ as there is almost no information sharing about what the survey involves, how long the results will take, how they will communicate the results with us. And there has been absolutely zero information about what will happen if remedial works are needed. We as leaseholders can ask questions but freeholders are under no obligation to answer.

The whole EWS certificate situation has leaseholders in this country falling between a range of stools, with massive personal and financial cost. We’re in a situation where there are lots of powerful players involved, pulling in different directions to look after their own interests with none responsible for the impact of their decisions or actions on leaseholders.

– RICS, UK and Building Societies Association created the form for over 18m and put this into the market as the one source of truth despite the fact there are insufficient qualified professionals to carry out surveys. There was seemingly also inadequate consultation with lenders and how they would interpret and implement the form (as we now know, requiring the document for buildings as low as 11 m); insisting that the EWS is commissioned by the building owner further disempowers leaseholders who are willing to commission the survey themselves so they can unblock their lives
– MHCLG’s consolidated guidance moved the goal posts on fire safety requirements and included under 18m buildings in the fray without adequate clarity on how requirements should differ given the lower risk of these shorter buildings; total disregard for the complex nature of ownership of blocks of flats with trapped leaseholders at the whim of freeholders to take action off the back of the guidance – with freeholders often being invisible, contactable entities. My freeholder in one correspondence told me that as it was ‘guidance’ and therefore they didn’t have to do anything.
– Freeholders / building owners can simply refuse to do the necessary survey to get the EWS1 certificate as it isn’t a legal requirement. They can also refuse to give permission for leaseholders to commission and pay for the work on freeholders’ behalf. I was told by my managing agent and freeholder that they would not give permission for us to commission the survey ourselves despite the fact that I had a quote from a reputable surveyor who could mobilise in a matter of weeks.
– Lenders are misusing the EWS form, applying it to blocks regardless of height and trapping hundreds of thousands of people in the process. Their response has been completely disproportionate.

Live in shared ownership block which housing association claim is under 18 metres so no EWS1 will be provided. It’s 7 storeys so over 18m. It has ceramic cladding which is non combustible but lenses are requiring the form to reassure. I’m not currently tying to sell but was seriously considering putting flat on market, I’m now likely to delay as neighbours who are actively selling are having so many issues with lack of EWS1. It’s also affecting a neighbour who is attempting to remortgage to buy more of her flat. Her lender initially said EWS1 was not required but then their surveyor refused to value flat due to lack of EWS1 so at the mo her attempt to stair case is stalled. Despite knowing all of the issues the leaseholder (Peabody) are still happily taking the marketing/stair casing fees, they are not warning people in advance of the issues. In my view they have a moral obligation to advise leaseholders not to attempt to sell their properties or staircase til the situation is resolved, their current behaviour is leaving people out of pocket

Jorge says:
24 July 2020

The sale if my flat fell through three weeks ago because L&Q could not provide EWS1 certificate.
My flat has non acm cladding and is four storeys.
Want to move abroad and cannot sell.

Currently trying to sell a flat in a 200 year old converted brick mill building, under 18m and with no cladding. Still all lenders refusing to lend on it, so currently stuck selling to cash buyers only. Luckily our management company have requested the EWS1 and it’s due in 5 weeks. Not sure what we’ll do if it doesn’t pass.

Ellen says:
24 July 2020

We bought our London flat (in a block under 18m with some cladding) in 2016 but moved to Wales due to work/family reasons last October and let it out. Now Can’t remortgage the flat as a Buy To Let due to EWS1 and the initial term has now expired so the monthly payments have shot up by £450/month. Luckily we have some savings to keep us going for a few months but as my partner has lost his job due to the COVID situation we will now have to consider giving notice to tenants and moving back to the London as renting out is so expensive with agency fee/repairs/tax/now increased mortgage which may be able to be renewed and lower if its not a buy to let. We are in a relatively good position compared to some but its ridiculous that we may have to move our family of 4 back into a small 2 bed flat in London and have to kick out the tenants who are perfectly happy there at the moment just because of this I’ll-thought through form.