Closed petition Free leaseholders trapped in new build properties by post-Grenfell EWS1 form

Fire safety is a natural concern within the building sector after the Grenfell tragedy.

The EWS1 form is designed to identify tall buildings where lives are at risk, but leaseholders in safe, modern, and even <18m buildings are left unable to sell or remortgage as lenders demand invasive surveys.

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Three issues need resolving:
1) Lenders should not be able to require an EWS1 form for buildings that were never intended to need one.

2) Building surveyors, rather than fire engineers, need to be insured to carry out surveys on low risk buildings, to help reduce the two-year backlog which is trapping residents.

3) Requiring invasive surveys to establish new building safety is a Pandora’s box. Engineers, architects and builders must be compelled to produce evidence of safe construction.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 September 2020

We share homeowners’ concerns and do not support the blanket use of EWS1 forms. We encourage lenders to accept other forms of assessment in relation to external walls.

Read the response in full

We share homeowners’ concerns in the way EWS1 forms are being used. We also recognise the difficulties and uncertainty they now face in obtaining mortgages. The government continues to encourage and work with industry to resolve these issues quickly.

We understand that lenders need to assess a property's value and whether any major building work could be required to both inform their lending decision and protect the buyer. To support the valuation of high-rise buildings with cladding, the Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS), in conjunction with lenders devised the EWS1 process. While we appreciate the EWS1 form helps provide consistency and clarity for valuation purposes we do not recognise the EWS1 form as a safety assessment.

The Government is aware that some lenders are requesting EWS1 forms for lower rise properties. We do not support a blanket approach to the use of EWS1 forms on buildings and encourage lenders to accept equivalent or other forms of assessment as evidence for valuation purposes.

Building owners and managing agents should also make available relevant information, to reassure residents about the safety of their homes. This can also be shared with mortgage lenders, valuers, potential buyers and leaseholders to enable swift and informed decisions.

The Building Safety Minister has had assurances from lenders that they would look at applying a proportionate approach to assessments and valuation. We understand they are reflecting this in their policies and guidance to valuers and some lenders have said they would be open to other evidence on value-affecting matters, in line with the approach we outlined above.

We recognise concerns about the capacity within the fire engineering sector for assessing external walls and we are working with the fire engineering industry, including professional bodies such as the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Fire Sector Federation and the Fire Industry Association, to ensure there is a strategy to help industry scale up capacity in the profession.

MHCLG and the Home Office have jointly funded an industry-led proposal for the British Standards Institution to produce technical guidance to support fire risk assessments of external wall systems. This will also support the fire safety sector to upskill more individuals to assess external wall systems.

We are aware that many construction professionals have experienced challenges in securing Professional Indemnity Insurance. This is a particular concern for fire engineers who are crucial to assessing fire safety. The Minister for fire and building safety is holding regular roundtables with the insurance industry to encourage the availability of PII for those professionals essential to buildings safety. We understand the industry is also considering the role of building surveyors in the assessment process. We will continue to work closely with industry and stakeholders on this issue.

Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Other parliamentary business

Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee continues to investigate cladding issues

A group of MPs called the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee continues to investigate issues relating to cladding remediation.

On 21 May the Chair of the Committee, Clive Betts MP, wrote to the Government asking what they were doing to support the implementation of new Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RCIS) guidance on whether an EWS1 form should be required for a particular building, and what action the Government would take if mortgage lenders continue to require EWS1 forms for buildings that do not meet RICS criteria.

You can read the full letter here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/5990/documents/67920/default/

This correspondence follows two reports by the Committee on cladding remediation, which have looked at progress in removing potentially dangerous cladding from high-rise and high-risk buildings, the adequacy of funding by the Government, and the steps that are being taken to ensure that leaseholders and tenants are protected from bearing the costs of historical building safety defects.

You can read the Committee's first report on cladding remediation, published in June 2020, here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/1438/documents/13153/default/

The Government responded to the Committee's report in September 2020, and you can read their response here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2404/documents/46718/default/

You can read the Committee's follow-up report, published in April 2021, here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/5702/documents/56234/default/

The Committee has also scrutinised draft legislation to improve building and fire safety. You can read their pre-legislative scrutiny report of the Building Safety Bill here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3605/documents/35262/default/

Follow the Committee on Twitter for updates: @CommonsHCLG

What is the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee?

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee is a group of MPs which scrutinises the policy, administration and spending of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It's a cross-party Committee and is independent of the Government. You can find out more about the Committee on the UK Parliament website:
https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/housing-communities-and-local-government-committee
 
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c