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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.

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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

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