Thousands upon thousands of flat owners are currently unable to sell due to an ongoing cladding scandal. However this issue could finally be resolved for some, thanks to a long-anticipated update to the guidelines.
New cladding guidance issued by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is designed to reduce the volume of wall safety surveys currently being requested by banks and building societies regarding blocks of flats. The guidance aims to assist lenders by saving them time when inspections are not required - and most lenders are expected to adhere to these new guidelines and follow the advice.
What is an EWS1 form?
The external wall system (EWS) process and associated documentation was introduced to confirm that sufficient checks had been conducted on the outside walls of residential buildings, including insulation, cladding and fire-break systems. The external wall materials and construction are assessed by a qualified professional before being signed off on an ESW1 form - which is then valid for five years.These checks were first brought in following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, and were designed to assess the potential impact financially of cladding on high-rise building flats.
Initially, the only parties affected were those who owned flats in tall buildings where dangerous and flammable cladding was present. However, once mortgage lenders began requesting fire surveys from a far greater range of sellers, leaseholders began asking for EWS1 external wall safety forms in their hundreds of thousands. These requests have led to colossal delays, due, in part, to a significant shortage of qualified surveyors available to conduct the checks. This has left many thousands of owners in a frustrating state of limbo.
What has changed?
To simplify the full reviewed guidance, moving forwards, buildings of five or six storeys will require an EWS1 form only where a ‘significant amount’ of cladding is present, and buildings of four storeys or fewer will no longer require an EWS1 form regardless of balconies or present cladding.
Valuers, lenders and fire safety experts consulted upon property valuations in multi-occupancy, multi-storey residential buildings with cladding guidance for two months. The resulting recommendations are set to roll out by 5 April 2021.
Chair of the RICS standards and regulation board, Dame Janet Paraskeva, said, “This announcement is a crucial step in unlocking the market, by ensuring that only those buildings where there are risks of costly remediation as a result of safety concerns from cladding are subject to additional checks.”
Dame Janet Paraskeva went on to say that it is anticipated that this new guidance will result in a reduction of EWS1 requests being lodged, and that this will allow for more focus on higher risk building assessments, thus speeding up the process without neglecting the appropriate protection for both purchasers and lenders.
The Building Societies Association (BSA) and UK Finance issued a joint statement in which they welcomed the final guidance announcement and also expected that the volume of EWS1 requests would fall as a result. They added, however, that it would still be up to individual lenders to make the final call.
The statement reads, “Government confirmation that it supports the guidance produced by RICS as an appropriate, risk-based and proportionate basis on which to proceed with valuation assessments, in line with the building safety Consolidated Advice Note published in January 2020 is a welcome and necessary step for lenders.”
It also stated that they do anticipate that many lenders will in fact implement the new guidance, and that we should certainly therefore see the number of EWS1 requests drop. They added, however, that ultimately it is a decision for each lender to make individually based on their own risk assessment.
Anyone buying a flat needs to understand that, under the new guidance, any valuer that decides not to require an EWS1 inspection does not guarantee that there won’t be the requirement for fire safety remediation works to be conducted in the future.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has also approved and welcomed the new guidance outlined by RICS. He says, “We need a sensible, proportionate approach to risk and costs should only be incurred where they are absolutely necessary and less costly and intrusive mitigations can’t be put into place.”
Flat owners will now be able to sell or remortgage more quickly and easily
According to Jenrick, it will mean that almost 500,000 leaseholders will be relieved of needing an EWS1 form, which will assist homeowners in selling or remortgaging their properties more quickly and easily.
In addition to the new guidelines, almost £700,000 of government funding is to be utilised to incorporate the training of over 500 new assessors, so that any valuations that are required can be conducted more quickly to speed up the overall process for homeowners.
If you are unsure how to best move forwards, drop our Portico Finance department a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 07824 353803 or 07824 353800. We can provide guidance on lending and mortgages in specific circumstances, as some lenders will be cautious regardless of the new guidance introduced.!!