Helping you understand the EWS process for assessing cladding fire safety.
The EWS process was designed to provide an industry-standard approach to assessing cladding fire safety. It assures lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers that external wall systems meet building regulations.
EWS stands for external wall system. The external wall system is made up of the outside wall of a residential building, which includes cladding, insulation and fire break systems.
The EWS process was launched in December 2019 by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and is endorsed by UK Finance and the Building Society Association.
Residential building owners must arrange for independent fire safety assessments on:
- buildings over 18 metres high with cladding
- buildings under 18 metres with ‘specific concerns’, such as four to six-storey buildings that may have combustible cladding or balconies with combustible materials.
The fire safety assessments must be conducted by a fully qualified professional, who will complete an EWS1 form with their findings.
An EWS1 form is used by mortgage lenders and valuers to verify that the external wall system has been checked by a qualified professional and meets building regulations.
This form can be needed by owners of flats in buildings with cladding, who want to remortgage, sell or staircase their home.
A qualified professional will visit the building to carry out a fire safety assessment on the outside walls. After their inspection, they will complete an EWS1 form to confirm whether or not there is a fire safety risk from the external wall system.
The EWS1 form applies to the whole building, not individual properties, and lasts for five years. If significant work is carried out on the building that affects the original findings, the building owner would need to arrange a new assessment.
Owners of flats in buildings without cladding do not need an EWS1 form to sell, staircase or remortgage their property.
We’re working to arrange independent inspections of our priority buildings as quickly as possible. After the assessments, we’ll begin a programme of work, where needed, to make sure our buildings are compliant with all fire safety regulations.
The EWS1 assessment looks into how the building was constructed and the materials that were used. These investigations are often intrusive and involve opening up different sections of walls and balconies to check for combustible materials. This means the process takes some time to complete for each building. There’s also currently a shortage of fully qualified safety professionals who can carry out this type of specialist assessment, which means building owners like us are having to wait for assessments.
We appreciate how important these forms are when you’re looking to sell or remortgage your home and we’ll do all we can to assist you with this process.
Where we’re not the freeholder of the building or don’t have responsibility for the building structure, we’ll be working with the owner and/or the managing agent to help them obtain the ESW1 form.
No, only building owners can arrange EWS1 assessments. Once the assessment is complete, the ESW1 form will be valid for five years and can be used by all residents of the building.
If you live in a building over 18 metres high or a building with cladding, you may have trouble remortgaging, staircasing or selling your home without an EWS1 form.
However, each lender is different and not all lenders need an EWS1 form. We’ve found some lenders will continue to lend on properties in buildings over 18 metres high and those that require fire safety works without an EWS1 form.
If you are looking to sell or remortgage your home, we suggest that you raise this issue with any potential buyer or lender. We also recommend you speak to an independent financial advisor to find out what options are available to you.
We understand how frustrating this is. This new requirement is not just affecting us at GreenSquareAccord, but all housing associations and building owners across the UK. We will continue to speak to our housing association colleagues to push the government to find a solution that will allow our customers to sell, staircase and remortgage their homes.
Your safety is our priority and we’re committed to making sure our buildings meet the highest possible fire safety standards.
We’d like to reassure you:
- all our high-rise buildings, and those under 18 metres with cladding, received building control sign-off when they were built
- we’ve completed external visual surveys of each of our buildings to determine the individual risk level
- all our buildings have an up-to-date fire risk assessment
- we review the fire risk assessments each year for our high-rise buildings and deal with any recommendations as soon as possible
We have begun an extensive programme of fire safety inspections, testing and remedial work across our buildings, which will take several years to complete. We can’t carry out work at every building at once, so we’re prioritising the most at-risk buildings first.
If your building is part of our inspection programme, we’ll let you know when investigations will take place, as well as remedial work.
We’re sorry if you’re waiting for remedial work to be completed before your building can receive an EWS1 form.
We’ll continue to keep you updated as and when more guidance and support is announced by the Government. You can also find more information and updates about the EWS process on the RICS website.