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Posted 22 Feb 2024

What Is An EWS1 Form? EWS1 Form Requirements For Property Buyers

apartment / buy / ews1 form / mortgage

More and more property buyers are asking: “What is an EWS1 form?” This guide explores cladding, mortgages and EWS1 form requirements.

In recent years, many homeowners and buyers have asked me: “What is an EWS1 form?” 

It’s a very important question if you own, or are thinking of buying, an apartment in the UK. 

The Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 has raised awareness around the importance of sufficiently assessing properties for fire risks due to cladding. That’s where EWS1 comes in, also known informally as a cladding certificate.

Even if you’re confident that your property does not contain cladding, other parties may seek their own assurances, so it’s worth knowing about the EWS1 survey.

I’ll explain the who, what, when, where, why and how of EWS1 form requirements in this guide.

What is an EWS1 form? EWS1 meaning

An EWS1 form is an acronym for a External Wall System Fire Review certificate.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Building Societies Association and UK Finance introduced EWS1 forms in late 2019.

Before this, but post-Grenfell, lenders wanted assurance on the safety of external wall systems – without a clear system in place, their surveyors devalued many properties.

But there have been some major rule changes to EWS1 since its initial introduction, resulting in a lack of clarity for those needing to provide the certificate to mortgage lenders.

Changes include, as per the House of Commons:

  • December 2019: EWS1 form required as part of property valuations for buildings above 18 metres or six stories
  • January 2020: Buildings of any height required (i.e. also those below 18 metres high) also require this fire risk assessment, according to a government advice note
  • March 2021: RICS confirms some buildings under 18 metres with high pressure laminate (HPL) or combustible cladding need an EWS1 form
  • July 2021: Government says there is ‘no systemic risk of fire in blocks under 18 metres’ and no longer recommends EWS1 forms for these
  • December 2021: RICS confirms that its guidance for buildings under 18 metres remains unchanged

Then in March 2022, aiming to reduce the need for EWS1 forms, the government confirmed several funding schemes to fix cladding-related fire safety issues:

  • 11 metres and above: The Developer Remediation Contracts 
  • 11-18 metres: The Medium Rise Scheme (now called the Cladding Safety Scheme)
  • 18 metres and above: The Building Safety Fund

With high demand for EWS1 forms and a low supply, given the level of expertise required to complete the assessments, this can be a problem for those selling their flats. Developer and government remediation schemes aim to reduce the need for the EWS1 system.

Why do I need to know about EWS1?

It can have an impact on property valuation when either buying, selling or re-mortgaging flats in residential buildings.

EWS1 forms are not required for terraced, semi-detached, or detached houses, as confirmed by housing association Moat

EWS1 forms help lenders determine the risk for a specific building and decide whether to offer a mortgage on one of its apartments based on its external wall system and fire risk.

They are valid for five years. However, after any significant changes to the external wall or attachments to the exterior of the building, there’s a need for a new EWS1 form.

Where is the property’s external wall system?

The external wall system is the outside wall of a residential building – including insulation, fire break systems and, of course, cladding. The EWS1 form focuses on these external walls.

EWS1 forms are not an assessment of fire life safety, or an alternative to a complete fire risk assessment though. A comprehensive fire risk assessment is mandatory for all occupied buildings.

When is an EWS1 form required?

In short, what are the very latest EWS1 form requirements? Flats in multi-storey buildings, especially those over 18 metres tall, are the most likely to need an EWS1 form to satisfy mortgage lenders.

Some flats in smaller buildings that potentially have combustible materials still require an EWS1 form though, according to RICS.

In theory, the aforementioned remediation schemes are supposed to reduce the reliance on EWS1 and ease lenders’ concerns. It can take a long time to issue a building with an EWS1 form – waiting for one can be a barrier to buying and selling apartments.

However, according to Inside Housing, as of June 2023 banks were still asking to see EWS1 forms for:

  • 62% of buildings with more than seven stories
  • 32% of buildings with five to six storeys
  • 10% of all flats in the UK
  • 2% of low-rise buildings

In other words, lenders are asking for EWS1 forms more often than the UK government anticipated, when it stopped recommending these for smaller buildings in July 2021.

Who needs an EWS1 certificate?

If you own a flat in a building that could require an EWS1 form, lenders may ask you for it – when it comes to selling your home or remortgaging, for example.

Similarly if you are planning to buy an apartment in a tall building, your mortgage lender may want to see the EWS1 certificate. EWS1 certificates are not a legal requirement, but some mortgage lenders may not offer a mortgage on properties without one.

It depends on the materials, of course. According to government research:

  • Non-cladding materials include: brick, stone panels or stone, concrete and glass
  • Cladding materials include: aluminium composite material (ACM), brick slips, HPL, metal composite material (MCM), metal sheet panels, render system, plastic, tiling systems, timber or wood

However, leaseholders and mortgage lenders cannot arrange for an EWS1. Only the freeholder, legal owner of the building, or management agent can.

They need to contact a professional body such as the Institution of Fire Engineers to carry out the EWS1 assessment. Qualified fire engineers are responsible for issuing the EWS1 form.

The cost of the assessment varies depending on the size of the building and the amount of cladding. According to safety company Fire Safety Risk Assessment, the minimum cost is likely to be £6,000 but it can rise to nearly £30,000 too.

The very latest new build flats may not need an EWS1 form. That’s potentially the case because The Fire Safety Act 2021 stipulates that fire risk assessments of residential buildings must now include cladding reviews.

But of course, any fire risk assessments pre-2021 likely won’t have included the external wall system.

How can I see my building’s EWS1 report?

As a leaseholder, try searching for it on the Building Safety Information Portal. If it’s not there, ask the freeholder, legal owner of the building or management agent for the EWS1 form.

In previous articles, I have written about what a flying freehold is and also, what a share of freehold means.

Based on the EWS1 assessment, the building will have one of the following ratings. Here’s how to read them:

Option A – The external wall materials are not likely to support combustion:

  • A1 – There is no cladding containing significant quantities of combustible material
  • A2 – The risk assessment of cladding is complete – no remedial works needed
  • A3 – Cladding is unlikely to support combustion – however, remedial works may be required

Option B – The cladding contains combustible materials:

  • B1 – The fire risk is low enough that remedial works are not needed
  • B2 – The fire risk is high enough to necessitate remedial work

If the building is over 11m tall and receives a B2, the government will pay to remove the cladding from one of the aforementioned funds, which housing developers also pay into.

Final thoughts: EWS1 compliant buildings

I hope this guide has answered your queries around the EWS1 process. If you’re buying or selling a flat, it’s worth keeping in mind the:

  • Height of the overall building
  • Materials used in the external wall system
  • Likelihood of mortgage lenders asking to see an EWS1 form

Plan ahead as much as possible, to reduce the chances of a wait for an EWS1 form slowing things down.

Just like property searches in the property buying process, it can take a while. Ultimately it has the potential to be one of the things that can hold up an exchange of contracts.

Once your mortgage lender has the EWS1 form, or confirms that they don’t need to see one, you’re one step closer to making that big move! Here is my first time buyer checklist – as well as 16 moving house tips.

Take a look at the Fine Living blog for more useful articles. In recent posts I have covered the non-resident landlord scheme and answered the common question: “Do you pay council tax on an empty property?

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, let or rent, the Fine Living team is here for you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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