Has your estate agent or mortgage lender asked to see an EWS1 form for your property? Whether you’re selling a flat, or in the process of buying one, there is a chance you will need to have an External Wall System survey completed. In the following guide we cover everything you need to know about EWS1 forms, whether you need one, how much it costs, and all other queries you may have.
What is an EWS1 form?
On the 14th June 2017 the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, London, suffered a tragic fire with 72 people loosing their lives. What should have been contained as a small fire in a resident’s kitchen wreaked havoc, with flames spreading up the outside of the tower block due to the highly combustible cladding used. As a result the government introduced new fire safety regulations for cladding on residential buildings. The EWS1 Form was introduced in 2018 to ensure clad buildings were assessed for safety. Originally the EWS1 form was required for all residential buildings. However, as of August 2021, this has been changed to buildings over 18 meters tall.
Obtaining an EWS1 certificate is not dissimilar to having a property survey carried out. The EWS1 form can only be completed by a professional as they will understand the strict criteria set out by the government. The professional will need to be a qualified member of a relevant body in the construction industry, such as the RICS. The surveyor will conduct a survey of the external wall system, cladding, and insulation. In England and Wales an EWS1 form covers an entire building and is valid for five years.
Is the EWS1 a fire safety assessment?
EWS stands for external wall system and this is the only thing an assessor focuses on. Whereas a fire safety assessment will overview internal and external elements, the EWS1 survey is the exterior cladding of properties only.
The EWS1 form, once signed, is asked for by estate agents and mortgage lenders for those buying or selling flats or apartments in blocks over 18 meters in height.
What results will an EWS1 form show?
Residential buildings are graded following the completion of an EWS assessment. An A or B rating will be given, as well as a numerical figure. Results will be one of the following:
A – external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion
A1 – there is no cladding that contains significant quantities of combustible material
A2 – classing is present and no remedial work is required
A3 – cladding is unlike to support combustion but remedial work may be required
B – the cladding contains combustible materials
B1 – the fire risk is low enough that remedial works are not required
B2 – the fire risk is high enough to require remedial work
What happens is combustible cladding is present?
An EWS1 form showing a B1 or B2 result means combustible cladding is present. However, work is only required on residential properties categorised B2. The freeholder will need to have work carried out to make the property safe for all tenants.
The government remove unsafe cladding for free on properties over 11 meters tall. However, this leaves low-rise residential building owners having to foot the cost for removal. All freeholders will have to pay for remedial work following cladding removal.
Who is responsible for arranging an EWS1 form?
In short, the legal owner of a residential building over 18 meters tall is responsible for arranging an EWS1 survey. Typically flats are leasehold, so if you’re buying or selling a flat, the EWS1 form will need to be provided by the freeholder. The freeholder may be an individual or a management company. If you’re buying a flat the estate agent will be able to obtain the EWS1 certificate for you. If you’re selling a flat you will need to contact the freeholder to get a copy of the information you require.
It is illegal for the legal owner of a residential building to have an out of date Fire Risk Assessment. Following the Fire Safety Act of 2021, a cladding assessment is included in any Fire Risk Assessment, allowing for the production of an EWS1 certificate. Therefore, if the last time this was carried out was pre-2021, the cladding element will not have been taken into consideration.
The freeholder is refusing to arrange an EWS1 form
Legally the freeholder of a residential building that fits the criteria for an EWS1 survey has to arrange it. They should be carried out every time the current EWS1 certificate becomes invalid after the five-year period.
Whether you want this carried out for personal safety or you wish to sell your flat writing to the freeholder is the first port of call. If you can get a number of leaseholders together to sign the correspondence, even better. If they still do not comply your local council will be able to help on your behalf.
Do all flats need an EWS1 form?
Individual flats do not need an EWS1 form, but the entire residential building. The criteria for requiring an EWS1 survey is as follows:
- A residential building over 18m or six storeys
- A residential building that has cladding
- A residential building with timber balconies
The RICS has the latest EWS1 guidance should you need more information.
Are residential buildings without cladding exempt from an EWS1 form?
You may be looking at the building you live in and think there’s no cladding or wooden balconies, I don’t need an EWS1 to sell my flat. However, looks can be deceiving. Some residential blocks can look as if they’re built from traditional brick or stone – it could be a slip external wall system that is actually classed as cladding. It is better to be safe and check with the freeholder or property management company.
Who needs an EWS1 form?
There are a number of people who may require an EWS1 certificate, both legally and for practical reasons.
Freeholder EWS1 form
If you are a freeholder of a residential building it is your legal duty to have an in-date Fire Safety Assessment. If the building you own is over 18 meters tall you are also required to have an in-date EWS1 certificate. Both of these are compulsory and freeholders should ensure they are carried out reguarly and kept up to date.
EWS1 form to sell your flat
If you want to sell your flat and it is in a residential building over 18 meters tall you will need to secure a copy of the EWS1 certificate from your freeholder. You can supply this to whoever is selling your flat as the result will be important to potential buyers. It is not legally required for a transaction but it is recommended.
Even if your flat is located below the 18 meter line you will still need to supply this documentation as it considers the building as a whole.
EWS1 form to buy a flat
If you’re considering putting an offer in on a flat in a building over 18 meters tall the EWS1 certificate should be supplied. Again, it is not legally required to carry out a property transaction, but your mortgage lender may require one. You may also wish to see the result as a matter of personal safety.
EWS1 form to remortgage
If you live in a residential building and you want to remortgage your lender may ask to see the EWS1 form. Whether or not it is required is down to the height of your building and how much of it has cladding. The EWS1 certificate will help your lender know if your flat poses as a risk, helps with the valuation, and also to see if any remedial work is needed.
Will mortgage lenders always require an EWS1 certificate?
As it is not legally required to provide an EWS1 to a lender, you may or may not be asked for it. It will be down to the lender themselves. However, if you are wanting to sell or remortgage a flat in a building that is over 18 meters tall and has any cladding it is better to be prepared with an EWS1 certificate from your freeholder to avoid any delays.
Is an EWS1 form expensive?
Before an EWS1 certificate can be granted a Fire Risk Assessment needs to be carried out. Depending on the height and size of the building, as well as the amount of cladding, prices start at £6,000. However, more complex or larger buildings can edge over £20,000.
If you own a flat as a leaseholder this fee is not yours to pay. The legal owner of the residential building (the freeholder) will need to ensure the required assessments take place and foot the bill. However, it is not uncommon for some freeholders to pass a portion of the costs onto leaseholders so make sure to check your contract thoroughly – it may be included as part of an annual service charge.
If you are a residential building owner and are finding issues with cladding and EWS1 forms stressful get in touch with Gaffsy today. We operate as cash house buyers and are ready to help you sell your residential block regardless of whether it has cladding. Discuss your options with our team today.