Cladding and EWS1 forms have been at the forefront of leasehold and block management over recent months. We understand the importance of the EWS1 form in relation to development as well as ensuring that an apartment can be sold.
Here we break down the External Wall Fire Review and the EWS process, with some of the most frequently asked questions.
An external wall system is the outside wall of a residential building, which can include, cladding, fire break systems and insulation.
An EWS1 form will check the external wall system (EWS) of a residential building for safety, conducting a fire-risk assessment. This is a set way to confirm the safety of an external wall system and will need to be assessed by an expert, the expert will then sign an EWS1 form which is then valid on the entire building for 5 years.
The EWS1 form, once completed will confirm one of the following:
(A) confirms that there are no combustible materials
(B) recommends that remedial works are carried out
Any building which is a residential development above 18m with some form of combustible material requires an EWS1 form. However, since January 2020, government advice also states that some residential buildings that may have ‘specific concerns’ (such as combustible cladding or combustible materials on balconies) and therefore a clear risk may also need remedial action. This would be more likely in regards to a care home, where the type of occupation is a higher risk to life in the event of a fire.
This includes the following residential buildings;
An EWS assessment must be completed by a fully qualified member of a relevant professional body, within the construction industry. This expert should have expertise in being able to identify combustible materials within the external wall system and its attachments; including whether fire-resisting cavity barriers and fire-stopping have been installed correctly. Qualified chartered members of professional bodies such as IFE and RICS will have the necessary competence and insurance to carry out this work.
Recent news reports have found that fraudulent surveys have been carried out and unqualified people signing these off. If this is the case, they need to be reported to Trading Standard and RICS. UK banks have robust measures in place to protect people from fraud and they would be able to identify any fraudulent forms, however, before this stage, it is best to check the signatory on a form with the professional institution they are apart of. You can verify this by visiting the RICS ‘find a member’ website.
There may be a limited number of these assessors available, to begin with, due to a backlog of cases and the inclusion of buildings under 18m.
The expert undertaking the assessment will carry this out following their procedures, but it must include evidence of the fire performance of materials used in the cladding. They may request paperwork from the original developer, as well as photo evidence of the cladding and physical inspection where possible. If it is the materials of the wall system remains unclear more intrusive tests may be required including a hold being drilled into the wall or a section of cladding to identify the materials composition It is crucially important to identify the whole make up of the external wall system and how it has been installed.
An EWS1 form is valid for an entire block of flats or building and is valid for 5 years. This means multiple sellers located in one block can use the same assessment to assist with the sale of their property.
The EWS1 form has been adopted across the industry, it’s purpose is to ensure that a valuation can be provided for a mortgage or remortgage on a property which features an external wall cladding system. Depending on the outcome of the form will depend on whether the apartment can be valued/sold.
If the building requires remedial works this will need to be carried out by the building owner or ‘Residential Management Company’ to ensure the safety of the building. These works will need to be carried out before a mortgage can proceed unless the lender agrees otherwise. RICS has called on the government to ensure leaseholders are not left with these costs.
If a leaseholder would like to sell their property but there is no EWS1 in place, the seller can request that the building owner or management agent confirms the materials of the external wall system and if necessary to commission an EWS1. The form is the responsibility of the building owners to undertake, therefore sellers should be in contact with the building owner or managing agent to ensure this takes place.
A building owner must acknowledge their legal responsibility to undertake the necessary assessment. If this does not happen, the local council can provide further advice or the Fire and Rescue service. No one should be living in a building that is unsafe, and the building owners are the ones who can progress this. Building owners have a clear responsibility reinforced by MHCLG advice to arrange for the wall system to be checked and have a route to remediation where needed. Leaseholders should continue to engage with the building owner or their agent to ensure this happens.
After the 5 years, another EWS1 form will have to be completed, however, a new EWS1 form may be required within the five-year period if substantial works have been completed to a property, affecting the original conclusions.
If you would like to discuss your building or development and find out how Seraph can facilitate a first-class Block management service including EWS1 assessments, please contact us.