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Can I Get a Mortgage…? EWS1 Forms and Cladding

Following the devastating Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, numerous procedures and initiatives have been implemented to update building safety. The impact of the fire spread across the nation, with a real cause for concern to ensure high-rise flats adhere to fire safety rules.

The EWS1 form (External Wall Survey) was launched to make sure blocks of flats were not built with combustible materials including insulation or cladding. The purpose for this was to give mortgage lenders the confidence to lend on apartments built before changes came into play in late 2018.

Unfortunately, there have been major issues in the EWS1 process that are causing nightmares for home buyers. Here are some of the problems homebuyers are facing, as well as why mortgages are being declined as a result.


EWS1 Form Explained

The EWS1 form is designed to record in a universal and consistent manner which assessments have been performed on the external wall construction of a residential apartment building. In a nutshell, the form provides a clear ‘unsafe’ or safe’ certificate. Mortgage lenders are asking valuers to look more closely at fire safety issues. If the surveyor or valuer has any concerns, a completed EWS1 form will be needed to pursue the application. Of course, this could come back with an ‘unsafe’ certificate, deeming the property dangerous from a fire safety viewpoint.

The loss of 72 lives in the Grenfell Tower fire caused the government to concentrate on removing ACM (aluminium composite cladding) that was used on Grenfell Tower and other tall buildings across London and the UK. In the years that followed, the government created a system where each building would have one document outlining fire safety performance that could be shared with owners when selling, which is when the EWS1 form came into fruition.


Survey Isn’t Mandatory

One of the major problems with the EWS1 form is that it isn’t mandatory. What’s more, it was only launched in December 2019, meaning that while some mortgage lenders ask for the form, others haven’t implemented it yet.

This has now somewhat been rectified with a standardised approach between lenders and the UK Government becoming more formalised from 2021.


Mortgage Refusals

In recent months, there have been several examples where lenders are refusing mortgages on blocks of flats, regardless of the EWS1 form’s 18 metres or taller recommended height. This means that smaller blocks need to complete the form to buy and sell.  This again is being addressed with recent UK Government developments, but problems persist.

There have still been many cases where buyers would make an offer on a property, the bank rejecting the property and resulting in the buyer pulling out.

In all cases it is worthwhile getting full and informed advice up front from a mortgage broker, before making an offer.


Slow and Expensive Process

Home sellers and buyers up and down the country have expressed concern and frustration regarding obtaining an EWS1 form. In fact, the HCLG (Housing, Communities and Local Government) have called the EWS process ‘slow and expensive’, as well as unnecessarily being applied to a wide variety of buildings.

While the intention behind the EWS1 form was to provide reassurance to mortgage lenders that their property presented a sufficiently safe risk


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