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If you are a leaseholder or shared owner of a home in one of the buildings we own, and are considering re-mortgaging or selling your home, or staircasing (increasing your share of your home), you need to be aware of some important changes to Government advice and lenders’ approach to lending.

What is an EWS1 form and why is it required?

The Government changed its guidelines on building safety, issuing a series of advice notes, following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017. The aim was help building owners ensure their homes were built and maintained safely.

A key focus is External Wall Systems (EWS) – the external covering of a building – which includes cladding systems like the one that failed at Grenfell.

The Government has advised that all buildings above 18m – six or seven floors – should have their EWS assessed by a qualified surveyor. The Government has since advised that an EWS assessment may be needed for buildings where a risk assessment considers it necessary, regardless of height.

The EWS1 form, which is valid for five years, is designed to be used by building owners to demonstrate a building is safe, so that lenders will offer mortgages to home buyers, allow leaseholders to re-mortgage and allow shared owners to ‘staircase’ (increase how much of their home they own).

Hyde’s position on EWS1 forms and our responsibilities as a building owner, and social landlord

We cannot provide an EWS1 form on demand, or guarantee to do so in the future, for a number of reasons:

  • All our buildings are safe: We are legally obliged to have fire risk assessments (FRAs) for all our buildings, which are available on request. All our tall towers have adequate layers of fire protection. We are confident residents are safe in their homes.
  • The EWS1 form is not a legal requirement: Despite some lenders insisting on an EWS1 form, building owners are not legally-obliged to provide one. This is a condition being imposed by lenders, based on Government advice. We will not provide EWS1 forms for buildings less than 18m high.
  • Having an EWS1 form does not necessarily mean it will be accepted by a lender: The assessor may recommend further investigation or remedial works, which may be needed before a lender accepts the form.
  • We will have to pass the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners: Hyde is first, and foremost, a housing association and a charity. Under Charity Commission rules, we are not allowed to cover the cost of EWS assessments for homeowners (as they are not a legal requirement). We are committed to minimising the financial impact on homeowners, wherever we can.
  • There is a severe shortage of qualified EWS assessors: Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an approved assessor. Demand for EWS1 forms is very high and there are fewer than 300 qualified assessors in the UK, which is leading to delays of months, and potentially years, in completing EWS1 forms.

What we are doing

Keeping customers safe in their homes
Our priority is, and always has been, the safety of our customers – whether they are social tenants or homeowners. All our buildings have current fire risk assessments and we carry out all remedial safety work within the recommended timescales. We are confident that everyone is safe in their homes.

EWS (External Wall Systems) assessments

We have carried out EWS assessments on some of our buildings, as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments and building safety works on our tall buildings.

We are now starting the process of appointing a new external wall system assessor, who will carry out surveys of external wall systems as part of our response to upcoming building safety legislation. As part of their services, the assessor will be able to provide EWS1 forms for homeowners.

We must follow a formal procurement process to ensure the assessor is qualified to carry out EWS assessments and can provide a level of service that delivers value for money.

We will not be able to commission EWS inspections using our new contract before the end of June 2021. This also means that, unfortunately, we will not be able to provide any new EWS1 forms before the end of the Stamp Duty holiday on 31 March 2021.

We will have to pass the cost of EWS assessments onto homeowners: Hyde is first, and foremost, a housing association and a charity. Under Charity Commission rules, we are not allowed to cover the cost of EWS assessments for homeowners (as they are not a legal requirement). We are committed to minimising the financial impact on homeowners, wherever we can.

Lobbying Government and lenders
We understand this is hugely frustrating time for homeowners, and we are sorry for the impact this is having, but this is a national crisis that is out of our control. It can only be resolved by the Government and lenders.

That is why we are working with others in the sector, including the G15 (the group of London’s largest housing associations), to lobby Government to take a clearer position on the issue. We are also working hard to explain to lenders that an EWS1 form is an advisory document and there are other ways (such as fire risk assessments) that we can demonstrate our buildings are safe.

There is no quick fix but, in the meantime, we will continue to support homeowners by providing all the documentation we can to help them in selling, remortgaging or staircasing their home.

 

If you want to find out more from our Sales team on this call us on 0345 606 1221 or you can email us info@hydenewhomes.co.uk