ESW1 Form - What is it and how does it affect your ability to sell your flat
Following the Grenfell fire disaster in 2017, there has been particular focus on the safety of high-rise buildings and the potential fire risk of any external wall systems (‘EWS’).
Concerns were raised about the extent of any remedial works that may be required and subsequently the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and UK Finance, the trade association for the UK banking and financial service sector, joined forces to develop the EWS fire risk assessment system.
The EWS fire risk assessment system acts as a valuation tool for Lenders who had become reluctant to provide finance on properties with combustible cladding or other high fire risk EWS, but had no way of assessing the external wall safety. The EWS assessment also provides assurance for the lease owners themselves and any sellers and buyers as to the safety of their properties.
What is a EWS1 Form and when is it required?
The EWS1 Form is a record of assessment, completed by a suitably qualified fire safety inspector following a fire risk appraisal of a block or building. The building is given a rating based on whether any remedial works are required to any part of the EWS, for example to the cladding, insulation or fire break systems, and if so the extent of such remedial works. Valuers could then consider such remedial works when valuing a property for mortgage purposes.
If remedial works are required, then the Lender may decide not to proceed until the works have been completed. This can cause issues where the lease owner is hoping to re-finance or sell to a buyer with a Lender.
Once completed, the EWS1 form is valid for 5 years and can be used multiple times within that 5-year period by leaseholders within the block or building.
In March 2021, RICS issued a guidance note as to when an EWS1 form is required. This sets out various criteria which take into consideration a number of factors including the height of the building, the type of cladding and if there are any balconies. Where the building complies with the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018, then an EWS1 form may not be required.
What should you do if you believe your flat is a part of a building with cladding or other high fire risk EWS?
On 28th November 2018, cladding in England was banned on multi-let residential properties of more than 18 meters high. However it is
estimated that approximately 3 million flats may be affected by EWS that may require remedial works. Those lease owners who remain affected can request that their Landlord (or building owner), or Management Company commission an EWS1 assessment as well as enquire about the make-up of the EWS.
The Landlord or Management Company is responsible for confirming what materials form a part of the EWS and whether an assessment is required.
Moreover, the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, provide that any Fire Risk Assessment must now take into consideration the EWS and must share with the fire and rescue service details of any EWS, floor and building plans and advise if any firefighting equipment is out of action.
Landlords and building owners should ensure that they are up to speed with their additional obligations, as many local authorities are already serving improvement notices in respect of remedial works required.
The EWS system will remain under continuous review with RICS and UK finance working together to streamline the guidance. It is expected that the criterion for when an EWS1 form is required will be amended. RICS envisage that the need for an EWS1 form will eventually fall away, as Fire Risk Assessments incorporate the EWS safety regulations and as more and more EWS1 assessments are undertaken.
For now, lease owners should liaise with their Management Companies and/ or Landlords as to the availability of an ESW1 form for their blocks or buildings. They should also enquire as to whether any remedial works will be required and how the associated costs are to be covered, for example will the works be covered by any sinking fund or will they form a part of the service charges.
The Government have set up various funding schemes to assist Landlords with any costs but there is a strict eligibility criteria that must be satisfied.
Please contact our Property Department for more information