Since late 2019, some leaseholders have had difficulties in obtaining mortgages due to lenders and valuers requiring independent certification that buildings in which properties they are trying to buy, sell, staircase or remortgage meets the requirements of the government’s building safety guidance with respect to the building’s external wall system.
This page provides more information about Metropolitan Thames Valley’s (MTVH) approach to this issue and where you can go for more support.
This short video guide provides an overview of the issue and MTVH’s approach.
Lenders and valuers may have requested that you provide an External Wall System form (EWS1) as part of your transaction. The EWS1 form, which has been created by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is intended to provide assurance to mortgage lenders and valuers that a building’s external wall system meets relevant building regulations and advice notices. This informs their decision on whether to value or lend against a property.
An EWS1 form is likely to be required for buildings:
In order to produce the certification, intrusive inspections of a building by a suitably qualified person are required. The independent person will then complete and sign the EWS1 form, if the inspection results allow this.
At MTVH, our number one priority is the safety of all our residents. All our buildings are regularly assessed for fire safety via a Fire Risk Assessment. Where we have an EWS1 form for a building, this will be shared with customers and their representatives upon request.
As a charitable housing association responsible for over 57,000 homes, including more than 4,000 multi-story residential blocks, we have adopted a risk-based approach to conducting the inspections that are required to produce EWS1 forms. This means that those buildings with the highest risk categorisation are being inspected first.
Buildings are categorised based on height, type and combination of materials used in the external wall system, proportion of a building that has cladding on, whether it has balconies and the building occupancy (eg. care and support).
During the 2020/21 financial year, we will be inspecting at least 48 buildings.
Where we are not the freeholder, we are requesting inspections are conducted and results shared with us.
Unfortunately, conducting the inspections that are required to produce an EWS1 form for each building where one is required will take a significant period of time.
Building owners across the country, including MTVH, are experiencing delays in conducting the inspections that are required to produce the certification. This is due to several factors, including the number of buildings that require inspections and the availability of suitably qualified independent assessors.
Furthermore, the EWS1 form was intended only for certain buildings, but some lenders are now requesting this information for buildings outside of these criteria, which is both increasing the number of buildings affected and exacerbating the delays in conducting inspections.
Where MTVH is the freeholder of a building, we are taking a risk-based approach to prioritise the inspection of our buildings. With a portfolio of over 4,000 residential blocks, this is a significant undertaking. As blocks are approved for inclusion in the intrusive survey programme, we will inform residents in the blocks concerned.
Whilst we are making progress in completing inspections, this will be a long process and some leaseholders may be waiting for a significant period of time before an EWS1 form can be provided. Where construction defects are found, remedial works will be required, which will take time to complete.
We are sorry for the frustration and concern that this will be causing you.
In addition to making progress with our programme of intrusive inspections, we are working with housing associations across the country to urge government to act to address this issue.
We are also advising leaseholders to review whether they wish to start a mortgage transaction where an EWS1 form is required and is currently unable to be provided, as any costs cannot be refunded by MTVH. However, any administration charges issued by MTVH will be refunded if transactions cannot proceed due to this issue.
Please do contact us as soon as possible to discuss support we may be able to provide if you are experiencing financial difficulties.
Our number one priority is the safety of all our residents. We have a responsibility to ensure our programme of inspections, and any remedial works that are found to be needed following these inspections, are conducted based on risk prioritisation. We, therefore, will not be granting permission for privately organised inspections.
If works are required to address any defects to a building that are found, MTVH will pursue the original developer and any other responsible party to recover costs if the building is within warranty. Where we are not the freeholder of a building, we will urge the freeholder to do the same.
The government has made some funding available to support building owners in addressing building safety issues. Where a building meets the criteria of the Building Safety Fund, we will apply for funding.
However, there remains the possibility that costs could be sought from leaseholders within the service charge in accordance with the terms of the lease, but this will be a last resort.
If you have any questions about this and how it may affect you, please contact us via the relevant email address listed below:
We understand that this information will be concerning. MTVH is committed to supporting residents experiencing difficulties and we will continue to provide updates on the situation, including specific updates to those residents living in affected buildings.