EWS1 Information – Safer Buildings

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 meet 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 our efforts to secure EWS1 forms for affected buildings. The page also provides information about who you can contact at MTVH for more support.

We understand the significant worry and concern this issue is causing some of our residents, as well as the potential financial challenges it presents. This issue is affecting leaseholders and building owners across the country and we are working hard to do what we can to support our residents and to urge the government to take action to help resolve these challenges.

Government announcements and new guidance from lenders and other parties means that this issue is continuing to develop. The information provided on this page is correct at the time of publication and we will continue to keep it regularly updated and as new announcements are made.

This short video guide provides an overview of the issue and MTVH’s approach.

If you have questions about your building, please contact the Safer Buildings Department by emailing safer.buildings@mtvh.co.uk.

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:

  • have an external cladding system
  • are above 18m in height (approximately 6 storeys, measured from upper accommodation floor surface to ground level on lowest side of building)
  • RICS advises that, “by exception there may be some residential buildings below 18m which may have ‘specific concerns’. These would be 4 & 5 storey buildings in scope which may have combustible cladding or balconies with combustible materials, which are only a clear and obvious danger to life safety and may require remediation in accordance with the latest Government advice.”

On 21 November 2020, the government confirmed that properties in buildings without cladding will no longer need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage.

In order to produce the certification and EWS1 provides, an intrusive inspection of a building by a suitably qualified person is required.

These inspections help identify any underlying issues with your building’s construction that cannot been seen using visual inspections. It can involve things like the opening up of buildings, including external walls, cladding and balconies. It could also mean internal work inside your home or in communal areas.

After the inspection, if no issues are found, the independent person will then complete and sign the EWS1 form.

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.

We have established the Safer Buildings Department to progress the inspection and remediation of buildings that are affected by this issue.

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, the proportion of a building that has cladding on, whether it has balconies, and the building occupancy (eg. is it used as a care and support facility).

During the 2020/21 financial year, we will be inspecting at least 48 buildings.

Where we are not the freeholder of a building, 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 and will require engagement with the original developer and other parties who are responsible for the construction of the building.

We are very sorry for the frustration, concern, and disruption 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 supporting efforts by the National Housing Federation – the trade body for housing associations – to highlight what housing associations need to conduct EWS1 inspections and remedial works more quickly.

Ultimately, we believe that the systemic and widespread nature of this issue means that only government action can resolve the problem. We have been calling for the government to speed up remedial works by providing upfront funding for works on all buildings that need them. We are also calling for limited resources to be directed first at buildings that need them most.

However, in recognition of the length of time remedial works could take to complete, we want the government to work with mortgage lenders and valuers to find a solution to enable people to access mortgage finance in the meantime.

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.

We are also committed to providing regular updates to residents in buildings that are being inspected, and to answering questions from any residents. Contact details for the Safer Buildings Department can be found below.

Please do contact us as soon as possible to discuss support we may be able to provide if you are experiencing financial difficulties.

Where we are eligible to do so, we are applying to the government’s Building Safety Fund for the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding on buildings of 18m and higher. On 10 February 2021, the government announced further funding to support the removal of unsafe cladding from buildings over 18m. We will be applying for this funding where we are eligible to do so.

However, not all buildings are eligible for government support. Lower-rise buildings that need remedial works do not qualify for government funding and even in higher-rise buildings that do qualify, only remedial works directly related to cladding are eligible.

Unlike private building owners, not-for-profit housing associations cannot apply for government funding to cover the total cost of remedial works for an eligible building. They can only claim for a portion of the costs so that, where their claim is accepted, costs will not be passed onto leaseholders in that building. Wherever we can, we are applying for this funding and will seek to protect leaseholders from costs as far as we are able to do so.

Residents living in buildings for which we have submitted an application to the Building Safety Fund will be written to confirming this and will be updated as we hear whether our applications have been successful.

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 or contractor 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 responsible freeholder to do the same.

The government has made some funding available to support paying for some building safety works relating to external cladding. Where a building meets the criteria of the Building Safety Fund, we will apply for funding. However, the funding does not cover all aspects of remediation works that may be needed, so even if we are successful in our application to the fund, there may still be additional costs that may need to be recovered from the original developer or other parties. Please see ‘Are MTVH applying to the government’s Building Safety Fund?’ question above for more details.

However, we have a duty to be clear with residents that there remains the possibility that costs could be sought from leaseholders within the service charge in accordance with the terms of the lease. To be clear, this will be a last resort and we are calling on the government to protect leaseholders from such charges, as well as supporting not-for-profit housing associations, like MTVH, facing significant costs.

We are also continuing to support calls for further government action and funding to protect leaseholders from unaffordable bills for building safety works.

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 situation will be extremely concerning for you. 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.

This issue is affecting people across the country and we believe the government needs to take action to help resolve the challenges people are facing.

You can help by contacting your MP and by asking them to raise the issue in Parliament. A number of MPs are already calling on the government to resolve the EWS1 issue and to provide further funding for remedial works, so that leaseholders don’t have to pay unfair bills. By adding your voice, you can help ensure that the issue is given due attention by the government. You can find out who your MP is by visiting theyworkforyou.com and entering your postcode into the search tool.

In order for us to access the government’s Building Safety Fund, we have written to all customers in eligible blocks asking them to provide information in relation to the government’s ‘State Aid’ rules. We need this information in order to progress our application to the Fund to access funding to contribute to the cost of remedial works.

We are asking all leaseholders in blocks where we have made a Building Safer Fund application and who own 100% of their homes to respond.

Information about which form you need to complete is included in the letter that we have sent to you and further details are provided below.

It is vital that we provide this information to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), who are administering the Fund. We require you to return the appropriate form no later than Friday 18 December 2020.

Further details

Before deciding which form you need to complete, please carefully read the ‘State Aid Guidance for Leaseholders’ document that was enclosed with our letter.

Residential leaseholders who own a property in the building which they occupy as their home (and do not rent it out) need to complete, sign and return Form 1 – State Aid Does Not Apply. Please return it to us in the free post envelope provided to you or via email to safer.buildings@mtvh.co.uk.

Leaseholders who are letting out their flat are referred to as ‘Undertakings’ and should complete and sign Form 2 – State Aid Declaration and return it to us in the free post envelope provided to you or via email to safer.buildings@mtvh.co.uk.

A leaseholder will be an Undertaking where they use their property for financial gain – for example letting it out or using it for their own business purposes. This includes:

  • Leaseholders who are incorporated
  • Leaseholders who own more than two properties (in any building) unless they are for non-commercial use
  • Leaseholders who let out any property (residential or commercial) in the building for financial gain.

Leaseholders that are also Undertakings should note that the following will apply to funds received from the Fund to cover their service charge contribution:

  • There is a limit on the amount of service charge they can be relieved of in respect of these works. That is the €200,000 maximum de minimis allowance permitted under the de minimis State Aid rules, which is calculated taking account of any other State Aid received by that leaseholder over the current and two previous financial years.
  • If that limit were to be exceeded, or the State aid rules are not otherwise complied with, those leaseholders will be at risk of having to pay back this money with interest.
  • Where a part of the de minimis allowance has been received, this must be declared but the leaseholder will be permitted to take advantage of any unused part of the allowance.