EWS1 information

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 MTVH’s 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 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.

Through our Safer Buildings Department, we will continue to organise inspections of buildings on a risk-based programme, ensuring residents are updated before their building is inspected and throughout the process that follows.

The information below provides further details about the EWS1 process and how we are able to support residents who are affected.

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

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.

Update following 10th January 2022 government announcements

On 10th January 2022, the Sectary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities provided an update to Parliament on the government’s approach to building safety. You can read the full details of the announcements on the government’s website here.

As part of these announcements the government has confirmed that no leaseholders in buildings of 11 metres or above in height will face any costs for works associated with the remediation of unsafe cladding. This is a welcome step and one that MTVH and other housing associations have been calling for.

The government also confirmed that:

  • The next phase of the Building Safety Fund will open to support works to remove certain types of dangerous cladding off high-rise buildings, prioritising the government’s £5.1 billion funding on buildings that pose the highest risk. MTVH will continue applying to the Fund where we are eligible to do so.
  • A clear message that those contractors, developers, and manufacturers at fault for causing the issues affecting residents will be held to account to fix the buildings they built and face commercial consequences if they refuse.
  • Restoring common sense to building assessments by withdrawing existing government advice.
  • New statutory protections for leaseholders within the Building Safety Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

The measures announced by the government on protection for leaseholders from costs only focus on cladding remediation and does not include works for other fire safety problems, such as compartmentation and fire stopping defects. This is disappointing and we will continue to urge the government to extend funding to cover other fire safety problems and to protect leaseholders from costs.

We know that MTVH leaseholders will be keen to understand what this announcement means for them. The government must now provide building owners with the detail we need to confirm how the new funding approach will work, and exactly what the changes to building safety guidance are. We will continue to provide specific updates directly to residents about their buildings and progress being made.

Lenders and valuers may have requested that you provide an External Wall System form (EWS1) as part of your mortgage transaction. The EWS1 form, which has been created by the Royal Institution 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.

Buildings with the following features may require an EWS1 form:

For buildings over six storeys, an EWS1 form should be required where:

  • there is cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building, or;
  • there are balconies that stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (eg. timber), or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible material.

For buildings of five or six storeys, an EWS1 form should be required where:

  • there is a significant amount of cladding on the building (for the purpose of this guidance, approximately one-quarter of the whole elevation estimated from what is visible standing at ground level is a significant amount), or;
  • there are ACM (aluminium composite material), MCM (other metal composite materials) or HPL (high-pressure laminate) panels on the building, or;
  • there are balconies that stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (eg timber), or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible materials.

For buildings of four storeys or fewer, an EWS1 form should be required where:

  • there are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building.

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 3,800 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 highest risk 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, whether it has balconies, and the building occupancy (eg. is it used as a care and support facility).

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 3,800 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.

If you are a shared owner living in a building affected by building safety issues that prevent you from selling your home, please contact safer.buildings@mtvh.co.uk to discuss what options are available to you.

Where we are eligible to do so, we have applied to the government’s Building Safety Fund for the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding on buildings of 18m and higher. We are continuing to monitor government announcements and will apply for any further 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 building defects 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.

As a charitable organisation set up to provide homes and support for people, MTVH cannot provide additional support to leaseholders to help with increased mortgage costs that some people are facing. We are working quickly to inspect our buildings on a risk-based prioritisation programme and we are calling for a solution from the government to this frustrating and unfair situation.

The demand for EWS1 forms, which can only be completed by a very limited number of competent professionals, is incredibly high. These same professionals are also the people that housing associations, like MTVH, need to work with to advise on the remedial works that need to be urgently completed for buildings with safety concerns. This means that EWS1 forms may not be available for buildings that are lower-risk for some time.

We understand this will be an extremely distressing situation for leaseholders whose monthly housing costs could subsequently increase. We recommend that you consider speaking to your mortgage provider to see what support may be available.

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.

Our priority is to recover costs for any investigative and safety measures that are required from the original builder of your homes wherever possible. We believe they are responsible for the cost of putting things right, and we continue to liaise with them in an effort to hold them to account.

When more than 12 months have passed from our investigations and to be as open and transparent as possible, under law we must give you notice of the costs incurred to date in relation to the investigations and any interim fire safety measures.

This will be in the form of a letter to give you formal ‘Section 20B’ notice. This notice is to make you aware that, if we cannot recover all or any of these costs from the original builder, then we will need to charge them to you through the Service Charge under the terms of your lease.

We would like to emphasise again that we are pursuing the original builder to hold them to account as well as exploring all other sources such as government funding for the works that are required.  However, we have to formally make residents aware of the potential costs to the Service Charge if recovery through the builder is not possible.

Please be aware that a Section 20B is not a demand for payment or a bill. It is a notice of potential costs to the Service Charge that you may be charged. We will write to you again should it be necessary to charge costs to you through the Service Charge, but this will only ever be as a last resort.

We understand the significant worry this issue is causing many residents, and the financial challenges it presents. This issue is affecting leaseholders right across the country and we are working hard to do what we can to support residents, as well as urging the government to take action to help resolve these challenges.

If you would like further information about Section 20B notices, then visit: www.lease-advice.org. This is a free and independent website that gives advice on understanding Section 20B notices and the other legal requirements we have to comply with as your Landlord.

In order to understand what if any defects may be present in buildings, through our solicitors we commission expert technical advice and inspections. Summaries of the information we receive is shared with residents. The information we receive through this activity will support our efforts to make constructors and those responsible for any defects pay for and progress any necessary works.

These reports are subject to ‘legal privilege’, which protects confidential and potentially sensitive material in the context of a legal dispute, litigation and investigations. As we may need to take legal action against those responsible for any defects or other matters, these reports may be relied upon by MTVH in any dispute.

We appreciate the frustration some residents may feel when we are unable to share full copies of reports and advice, but in order to have the best chance of recovering costs from those responsible to protect residents from facing costs, we must protect documents that may be required to be used in legal action from premature disclosure, which could adversely affect any legal action that could be brought in the future.

If residents have specific enquiries, please email safer.buildings@mtvh.co.uk.

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.