Here you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about EWS1 certificates, remortgaging and selling your property.
Find out more about EWS1 forms by watching our short video.
What is an EWS1 form?
EWS stands for ‘external wall system’. An EWS1 form is a set way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external wall system, including any cladding, has been assessed by a suitable expert - and whether any works are required to meet fire safety standards.
Although the form appears to be a simple tick sheet, it can only be completed by a suitably qualified fire engineer and a lot of work has to be done first. This includes physical survey inspections by building surveyors to confirm the materials that have been used, construction methods and quality of work.
What is an external wall system?
The external wall system is the build-up of component parts of the outside wall of a residential building, including wood, brick, metal, tiles and other types of cladding that you can see, as well as, insulation, firebreak systems and cavity barriers out of sight.
What is an EWS1 form used for?
Lenders and valuers use the EWS1 form to help them decide whether to approve a loan. There are several factors taken into account by lenders, but some may decide whether to approve based on the information included in the EWS1 form. The form has been endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies Association.
Do I need an EWS1 for my building?
You only need an EWS1 form if you want to buy, sell or remortgage and your valuer or lender requires one. In April 2021 the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) changed their guidance about the type of buildings that need an external wall system (EWS1) form. The new guidance sets out 3 main criteria to help valuers determine which buildings will need an EWS1 form.
- For buildings over 6 storeys, an EWS1 form should be required where:
- There is cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building or
- There are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (e.g. timber)
- For buildings of 5 or 6 storeys, an EWS1 form should be required where:
- There is a significant amount of cladding on the building (approximately one quarter of the whole height) or
- There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building or
- There are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either:
- both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (e.g. timber), or
- the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible materials
- For buildings of 4 storeys or fewer, an EWS1 form should be required where:
- There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building
How do I get an EWS1 for my building?
According to new guidance from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), it is up to property valuers to decide whether an EWS1 form is required, based on the criteria listed above. If your building meets the RICS criteria, an on-site inspection has been carried out and an EWS1 form has been issued, the easiest way to get a copy is to contact email@example.com.
Can you tell me what type of cladding is on my building?
We cannot confirm the cladding materials used on the external wall system of your building without carrying out a physical inspection. This is because a lot of materials look very similar and sometimes products are changed from the original specification when a property was built, due to availability, for example. Whether or not we carry out an inspection will depend on a range of factors, such as the height and age of your building, RICS guidance about EWS1 forms and estimated level of risk.
Do the balconies on my building mean I need an EWS1?
An EWS1 form is required for some buildings over 6 storeys or between 5 and 6 storeys when the balconies are constructed in a certain way from specific materials. It is up to the valuer to apply the RICS criteria to your building and decide if an EWS1 is applicable according to the RICS criteria summarised above. If we have carried out a physical survey inspection we can confirm the balcony structure and materials because external wall attachments such as balconies are included in the inspection process.
Why hasn’t my building been inspected yet?
Due to the number of buildings potentially needing fire safety compliance works, we need to prioritise high risk buildings, which are usually the tallest buildings, first. We want to reassure you that every affected building will be looked at and we will be in touch to let you know when your building will be inspected. You can find out more about timescales for our fire safety compliance project on our affected buildings and timescales FAQ page.
Please note that an inspection doesn’t mean you will receive an EWS1 form. Only buildings that meet the RICS criteria above will have EWS1 forms issued but we may still need to inspect your building to make sure it’s safe. For buildings that do not meet the RICS criteria for an EWS1 form we can provide a copy of our routine fire risk assessment which is carried out on regular basis.
Why don’t all buildings have an EWS1 form?
The main purpose of the RICS guidance published in March 2021 is to make it easier for people living in multi-storey and multi-occupancy residential buildings to buy, sell and remortgage. It has done this by reducing the number of buildings where valuers and lender need an EWS1 form when deciding to approve a loan. If your building does not meet the latest RICS guidance criteria above, then it does not need an EWS1 form.
Is my building unsafe if it doesn’t have an EWS1 form?
An EWS1 form is a set way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external wall system, including any cladding, has been assessed by a suitable expert and whether any works are required to meet fire safety standards. It is not a fire safety certificate and if your building does not have one, this does not mean it isn’t safe. Thousands of buildings throughout the UK do not have EWS1 forms. We follow a strict fire safety maintenance programme for all our buildings including regular fire safety checks and clearly displayed fire action plans. Find out how you can keep your home safe from fire on our website.
How long does it take to get an EWS1 form?
If your building meets the RICS criteria for an EWS1 form the process to obtain one can take 6-12 months. We understand this might seem like a long time, but there are several steps to the process including:
- An assessment of the building’s eligibility for the document according to guidance from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- A detailed physical inspection by a qualified surveyor
- The time it takes the surveyor to write a report of their findings
- Review of the inspection report by a chartered fire engineer
- The time it takes the engineer to write conclusions and recommendations based on the surveyor’s report
There is also a national shortage of suitably qualified fire engineers with insurance cover for completing the EWS1 form, which is making this process take longer. Initially, we are investigating and carrying out any necessary work on the 98 buildings we are responsible for that are 6 storeys and over, since they represent the most risk. Then we will inspect our more than 330 buildings that are 5 storeys and under. You can find out more about timescales for our fire safety compliance project on our affected buildings and timescales FAQ page.
What are the different EWS1 ratings?
An EWS1 form will have one of several ratings, depending on the findings of the intrusive survey for a building.
- Rating A – external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion, though there are some exceptions
- Rating B1 - combustible materials are present in the external wall
- Rating B2 - combustible materials are present and repairs are required
What does a B2 rating mean?
A B2 rating does not mean that your building is not safe – it means that remedial work is recommended to make sure your building is meeting applicable fire safety standards. At A2Dominion we take your safety seriously and follow closely the advice we received from our expert fire safety consultants. Where remedial work is recommended they may also advise us to implement temporary fire safety measures such as waking watches until remedial work is completed, or even move our customers to temporary accommodation. When it comes to your safety we choose to be cautious.
How long is an EWS1 form valid for?
An EWS1 form is valid for up to 5 years from the date that it is signed but will need to be reassessed if any significant changes occur to the external wall or attachments of the building. This includes remedial work to the external wall system of a building. A new form needs to be issued once the work is complete.
What if my building doesn’t meet RICS criteria?
According to current RICS guidance, property valuers need to be able to justify their requirement for an EWS1 form based on the RICS criteria listed above. Provided that your building meets these criteria, we will carry out an inspection as soon as we can and provide an EWS1 form. If your building does not meet RICS criteria, we will explain why we are not providing the form according to the relevant part of the RICS guidance.
What if my re-mortgaging application is refused or my sale falls through?
We know that issues around fire safety compliance are causing problems for people trying to secure a mortgage because they want to either move, remortgage or buy more shares in their home. We understand this is frustrating and we will do all we can to make the process as simple as possible.
Many factors are outside our control, but we are working hard to make sure our affected buildings have the required information so our residents can sell or remortgage their homes. However, with over 500 buildings to consider, this will take time and we are unable to compensate leaseholders for mortgage arrangement fees or similar where a lender has decided not to proceed, based on the information available.
We encourage you to talk to your lender about their requirements early in the process, and before spending any money on advice, valuations and other fees involved in buying, selling or remortgaging.
Who do I get EWS1 certification from if A2Dominion is not the freeholder of my building?
Where A2Dominion is not the responsible landlord for the external wall system of your building and it meets RICS criteria for an EWS1 form, we will work with those responsible to get this certification of compliance. In case such as this we have no legal right to carry out inspections or works, but we will do everything we can to help.
Can I sublet my property?
If you are in a difficult financial position or have to move for family or work reasons and the sale of your property has fallen through because of issues related to fire safety, you should get in touch with your Leasehold Property Manager. In exceptional circumstances we may be able to adjust our policy on subletting.
What if I want to buy more shares in my home?
Buying more shares in your home is sometimes known as staircasing. If you would like to staircase and are finding it difficult to refinance, you can get in touch with our Staircasing team. We can work with you to see if we can find a suitable solution.
How will the new guidance for lenders affect my building?
In March 2021, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) issued new guidance with an aim to reduce the number of buildings for which mortgage lenders ask for fire safety checks, making it easier for people to buy, sell and remortgage these properties. Read our statement on the new guidance.
It will take us several weeks to understand the implications of the new guidance and ensure that our approach continues to provide the best outcomes for our customers. At this stage we will not be making any immediate changes to our priorities and programme of work. We will provide any updates as soon as we are able to.