Important building safety information for leaseholders and shared owners

If you are a leaseholder or a shared owner and you live in a flat and you are thinking about selling, remortgaging or staircasing your home, major changes to Government guidance around building safety could have a significant impact on you.

This page sets out more information about these changes.

If issues with EWS1 and building safety are causing you financial difficulties, contact our Income Team on 0300 790 6530.

What has changed?

Earlier this year, the government issued revised guidance on building safety standards for flats in apartment blocks. As a result, buildings of any height now potentially need an EWS1 (external wall system) form.

 

Because the safety issues are so complicated and there are so many buildings that need to be inspected, it is not possible to quickly check and provide assurances about materials used on individual buildings. Many lenders will not currently offer a mortgage or remortgage on a property without an EWS1 form.

 

EWS1 certification requires a new assessment of a building by a professional and qualified surveyor or engineer to establish if the external wall system meets the new fire risk standards, or whether any work is needed to meet these standards.

Revised guidance mean that lenders may ask for an EWS1 form for apartment buildings of any height before they will offer a mortgage or remortgage.

Who does this affect?

If you are a leaseholder or shared owner living in a flat and you are thinking about selling, remortgaging or staircasing your home, this is likely to affect you and you need to be aware of government advice and changes to what lenders now expect.

 

We understand this is a difficult situation and is affecting life-changing decisions for our customers where they are not able to sell, remortgage or staircase their property and we’re doing everything in our power to deal with the situation.

Why is this happening?

The government changed its building safety guidance following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 to dictate the standard of materials to be used on external walls.

 

Building owners need to prove that buildings meet these standards by carrying out intrusive inspections and, if they don’t meet the government standards, they may need to do work to put this right.

If an EWS1 inspection shows that work is needed to address safety issues, a lender may not offer a mortgage or remortgage until the work is complete.

What are you doing about this?

We are doing everything in our power to respond and adapt to the changing government guidance.

 

We have around 1,500 buildings which need to be inspected and this will take a significant period of time for us to work through.

 

There is currently a huge demand for EWS1 forms, but only a limited number of professionals in the UK who are qualified to carry out the assessments. This is causing significant delays in getting EWS1 forms.

 

We are already inspecting our high-rise buildings in line with Government guidance. We are working on plans to roll out a full inspection programme when more qualified professionals are available.

 

The Government has engaged with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to train surveyors to carry out these duties, but training an takes at least three months to complete, so it has become clear that progressing these surveys will take a considerable amount of time.

 

If an assessor decides a building doesn’t meet an adequate fire safety standard and that work is need, a lender is unlikely to approve a mortgage until this work is completed.

 

We have already started inspections and will develop a full programme when the qualified professionals are available to do these. With 1,500 buildings to work through this will take a significant period of time. As soon as we can be clearer on timescales we will let you know.

Who can issue an EWS1 form? Can I just get one myself?

Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an independent, approved assessor.

 

You can’t get an EWS1 form yourself – the forms need to be completed by the owner of the building, or the person responsible for the building’s structure.

Does this mean my building is unsafe?

The fact that your building doesn’t have an EWS1 form doesn’t mean it is unsafe.

 

If a building you live in has any shared areas then it will have a regular and robust fire risk assessment and we already carrying out appropriate works to manage any risks identified by the assessor.

 

This assessment has been in place for many years and we are confident that we have a robust process in place to identify and manage any requirements.

 

However, the lessons coming out of the Grenfell Inquiry are showing that some materials commonly used in buildings that were thought to be safe at the time should not have been used should be replaced.

 

If these materials are identified on your building we will let you know straight away and advised you of the actions we will put in place to maintain your safety.

Can I access financial support from you?

Yes. We understand this situation is putting significant financial pressure on some of our customers. If you are experiencing problems paying your mortgage, rent, or service charges  you can talk to our Income Team for free advice and support. To access this support call our team on 0300 790 6530.

Ask a question

If you have a question which isn’t answered here just fill in this form and a member of our team will get back to you.

 

Building safety questions

More information

For more information visit:

National Housing Federation question and answer on EWS1

UK Parliament website: External wall fire review process

Government website: EWS update 21 November 2020