Frequently Asked Questions

This page was last updated 2 February 2023

What is an EWS1 form?

The EWS1 form is an official document that is used to detail the  level of safety of an individual building. It is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats (including those owned by housing associations and social housing providers as well as privately owned), student accommodation, dormitories, assisted living, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

The EWS1 form is not specifically designed for use of short-term accommodation such as hotels. EWS1 does, however, apply to an entire building or block so where required, may also be relevant to mixed use.

The EWS process, and resulting form, is a set way for a building owner to confirm that an external wall system on residential buildings has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert, in line with government guidance.

The EWS1 process delivers assurance for lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers. The process was developed through extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including fire engineers, lenders, insurers, valuers, and other cross industry representatives.

The process itself involves a "qualified professional" conducting a fire-risk assessment on the external wall system, before signing an EWS1 form, which is valid for the entire building for five years.

Does each flat/ apartment have to get an individual EWS1 form for selling, buying, or re-mortgaging?

No. Each EWS1 form is valid for an entire block/ building. Each block will require it’s own EWS1 form. It is valid for five years.

How does the EWS1 form factor into the buying, selling or re-mortgaging of a flat/ apartment?

The EWS (external wall system) process, is agreed by representatives for developers, managing agents, fire engineers, lawyers, lenders, insurers, and valuers, and has been adopted across the industry.

Its purpose is to ensure that a valuation can be provided for a mortgage or re-mortgage on a property which features an external wall cladding system of uncertain make up, something that has both safety implications and which may affect value if remediation is required due to the fire risk associated.

The process results in a signed EWS1 form per building, with two options/ outcomes:

(A) external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion

(B) Combustible materials are present in an external wall with sub options of either, fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required, or fire risk is high enough that remedial works are required.

The EWS1 form itself certifies that the external wall cladding system has been assessed by someone who is suitably qualified to do so. A list of suggested bodies for a building owner or their agents to contact to source fire experts can be found here.

While the form applies to residential buildings, changes in Government advice introduced in January 2020, mean that all residential buildings of any height with a wall system may need to be risk assessed. 

It is also important to note what the form will not do. It is not a life safety certificate. It is only for the use of a valuer and lender in determining if remediation costs affect value. Where a building is found to need remedial works this will need to be carried out by the building owner, to ensure safety of the building, before a mortgage can proceed unless the lender agrees otherwise.

We welcome the proportionate approach outlined in Secretary of State announcements in February 2021 and January 2022, on the additional funding for the removal of dangerous cladding in all qualifying residential properties over 11m.

What threshold are you using to assess the height of buildings?

Where we use the 18m height demarcation, it is important to note that we are referring to the government's definition of "high-rise residential multi-occupied buildings of 18 metres or more in height, or more than 6 storeys (whichever is reached first)." 

When is an EWS1 form required?

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 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 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 (deemed as approximately one quarter of the whole elevation estimated from what is visible standing at ground level is a significant amount) 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 four storeys or fewer, an EWS1 form should be required where:

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

How have you measured my building?

Whilst it is logical to measure from the top to the bottom of a building, buildings are measured in line with the building regulations.

Building regulations measure from the floor height of the top floor living space down to the lowest point the building meets the ground. This may be street level, or may include any below-ground living space or building area, such as a car park or storage level.

This diagram, from Building Regulations Approved Document B, shows how a building is measured for these purposes.

(Building Regulations Approved Document B, Volume 2, Diagram C6)

I’m trying to staircase/re-mortgage/sell my flat

You may find that your chosen mortgage lender is requesting an EWS1 form. If you live in a block over 18m tall your building will have been included in the first phase of our building safety programme - check here for more details. If your building is under 18m tall (around six storeys) you won’t be able to get an EWS1 form as they are only for tall buildings. We are extending the building safety programme to buildings under 18m in phases according to priority and for these buildings we will be producing evidence of the checks we have undertaken to comply with the government guidance.

Contact us for a copy of your fire risk assessment  for your buildings and speak directly with your mortgage broker or lender. Even if your building does not currently hold an EWS1 certificate, or it has been assessed as being at B2 level, we may still be able to provide you with information that will satisfy your or a buyer's lender. Please contact us here and we will endeavour to give you the paperwork you need.

How long will it take to get the EWS1 for my building?

If your building is over 18 metres tall it will have been part of Phase 1 of our building safety programme. If you need a copy of the EWS1 form please contact us. If your building is under 18 metres tall an EWS1 form is not always appropriate but we will be providing an equivalent expert report as part of our building safety programme.

How can Southern Housing help me?

We are doing our best to complete our building safety programme at pace and carry out this work safely. If you are in hardship because of the timing of the programme for your building please speak to us. We want to support our residents and recognise that this is stressful time for many. There may be other options that we can discuss with you that could help.  

In certain circumstances, it may be possible to sublet your property. Our policy on subletting as shared owner can be found here.

What else are we doing?

Together with our colleagues at the G15, a group of the largest housing associations in London, we are calling on the government to step in and provide clear guidance for both building owners and mortgage lenders on the proportionate implementation of their building safety advice notes.

Our hope is that this will reassure residents, encourage mortgage lenders to take a more considered view, and give building owners a reasonable and realistic timeframe in which to follow government advice.

What about fire safety?

We would like to reassure our residents that all our homes have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment. These are independently reviewed every year and any recommendations are dealt with immediately or, where appropriate, put into a programme of work to be completed within a suitable timeframe.

What is an 'FRA'?

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are categorised into four types depending on the level of detail and intrusive inspection works that must be carried out. Type 4 assessments are the most detailed.

Type 1

This is the basic assessment that mainly tests the common non-destructive parts of the communal parts of a building. Type 1 FRAs are undertaken to meet the requirements of the Fire Safety Order. This type of assessments practically reviews the arrangements that the fire engineers made for people living within the building to escape if there was a fire. Some entry and exit points of the doors to the flats are also inspected during this assessment.

Type 1 FRAs are the inspections our in-house Fire Risk Assessors undertake within the common areas of the buildings owned and managed by Southern Housing Group.

Type 2

This assessment is similar to a Type 1 Fire Risk Assessment, in that it relates to the protection of the common parts of the building. A Type 2 inspection additionally involves a degree of intrusive exposure of the building and therefore usually requires the presence of a contractor to open up construction and make good after the inspection.

Type 3

This type of inspection is like the Type 1 assessment with a slightly wider scope. Type 3 is a non-intrusive assessment but goes beyond the scope of the Fire Safety Order by considering the fire precautions of a building, such as the means of escape and fire detection within a sample of flats.

Type 4

The most comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment is the Type 4 assessment. Whilst a Type 4 Fire Risk Assessment covers the same areas as the Type 3 FRA, a Type 4 also undertakes intrusive inspections within the common parts of the building and in a sample of the flats and therefore usually requires the presence of a contractor to open up construction and make good after the inspection.

Of the four types of FRAs, none of look at the external wall systems of a building. For our own data purposes a limited visual inspection of the external wall system is undertaken during every FRA.

I understand I can now check the progress of our Building Safety Fund application myself. How do I do this?

The government has launched a new portal which will allow residents to check the progress of any Building Safety Fund application that has been made by their landlord. This portal can be found here.

To access the portal, you will need a PIN code specific to your building. Once we have been sent this by the Building Safety Fund administrators, we will ensure that it is sent to all residents.

If you live in a building that is managed by an external managing agent (EMA), then we will have requested the code from the agent, and will make it available to all residents once we have received it.

If you have any questions about the portal, and its purpose, please read our Q&A document.

Will leaseholders be made to pay for works caused by build defects?

Southern Housing will not be recovering costs in relation to the majority of fire safety remediation works from our leaseholders.  This places us in line with the latest government legislation. 
The decision means the Group will not pass on the costs to leaseholders for: 
•    any fire safety remediation works we undertake related to historic defects as defined by the Building Safety Act 2022  
•    work carried out relating to interim measures - this includes temporary alarm installations and evacuation management costs (such as Waking Watch). 
This will apply to all leaseholders, irrespective of the height of the building you live in.