Leaseholders who want to sell, re-mortgage or staircase
In many cases we’re finding that mortgage lenders are asking for EWS1 forms for any transaction, even when the building is less than 18 metres tall. This is causing problems for the leaseholders involved because EWS1 forms are not usually designed to be used for buildings under 18 metres tall.
On this page, where we refer to 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)."
What can I do if I want to sell or remortgage, and my property has had a B2 EWS1 assessment?
Given the current cost of living crisis being experienced by many of our residents across the UK, we know that being able to make important financial decisions about mortgaging or selling a home is vital.
For some time, having a B2 EWS1 assessment meant a complete block on being able to sell or remortgage a property, and we know residents have felt trapped and frustrated. However, the market has changed considerably over recent months, and we are seeing some lenders taking a more relaxed approach to lending on B2-rated homes. Although there is no guarantee that a property can be sold or remortgaged with a B2 assessment, there is certainly more movement in the market, and if we can, we want to help you towards making your financial choices.
We are seeing that residents are starting to be able to remortgage with a B2 rating, and we also have some property sales close to closing, where the buyer’s lender has been satisfied by the remediation plan proposed, even without a firm start or finish date in place. We are working with residents on an individual basis to provide them and lenders with the information needed to get sales completed and remortgages approved, and can provide you with documentation that will allow your lender, or your buyer’s lender to make an informed decision.
If you are trying to work towards a remortgage or a sale, and have experienced difficulty because of the B2 rating and the wait for work programmes to be finalised, please contact us at BSP2@shgroup.org.uk to discuss with us what your chosen lender may need in order to proceed with an offer.
We are finding that every lender currently has different criteria for working with B2 rated buildings, and requires different information. This criteria also changes often, so we need to work with you to understand what your lender needs.
We can’t give you financial advice, but we can say that a number of the recognised High Street lenders, including at least one member of the “Big 5” have relaxed their lending criteria, although sadly, some do still have a more rigid approach to lending. We can’t guarantee that your chosen lender will proceed, but there is flexibility in the market, and we want to do everything that we can to maximise your chances while the work is in progress.
My estate agent or lender is insisting I must have an EWS1 form for my building - is it the case that Southern Housing is refusing to issue EWS1 forms on some buildings?
No. For buildings under 18m the EWS1 form is only appropriate if specific concerns exist. It is important to note that there is a requirement to assess the external wall systems of all our relevant buildings but this is different from the EWS1 form itself which is simply a form used to evidence the outcome of that assessment.
Our Building Safety Programme is how we are systematically carrying out the required external wall system assessments. Once a building have been through our building safety programme we will ask our experts to provide assurance in an appropriate form that the building complies with government safety guidelines. This assurance can be produced to lenders and valuers.
All our tall buildings (over 18m) have been through our programme and for most we have an EWS1 form.
Understandably anyone wanting to move will be feeling frustrated to hear that an EWS1 form is not available for their building or that once we have completed the external wall system assessment for the building, we will not currently intending to be provide a specific EWS1 form but an equivalent, particularly if they are being advised by estate agents or mortgage brokers that the form is required.
This is despite the government providing lenders with a very clear direction not to request these forms where they are not appropriate and the recent update from RICS which also tried to clarify the position to prevent lenders and valuers asking for these forms where they are not appropriate. We are still hearing of lenders and valuers insisting on the forms for buildings where they are not appropriate. We are also hearing of different valuers applying different approaches to the same building. The situation is confusing and concerning for many leaseholders and we share your concerns.
In some cases the external wall system assessment reveals that a building needs remedial work done to ensure it complies with the latest government guidelines. We will be working to get that work done before either an EWS1 form or its equivalent is issued.
If any of these situations are affecting you it might be helpful to bear in mind that EWS1 forms are not issued or produced by the landlord of a building as a matter of course or as a simple administrative exercise. They are technical certificates issued by qualified specialists and should only be issued on buildings over 18m or where there are specific concerns about the external wall system, and even then the forms are only issued after a full inspection has been carried out by the expert.
Supplying EWS1 forms or their equivalent
If we have an A1, A2 or B1 EWS1 form for a building we will always supply it to anyone who is in the process of selling or remortgaging. For all our other buildings we are working as fast as we can to get the necessary external wall system assessment work done to provide appropriate assurance of compliance with the government's building safety guidelines.
Please note that the decision to provide an EWS1 form or an equivalent does not affect the speed or order in which a particular building undergoes its external wall system assessment.
It is the carrying out of the external wall system assessment itself which is what lenders are actually seeking assurance about although many appear to be conflating the need to put a building through the assessment process with the provision of the form and simply asking for an EWS1 form which is leading to confusion.
We do appreciate how worrying it is for anyone caught in this situation. You can find out more about our programme here.
I've been advised that all buildings in multiple occupancy require an EWS1 form - is this the case?
No. The EWS1 Form is evidence that a building has had its external wall system assessed but it is not designed for use for all buildings that need to be assessed. All buildings in multiple occupancy need to go through an external wall assessment to ensure they comply with government guidelines. The EWS1 form is not a government requirement but is a form designed to evidence that a building has been assessed. It should only be used for buildings over 18m or where specific concerns exist. We are very clear that we will be assessing all our buildings and asking our experts to produce either an EWS1 form (where this appropriate) or the equivalent evidence. To be clear, whether our expert produces an EWS1 form or equivalent does not affect the speed or order in which we carry out the required external wall system inspection.