‘Do you need an EWS1 form to sell my property?’
This is a question we are asked on a daily basis.
Selling your property is a personal thing for us here at Yates Hellier. As a former client, come employee, I fully understand how stressful the process can be. This is why we pride ourselves on making it as easy as possible for our clients. Let us take the stress out of it – Leave the hard work to us. No one will work as hard as us to sell your property.
I wanted to introduce myself and perhaps touch on my new quite unwanted specialist subject – cladding and EWS1. Just know, I live in a building with combustible cladding, like that at Grenfell. I have a very vested interest. Due to this I have worked closely with our owners (and others from other buildings), Factors, Estate agents, Surveyors, Fire engineers, Scottish Fire & Rescue and Scottish Government. The aim of my efforts is bringing this odd situation to a conclusion for those like my neighbours and I, stuck in our flats unable to sell and potentially facing a large bill to pay to remediate our homes.
Sadly this has also affected those who live in buildings which are compliant and completely safe, but are still stuck in a difficult situation when trying to sell due to the intricacies of the EWS1 form. I would like to highlight that this is an ever evolving situation, sometimes changing weekly and whilst we can give our experiences, it not a guarantee that we can help every single owner to sell at this stage. But, let’s chat about it and get you in the best possible position for when you can. We are always happy to offer a friendly ear.
A little background before we tackle the nitty gritty
Following the Grenfell Tragedy in 2017, ‘cladding’, and its risk, came into sharp focus.
There was a review by Westminster Government to understand the scale of the problem. The Scottish Government carried out a similar review in October 2018. In 2019 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued guidance which caused mainstream UK lenders to treat High rise buildings (initially over 18metres but this since has affected anything over 4 storeys) with caution with many lenders asking for full fire risk assessments or cladding reports. This caused a stall in the market across flatted developments across the UK and initially many owners received £0 valuations (I was one of them!).
To try and reignite this market an EWS1 (EXTERNAL WALL SYSTEM SURVEY) was created. It was a very rushed exercise which did not take into account the difference in homeownership in Scotland verses the rest of the UK (Freehold versus Leasehold). Sadly this has caused some issues within the Scottish market and stalled many sales and created quite a headache for some in what was already a very stressful moment of their life. It’s this very feeling of helplessness I had when trying to help my own neighbours, as the Chair of our Residents Committee. This experience has lead me back into the estate agency world, working with Yates Hellier.
What is cladding?
Cladding is now defined as an EXTERNAL WALL SYSTEM – the make up of the outside wall of your building. Examples of this can be:
- ACM (Aluminum Composite Material)
- HPL (High Pressure Laminate)
- Brick Slips (Faux Brick look)
- Metal cladding (ACM, zinc, )
- Terracota tile
The current situation regarding cladding and the EWS1 form
As it currently stands lenders (except Santander – they have a different process but still require answers to specific questions regarding wall systems to be asked) require an EWS1 form before they will lend on a flat that is in a development over 6 storeys. There may be exceptions to this rule.
Some owners may not even realise that their building has issues with cladding until the wish to sell. Even worse, they may have gone through the whole marketing process, found a buyer and then only find out once the buyer attempts to get mortgage papers. This is well down the line and can’t be a particularly pleasant experience for anyone. This is the reason we are being proactive about EWS1 forms here at Yates Hellier. We believe honesty and transparency is the way forward and luckily I have a fair amount of knowledge on the subject.
Unfortunately the route out of the cladding crisis for sellers, like me and my neighbours in buildings with combustible cladding isn’t straight forward. But, for many others who live in buildings built using non-combustible materials the route is tricky, but not impossible.
Hopefully we can help you sell, and if we can’t – we will get you set up for when you can! Since 2005 Scottish government regulations have meant that combustible materials, like combustible ACM cladding would not pass regulations for use on domestic buildings. These have been allowed on English and Welsh buildings up until recently, which is why there are significantly more buildings with these problems south of the border. When you see the numbers of buildings involved in the cladding crisis it does make you realise why lenders may have put the brakes on a lending on flatted developments.
The problem we’ve got in Scotland is that although our building regulations are more robust than those of our English counterparts, UK Finance (banks) were insisting that a broad brush approach is taken and we are being surveyed in line with English regulation updated note from 2019. This means that there is a retrospective application of regulations on buildings (all very confusing, I know).
So, buildings (like my own) who passed buildings regulations at the time, are now being deemed as unsuitable. This is not something that usually happens, hence the incredibly messy situation. March 2021 saw Scottish Government announce their Single Building Assessment Pilot Scheme for buildings like my own, with issues with cladding. This is to be rolled out to all High-rise developments during 2021 and is a thorough cladding and fire risk assessment survey to be paid for by Scottish Government.
The hope is that this will stop the need for EWS1 in Scotland and negate the issues with freehold/leasehold that owners are currently experiencing which leads to every owner having to gain an EWS1 at sale. Rather than 1 for each stair well/block of the building, as it was intended by RICS. Summer 2021 will see the pilot start for buildings chosen by Scottish Government with already surveyed ‘RISK TO LIFE’ cladding. Full roll out of Single Building Assessments (SBA) should then happen in Autumn 2021.
I’m delighted to advise that my own building has been chosen to be a guinea pig for this Scottish Government (SBA) pilot so I’m going to be at the front for all developments and will be delighted to pass on any information I learn.
If you would like to have a chat about any cladding related issues, feel free to get in contact with me directly. I’d be delighted to help where I can.