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External Wall Systems (EWS)

What's an external wall system?

A building’s external wall system (EWS) includes (but isn’t limited to): brickwork, cladding, insulation, balconies, external walkways and fire break systems.

We carry out EWS surveys on some of our buildings, as part of the fire risk assessments we’re legally obliged to carry out on all our properties. We take a risk-based approach to prioritising these surveys, starting with our tallest buildings with the most cladding. Visit our EWS survey programme page to find out more.

What’s an EWS1 form?

The EWS1 form was developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as a way of assessing fire safety risk of buildings more than 18m high (typically six or seven storeys).

Some lenders ask for an EWS1 form for buildings before they’ll offer mortgages to home buyers, allow leaseholders to re-mortgage or allow shared owners to ‘staircase’ (increase how much of their home they own). The EWS1 form is a lender requirement, not a legal one, and results from an EWS1 survey, which must be carried out by a qualified EWS1 assessor. These are different from the EWS surveys we carry out as part of our building safety programme.

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Our position on EWS1 forms and our responsibilities as a building owner, and social landlord

We can't provide an EWS1 form on demand, or guarantee to do so in the future, for a number of reasons:
  • All our buildings are safe: We're legally obliged to have fire risk assessments for all our buildings, which are available on request. All our tall towers have adequate layers of fire protection. We're confident customers are safe in their homes.
  • The EWS1 form isn't a legal requirement: Despite some lenders insisting on an EWS1 form, building owners aren't legally-obliged to provide one. This is a condition being imposed by lenders, based on Government advice. So, while we do carry out external wall system inspections on some of our buildings, these aren't the same as EWS1 surveys, and don't result in EWS1 forms.
  • Having an EWS1 form doesn't necessarily mean it will be accepted by a lender: The EWS1 assessor may recommend further investigation or remedial works, which may be needed before a lender accepts the form.
  • Increasingly, as well as (and sometimes instead of) an EWS1 form, lenders are asking for answers to some questions, on Hyde headed paper:
    o Has a review of the building, including the external walls, in relation to fire safety been carried out in accordance with the latest Government advice?
    o Did the review result in any remedial works being required to the building?
    o Have the works commenced/been completed?
    o Will any costs be passed on to the leaseholders?
    We’re happy to help leaseholders with the answers to these questions; please note we might not have carried out external wall surveys on your building. Please email us at EWS@hyde-housing.co.uk
  • We may have to pass the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners: We're first and foremost, a housing association and a not-for-profit and charitable organisation, which means we're bound by Charity Commission rules and laws governing how charitable funds can be used. This means we may have to pass on the cost of carrying out an EWS1 assessment to homeowners.
  • There's a severe shortage of qualified EWS1 assessors: Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an approved EWS1 assessor. Demand for EWS1 forms is very high and there are fewer than 300 qualified assessors in the UK, which is leading to delays of months, and potentially years, in completing EWS1 surveys.
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What we're doing

Keeping customers safe in their homes

Our priority is, and always has been, the safety of our customers – whether they're social tenants or homeowners. All our buildings have current fire risk assessments and we carry out all remedial safety work within the recommended timescales. We're confident everyone is safe in their homes.

External wall system surveys

We’re carrying out EWS surveys as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments.

Appointing EWS surveyors

We’ve appointed more EWS surveyors, enabling us to carry out more EWS surveys and intrusive fire risk assessments of our buildings.

EWS1 assessments and EWS1 forms

Because EWS1 forms aren’t a legal requirement, we don’t have to carry an EWS1 assessment on every building more than 18m tall that we own or manage.

We do, however, carry out EWS1 assessments on occasion: typically for new developments and following fire safety remedial works.

We may have to pass on the cost of EWS1 assessments to homeowners, as they are a lender requirement, not something we’re legally obliged to do under fire safety legislation.

Working with Government and other housing associations

We understand this is hugely frustrating time for homeowners, and we’re sorry for the impact this is having, but this is a national crisis that’s largely out of our control. It can only be resolved by the Government. We continue to work with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and others in the social housing sector, to resolve this issue.

Want to remortgage, sell or staircase?

If you own a home in one of our buildings and are considering remortgaging or selling; or if you’re a shared owner wanting to staircase, then please read the answers to the Frequently Asked Questions about external wall systems.

A lender may ask you to answer the following questions on Hyde headed paper:

  • Has a review of the building, including the external walls, in relation to fire safety been carried out in accordance with the latest Government advice?
  • Did the review result in any remedial works being required to the building?
  • Have the works commenced/been completed?
  • Will any costs be passed on to the leaseholders?

We’re happy to help leaseholders with the answers to these questions; please note that we may have not carried out external wall surveys on your building. Please email EWS@hyde-housing.co.uk

External Wall Systems FAQs

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External links

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

The RICS website has lot of information about EWS assessments and answers to frequently asked questions about the process.

UK Government (GOV.UK)

The Government’s website has a summary of the latest building safety guidance, including EWS1 forms, and advice for residents and tenants.

Leaseholder groups and campaigns

While we’re not involved in, nor do we endorse in any way, the following leaseholder groups, they do have more information on fire safety and advice to homeowners:

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