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.
Up until the recent change in legislation, we carried out EWS surveys on some of our buildings, as part of the fire risk assessments we’re legally required to carry out on all our properties. In line with the new legislation, now we have to carry out a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW), which covers everything the previous EWS investigation did. We take a risk-based approach to prioritising these surveys, generally starting with our tallest buildings with the most cladding. Visit our FRAEW programme page to find out more.
New Legislation and how it changes the approach to Fire Safety
Our EWS1 approach over the last year was based on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (previously MHCLG) Consolidated Advice Note 2020. This guidance stated buildings should have their external walls assessed but didn’t give a method for these assessments, causing a negative impact on the sector. As a result of this, we’ve seen three key changes to guidance and legislation:
- A new code of practice has been introduced - ‘PAS9980 2022 - Fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats. PAS 9980 provides guidance on the risk of fire spread via external wall construction.
- ‘The Fire Safety Act’ has also changed to clarify the requirement for building owners to assess the risk of external walls. This applies to all buildings
- The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has updated the guidance around EWS1 forms, making it clear what type of buildings require the lender form and those that don’t.
The PAS9980 method produces a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW), that meets the Fire Safety Act requirement. If needed an EWS1 form can be made using the information from the FRAEW with no further assessments/inspections.
As a result of these 3 key changes, we’ve reassessed our procedure for managing the risk from external walls to make sure we’re meeting the requirements of the Fire Safety Act, PAS9980 and EWS1.
We’ve revised our FRAEW programme in line with these changes.
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. An EWS1 will now be provided as part of the FRAEW surveys that are programmed. Upon completion of the FRAEW and any associated works, an EWS1 will be issued – if still required at that point.
Our position on Fire Safety, 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.
- All of our buildings are safe: We're legally required to have fire risk assessments (FRA – which is different from an FRAEW) for all of our buildings, which are available on request. Our tall towers have adequate layers of fire protection. We're confident that customers are safe in their homes.
- The EWS1 form isn't a legal requirement: Despite some lenders insisting on an EWS1 form, based on Government advice, building owners aren't legally required to provide one. So, while we’ll carry out an FRAEW on all of our buildings, these aren't the same as EWS1 surveys. An EWS1 form is however produced as a by-product of the FRAEW and its associated works.
- 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 started/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 may not have carried out external wall surveys on your building. Please email us at [email protected].
- We may have to pass the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners: Hyde is 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. This is currently the same for Fire Engineers who are carrying out our FRAEW’s.
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 FRAEW surveys as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments. These appraisals will provide us with additional information on our properties to further enhance our approach to making them safe.
Appointing Fire Engineers
We have now procured reputable Fire Engineers who will carrying out FRAEW’s on our properties in line with the new PAS9980 guidance. This will enable us to carry out FRAEW’s in line with our new programme.
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 [email protected]
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)
Visit the Government’s website for advice on the following:
- Latest building safety guidance, including EWS1 forms, and advice for residents and tenants
- Leaseholder protections on building safety costs in England
- Leaseholder and resident information on the Building Safety Fund
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:
- End our cladding scandal, EOCS Twitter
- National Leaseholders’ Campaign, Twitter
- UK Cladding Action Group, Twitter
- Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership