Frequently asked questions (EWS) External Wall Systems

If you own a home in one of our buildings and are considering re-mortgaging or selling; or if you're a shared owner wanting to staircase, then please read the answers to our FAQs below regarding External Wall Systems (EWS) and EWS1 forms. For more information visit our page on Selling and re-mortgaging.

I live in a tall block – is my home safe?

Yes, it is. We’re legally-obliged to carry out regular fire risk assessments of our buildings, to ensure the safety of everyone who lives in them. 

What’s an external wall system (EWS)?

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

Are you surveying EWSs?

We have to carry out surveys of external wall systems of some of our buildings as part of our fire risk appraisal of the external wall (FRAEW) programme. We can’t just inspect an EWS visually, we must open up different areas of a building’s exterior to investigate what’s behind.

We take a risk-based approach to EWS surveys, which means we will focus first on our tallest buildings presenting the most risk, before moving onto lower risk buildings. 

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Who can inspect an EWS?

An EWS inspection must be carried out by a qualified member of a relevant professional body (a list can be downloaded from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). The surveyor must have sufficient expertise to identify the materials within the external wall cladding and attachments, including whether fire-resistant cavity barriers and fire-stopping measures have been installed correctly.

How’s an EWS assessed?

The surveyor looks at all the documents detailing how a building was constructed before carrying out an intrusive survey, which involves removing parts of the external wall system and taking them away for testing. The assessor issues a report to the building’s owner.

What’s an EWS1 form?

The EWS1 form is produced by an EWS1 assessor, following an FRAEW. This is different from the intrusive EWS inspections we carry out as part of some fire risk assessments.

It was originally developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for assessing buildings taller than 18m (typically six or seven storeys) and agreed with the Building Societies Association and UK Finance (which represents banks and mortgage lenders). The RICS guidance has been upgraded so that an EWS1 form only be requested by a lender if it indicates one should be. This is intended to reduce the need for a form.

Some lenders ask for an EWS1 form for buildings before they will offer mortgages to home buyers, allow leaseholders to re-mortgage and allow shared owners to ‘staircase’ (increase how much of their home they own).

The form is valid for five years and summarises the results of the EWS1 assessment. The building is giving a rating and, depending on this rating, the form may recommend further remedial safety work.

  • A1: There are no combustible materials in the attachments to the EWS and no remedial works are required
  • A2: There is an appropriate risk assessment of the attachments to the EWS and no remedial work is required
  • A3: Neither of the above apply and potential remedial works may be required
  • B1: Despite combustible materials being present, the risk is low and remedial works are not needed
  • B2: Remedial works are recommended.

It’s important to remember that we already ensure our buildings are safe, through fire risk assessments.

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Does Hyde have to provide an EWS1 form for my building?

The EWS1 assessment was originally used for buildings of 18m or taller, although it is now used for buildings that are lower than this, based on the RICS guidance.

Despite some lenders insisting an EWS1 form, building owners aren’t currently legally obliged to provide one based on Government advice. 

All our buildings, regardless of how tall they are, have fire risk assessments (FRAs), which will be provided as part of a pre-sales pack, which you can request from us. For more information visit our page on Selling and re-mortgaging. You can request the FRA for your building by contacting us.

When will you provide an EWS1 form?

We do carry out EWS1 assessments (for buildings in scope); for new developments and following fire safety remedial works. However, if we do, we may have to pass on the cost of EWS1 forms to homeowners, as they are a lender requirement, not something we’re legally obliged to do under fire safety legislation.

For other buildings, we must carry out an EWS survey (as part of our fire risk assessments) before an EWS1 assessment can be completed. Following the survey, we’ll take two courses of action:

  • If the EWS survey suggests the building will be given a satisfactory EWS1 rating, we’ll instruct our provider to carry one out straight away
  • If the EWS survey suggests the building won’t be given a satisfactory EWS1 rating, then we’ll need to carry out remedial works before we instruct our provider to complete an EWS1 form. This is because the cost of completing the EWS1 form is on top of the EWS survey and we don’t want anyone to incur unnecessary costs.

Will Hyde pay for an EWS1 form for my building?

We’re 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, unfortunately, because EWS1 forms aren’t a legal requirement, we may have to pass on the cost of carrying them out to homeowners. Depending on the size of the building, the cost of an EWS1 form could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

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Can I arrange for an EWS1 assessment myself?

We don’t allow homeowners to carry out, or instruct someone else to carry out, this sort of work (and you’d be in breach of our lease agreement if you did). This is to ensure the safety of everyone living in our buildings.

There have been several cases where fraudsters have charged homeowners thousands of pounds and issued fake EWS1 forms. Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an approved EWS1 assessor.

Can Hyde’s EWS surveyors carry out EWS1 assessments on behalf of homeowners, if they want to pay for one?

We’ll only allow EWS1 assessments to be carried out on our buildings once we’ve carried out any intrusive inspections we need to do as part of our building safety programme. We’ll only ever carry out EWS1 assessments on buildings where the RICS guidance indicates one is required (and note we may have to pass these costs on to leaseholders, as they’re not a legal requirement).

In theory, we can carry out an EWS1 assessment that’s paid for by leaseholders. However, depending on the size of the building, the cost of an EWS1 form could run into tens of thousands of pounds and there is no guarantee it will be accepted by a lender.

Does a nil valuation mean my home is worthless?

Absolutely not. ‘Nil valuations’ are used by lenders when valuing a property when someone applies for a mortgage. A nil valuation often just means that the lender needs more information before it can make a valuation. It doesn’t mean that you can’t sell your home.

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Can I sublet my home if I can’t sell it?

Shared owners are not allowed to sublet their homes unless in exceptional circumstances (this is to stop people becoming shared owners for financial gain). In January 2022, the Government announced that shared owners can now sublet their homes where they are unable to sell or remortgage because of EWS1 issues, or where they’re expecting high building safety costs.

You can find out more on our Subletting your home page.

Leaseholders can sublet their homes but they must have a buy-to-let mortgage. Without an EWS1 form, it is unlikely lenders will offer these.

I can’t sell my home without an EWS1 – what can I do?

Unfortunately, there is no simple fix. All our buildings have fire risk assessments (FRAs) which may include an EWS survey (not an EWS1 form); these will be provided as part of a pre-sales pack. Alternatively, you can request an FRA from us by contacting us

If you’ve provided the FRA to the lender and they still insist on seeing an EWS1 form, then you need to ask them why they want one, especially if the RICS guidance indicates that one isn’t required for your building.

I’ve given my lender the EWS1 form but I’ve been asked more questions

We have found that some lenders are now asking for the answers to some questions on top of (or in some cases, instead of) an EWS1 form. These need to be supplied on Hyde headed paper.

We’re happy to help leaseholders with the answers to these questions; please note that we might not have carried out external wall surveys on your building. Please email [email protected] and we'll do all we can to help. 

I’m a tenant – how does this affect me?

As your landlord, we carry out fire risk assessments on all our buildings and are confident that all of them are safe. Some tenants will contribute to the cost of fire risk assessments, safety measures and building safety works, through their service charges and major works costs.

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