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If you own a home in a Hyde building and are considering re-mortgaging or selling; or if you are a shared owner wanting to staircase, then please read the answers to our FAQS below regarding EWS assessments, EWS1 forms, and what you can do. For more information view Re-mortgaging, staircasing or selling properties in our buildings.

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

Yes, it is. We are legally-obliged to carry out regular fire risk assessments of our buildings to ensure the safety of everyone who lives in them. Since 2017 we have also carried out intrusive fire risk assessments of 86 of our tall blocks, which saw us investigate internal compartmentation of these buildings and the cladding systems. We have, or are in the process of, replacing cladding on 11 of our blocks.

What is an external wall system (EWS)?

A building’s external wall system (EWS) includes (but is not limited to) brickwork, cladding, insulation, balconies, external walkways and fire break systems. We cannot just inspect an EWS visually, we must open up different areas of a building’s exterior covering to investigate what is behind.

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Who can carry out an EWS assessment?

The EWS assessment 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’ website. The assessor 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.

What happens in an EWS assessment?

The EWS assessor will look at all the documents detailing how a building was constructed before carrying out an intrusive survey, which involves removing parts of the EWS and taking them away for testing. The assessor issues a report to the building’s owner (which can take up to 90 days after the assessment is finished), along with the EWS1 form.


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What is the EWS1 form?

In December 2019, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) published the EWS1 form, which was agreed with the Building Societies Association and UK Finance (which represents banks and mortgage lenders).

The form, which is valid for five years, summarises the results of the EWS assessor’s report. The building is giving a rating and, depending on this rating, the form recommends further remedial safety work.

  • A: There are no combustible materials in the EWS
  • B1: Despite combustible materials being present, the risk is low and remedial works are not needed
  • B2: Remedial works are recommended.

It is important to remember that Hyde already ensures its buildings are safe, through fire risk assessments. Find out more: I live in a tall block – is my home safe?

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Which buildings are included in the EWS guidance?

Originally, the EWS1 form only applied to buildings more than 18m high – equivalent to six or seven floors, depending on how the building was built. The Government has since advised that an EWS assessment may be needed for buildings where a risk assessment considers it necessary, regardless of height.

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

No. Despite some lenders insisting an EWS1 form, building owners are not currently legally-obliged to provide one. This is a condition being imposed by lenders, based on Government advice.

We will not provide EWS1 forms for buildings less than 18m high.

All our buildings have fire risk assessments (FRAs), which will be provided as part of a pre-sales pack. Alternatively, you can request an FRA by contacting us directly.

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My building is more than 18m high, why doesn’t it have an EWS1 form?

We have carried out EWS assessments on some of our buildings, as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments and building safety works on our tall buildings.

We are now starting the process of appointing a new external wall system assessor, who will carry out surveys of external wall systems as part of our response to upcoming building safety legislation. As part of their services, the assessor will be able to provide EWS1 forms for homeowners.

We will not be able to commission EWS inspections using our new contract before the end of June 2021. This also means that, unfortunately, we will not be able to provide any new EWS1 forms before the end of the Stamp Duty holiday on 31 March 2021.

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Will Hyde pay for an EWS assessment?

No. homeowners must cover the cost of assessments and any recommended follow-on work. Hyde is first, and foremost, a housing association and a charity. Under the Housing Act 1996 and the Charity Commission rules, we are not allowed to cover the cost of EWS assessments for homeowners (as they are not a legal requirement).

Depending on the size of the building, the cost of an EWS assessment could run into tens of thousands of pounds. While we have no option but to ask homeowners to contribute to paying for assessments, we are committed to minimising this financial impact, wherever we can.

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Can I arrange for an EWS assessment myself?

No. The EWS assessment involves removing parts of the building’s external wall system and we do not allow homeowners to carry out, or instruct someone else to carry out, this sort of work (and you would 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. Our rigorous tendering process will ensure that the assessors we appoint will be fully-qualified and that their findings (and the EWS1 form), will be accepted by lenders.

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The EWS1 form recommends more work needs to be carried out – who pays for that?

Lenders will not accept an EWS1 form if the building’s rating (B2) recommends that further investigation or building safety work is needed. A new EWS1 form will only be issued once work is completed.

According to the Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership, 90% of EWS assessments recommend further work. Because Hyde is first, and foremost, a housing association and a charity, under the Housing Act 1996 and the Charity Commission rules, we are not allowed to cover the cost of this work and will have to pass any costs onto homeowners. However, we are committed to minimising this financial impact, wherever we can.

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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 ownership are not allowed to sublet; this is to stop people becoming shared owners for financial gain.

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.

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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 will be provided as part of a pre-sales pack. Alternatively, you can request an FRA by contacting us directly.

If you have 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. The same applies if you live in a building that is less than 18m high and your lender, or your buyer’s lender, is insisting that you have an EWS1 form.

We have drafted an example letter to lenders (PDF 128KB) for you to use when talking to lenders. 

We are also lobbying Government to ask for a clear direction for building owners, leaseholders, shared owners, private and social landlords, and lenders. If you want to help us, we have an example letter for you to use to contact your MP - example letter to an MP (PDF 88KB).

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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. We cover the cost of assessments and building safety works for our tenants.

 

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