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Frequently asked questions about selling, remortgaging or staircasing properties in tall buildings

What is an external wall system?

The external wall of a building is made up of the outside structure including (but not limited to) brickwork, cladding, insulation, balconies, external walkways and fire break systems.

What is an external wall system survey (EWS1)?

This is a fire risk assessment of all build documentation in addition to an invasive survey where parts of the external wall system are removed and reviewed. Once this is complete a report known as the EWS1 form is prepared by a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) approved qualified professional and the building is given a rating.

Why does my building not have an EWS1?

Following the Grenfell tragedy, when the new EWS1 form was introduced by the RICS, it applied to all buildings over 18m high. 

In January 2020, the advice was amended stating that buildings under 18m may also require an inspection if there are specific concerns.

As you can imagine, with the entire sector seeking to comply with new guidance and obtain EWS1 certificates, there are serious shortages of skilled people who can carry out the appropriate testing and/or works, although we are better placed than most to access such services given the size of our property portfolio.

Please note that completing EWS1 forms is NOT a legal requirement – despite information coming from various lenders insisting that they must be completed. They are a condition being imposed on mortgage applicants by lenders.

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Is my building safe?

Yes - we have 96 tall towers and have undertaken an intrusive fire risk assessment on 86 of these. We have also undertaken an intrusive survey on 80 of our most complex buildings.

The remaining 10 tall towers, along with the rest of all of our blocks, have a current fire risk assessment in place, as required by current legislation.

To date, we have spent over £60 million in addressing safety issues in our buildings and have, or are in the process of, recladding 11 of our blocks where cladding replacement was considered necessary. 

I cannot sell my home without an EWS1. Does Hyde have to provide this to facilitate my sale?

No. There is no automatic obligation on a landlord to carry out an EWS1 as this is not law or endorsed by government.

We do, of course, want to support the mobility and life choices of our homeowners and we are doing what we can to support them. However, there is no simple quick fix. Our role is to build homes for people and to help people make the moves they need. We are working with government and the rest of the sector to overcome the current problems.

RICS has advised lenders that they should always have a rationale to justify the request for an EWS1. If a lender is requesting this and you have provided build documentation, fire risk assessments and all other pertinent information in relation to the fire safety of your building, do ask for their rationale on requiring the EWS1.

Can I arrange the EWS1?

No. We cannot permit resident-instructed invasive surveys to take place on their building. The instruction must be issued by the freeholder or building owner. Homeowners are not permitted to complete/instruct works for invasive surveys on the structure of your building as this would constitute a breach of the lease agreement between us and you.

But most importantly, the EWS1 requires the removal of panelling in the external wall and investigation of the structure, and it is imperative that we manage all aspects of the physical investigation into the building for the safety of all our residents.  

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Does a nil valuation mean my flat is worthless?

No. ‘Nil valuations’ are used in the process of valuing a property for mortgage lending purposes, where a valuer is unable to provide a value at that moment in time. Often a nil valuation signals that the lender requires further information before a valuation can be made, rather than a property being unsellable.

What happens after the EWS1 is completed?

When the survey is completed, the surveyors will analyse and write up their findings. It can take up to 8 weeks for the report to be sent to Hyde, and we will then review and determine the appropriate course of action.

Further investigations may be required before next steps are confirmed, and any remedial works would need to be accommodated within a wider programme for our buildings.

Who will pay for any remedial works needed?

Under the terms of your lease agreement with us and the Housing Act 1996, we have a legal duty to recover reasonable costs associated with the survey and remedial works from homeowners.

We are committed to reducing the financial impact on our homeowners and we remain committed to engaging with developers and the building safety fund to assist in this.

Where we have no option but to recover costs from homeowners, we will engage with you throughout the process and ensure that you receive full details of works, progress and reasonable repayment terms.

As a shared owner, can I now sub-let as I’m unable to sell my home?

No. We are unable to give permission for shared owners to sub-let their homes. Leases prohibit subletting by the leaseholder to protect public funds and ensure applicants are not entering shared ownership for commercial gain.

Sub-letting a property requires the owner to convert their mortgage to a buy-to-let product. As this is a change to the product, most lenders will not offer this without an EWS1.

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