If you have received a Section 20 notice informing you of our intention to procure new external wall system surveyors and waking watch services, and want to find out more about the Section 20 process, please visit our Section 20 page. Answers to specific questions on external wall systems and waking watch can be found on the FAQ page.
What is an external wall system?
The Government changed its guidelines on building safety, issuing a series of advice notes, following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017. The aim was to help building owners ensure their homes were built and maintained safely.
A key focus is External Wall Systems (EWS) – the external covering of a building – which includes cladding systems like the one that failed at Grenfell.
Originally, only a building more than 18m high (typically, six or seven floors), needed to have its EWS inspected. The Government has since advised that an EWS assessment may be needed for buildings where a risk assessment considers it necessary, regardless of height.
What is an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 form is produced by an external wall surveyor, following an EWS1 assessment. Some lenders are now requiring an EWS1 form 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). While we do carry out external wall system inspections on some of our buildings, as part of our building safety programme, these are not the same as EWS1 surveys, so do not result in an EWS1 form
Hyde's position on EWS1 forms and our responsibilities as a building owner, and social landlord
We cannot 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 are legally obliged to have fire risk assessments (FRAs) for all our buildings, which are available on request. All our tall towers have adequate layers of fire protection. We are confident residents are safe in their homes.
- The EWS1 form is not a legal requirement: Despite some lenders insisting on an EWS1 form, building owners are not 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 as part of our building safety programme, these are not the same as EWS1 surveys, so we do not provide EWS1 forms.
- Having an EWS1 form does not necessarily mean it will be accepted by a lender: The assessor may recommend further investigation or remedial works, which may be needed before a lender accepts the form.
- We will have to pass the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners: Hyde is, first and foremost, a housing association. We are a not-for-profit and charitable organisation, which means we are bound by Charity Commission rules and laws governing how charitable funds can be used. This means, because EWS1 assessments are not a legal requirement, we have to pass on the cost of carrying them out to homeowners. We are committed to minimising the financial impact on homeowners wherever we can.
- There is 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 forms.
What we are doing
Keeping customers safe in their homes
Our priority is, and always has been, the safety of our customers – whether they are 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 are confident that everyone is safe in their homes.
External wall system inspections
We are carrying out external wall system inspections as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments and building safety works on our tall buildings.
Appointing more EWS surveyors
We are now starting the process of appointing a new framework of external wall system surveyors to enable us to carry out external wall inspections of more of our buildings – to meet the demands of upcoming building safety legislation that will require us to carry out more intrusive fire risk assessments.
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EWS1 assessments and EWS1 forms
These surveyors will also be able to provide EWS1 assessments (and EWS1 forms) for homeowners.
However, EWS1 assessments can only take place once we have completed our own inspections and we will have to pass the cost of EWS1 assessments onto homeowners.
As we have said above, we are, first and foremost, a housing association. We are a not-for-profit and charitable organisation, which means we are bound by Charity Commission rules and laws governing how charitable funds can be used. This means, because EWS1 assessments are not a legal requirement, we have to pass on the cost of carrying them out to homeowners.
We must follow a formal procurement process to ensure surveyors are qualified to undertake both the EWS inspections we are legally-obliged to carry out and EWS1 assessments, and can provide a level of service that delivers value for money.
We expect this process to be complete by the end of June 2021. After that date, we will be happy to commission EWS1 assessments on behalf of homeowners, following our external wall inspections. However, with potentially hundreds of EWS inspections needed across all our buildings, we expect that carrying out these will take some time; it could take years to work through the backlog.
Lobbying Government and lenders
We understand this is hugely frustrating time for homeowners, and we are sorry for the impact this is having, but this is a national crisis that is out of our control. It can only be resolved by the Government and lenders.
That is why we are working with others in the sector, including the G15 (the group of London’s largest housing associations), to lobby Government to take a clearer position on the issue. We are also working hard to explain to lenders that an EWS1 form is an advisory document and there are other ways (such as fire risk assessments) that we can demonstrate our buildings are safe.
There is no quick fix but, in the meantime, we will continue to support homeowners by providing all the documentation we can to help them in selling, remortgaging or staircasing their home.
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Leaseholders and shared owners
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 the Frequently Asked Questions, which includes how to respond to a lender’s request for an EWS1 form, and an example letter to lenders for you to use.
If you want to get involved in helping Hyde and other housing associations to lobby Government to resolve the complex issues around EWS1 forms, then you can write to your MP (you can find out who your MP is on Parliament.UK. We have drafted an example EWS letter (PDF 88KB). you can use as a basis for writing to your MP.
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)
There are also contact details for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety team.
Leaseholder groups and campaigns
While Hyde is not involved in, nor do we endorse in any way, the following leaseholder groups, they do have more information on EWS and advice to homeowners, should they want to get involved in lobbying Government.
- End our cladding scandal, EOCS Twitter
- National Leaseholders’ Campaign, Twitter
- UK Cladding Action Group, Twitter
- Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership