Mortgage lenders are increasingly querying the make-up of external walls on buildings. These queries cover all building types and not just those with cladded materials on the exterior.

Many mortgage providers are currently asking for additional information about a building’s external wall system in an EWS1 form before they are willing to lend against it. EWS stands for External Wall System.

The EWS1 Form explained

In order to complete an EWS1 Form, a suitably qualified professional must conduct a fire safety assessment and confirm their findings on the form. 

The form will help ensure information relating to the assessment of external wall systems is recorded consistently. The aim of the form is to deliver assurance on the construction of a building’s external wall for lenders and their valuers. 

Only one assessment and form is required for each building and, currently, these will be valid for five years.

What we’re doing

We’ve a phased testing programme for our high-rise buildings. We’ve employed Fire Engineers to carry out the testing. This will involve surveys of the construction of the external wall system and highlighting if there’s any need for remediation works. In most instances, this will involve intrusive testing by ‘opening up’ the building and testing all the materials used in its construction to ensure they meet the new guidance. We’re also asking our Fire Engineers to complete an EWS1 Form for the building.

Due to the high level of demand for the services of a small pool of suitably qualified experts, it will take time for these surveys to be completed. We anticipate it will take several years to deliver the programme of testing and complete the remediation work.

We complete regular Fire Risk Assessments for our apartment blocks, and complete any recommendations from the assessor built as part of the action plan for the building. You can request a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment by contacting us.

Contact us

Government says lenders shouldn't ask for EWS1 forms on buildings below 18 metres

The latest Government advice is lenders shouldn't ask for EWS1 forms on buildings below 18 metres.

We welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Housing that government will encourage lenders to take a more proportionate approach to EWS1 forms.

Through our lobbying work with the G15 group of housing associations, we’ve been pushing for a more proportionate approach for fire safety for some time. We’re really pleased to see government responding to these calls.

We know our leaseholders will have questions about what this news means for remediation works in their home. We’ve asked our independent fire safety engineers what impact this change will have on Optivo’s fire safety programme.

We’re also waiting for more detailed guidance from government.

Once we’ve reviewed the details behind this announcement, we’ll provide a further update.

What if Southern Housing isn’t the freeholder?

In these cases, Southern Housing may not be responsible for the exterior of the building. We’re in regular contact with freeholders and managing agents for these buildings, and are encouraging them to complete testing and produce EWS1 Forms.

What does this mean for Homeowners?

We’re finding most mortgage lenders are requesting an EWS1 Form before signing off a mortgage. Depending on where you live, this may mean you’re not able to staircase, remortgage or sell your home at the current time.

However, not all mortgage lenders are applying the same criteria so it is worth shopping around. This issue is unlikely to affect transactions where there is not a mortgage.

We realise this may be difficult news for our homeowners, and are very sorry this could leave you in a difficult position. Together with our partners in the sector, we’re doing everything we can to find a way forward with the Government. 

What can Southern Housing do to help?

We’re discussing this on a case-by-case basis with homeowners who are currently in the staircasing, remortgaging, or sale process. We’d encourage any homeowner who’s looking to staircase, remortgage, or sell their property to contact us first before incurring any fees for legal or financial advice.

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