EWS1 for buying, selling and remortgaging
The process, resulting in an EWS1 Report was developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies’ Association to enable mortgage valuations of flats in blocks affected by potentially unsafe cladding. It provides a way for those selling property with external wall systems such as cladding to show that these have been assessed by an expert. It is not a government or legal requirement but is used by valuers to enable them to provide a mortgage valuation and by lenders in considering whether to lend on a property. The operation of EWS1 has had some practical challenges in Scotland given the differing property ownership system in Scotland which has meant that one EWS1 form per property has been required, rather than one per building. The Scottish Government has accepted recommendations that mean it will step in to help address those challenges.
The EWS1 process and form will continue to be used by valuers and lenders in Scotland until the Scottish Government’s new Single Building Assessment approach has been fully specified and agreed with industry and professions including fire, insurance, surveying and mortgage lending. The current Scottish Government’s intention is that the outputs from the new approach to Single Building Assessment should start to replace EWS1 for individual flats from Autumn 2021, depending on uptake of the Single Building Assessments. EWS1 is expected to remain available in situations where owners have not opted for a Single Building Assessment.
The EWS1 was developed for mortgage valuation purposes only. It is not a fire or building safety certificate. We think there is a need for the Scottish Government to address these issues as well as look to address some of the challenges with EWS1. A Single Building Assessment is in the wider public interest to help ensure that assessments are done in a robust way to assess the overall remediation of fire safety issues needed in Scotland, release people from mortgage valuation and lending concerns and support homeowners to implement forthcoming guidance in determining the fire risk from external wall systems.
The RICS has worked with others to develop guidance on when an EWS1 will be needed. This guidance is effective from 5 April 2021.
While we know that the EWS1 has enabled mortgage valuations so that in some circumstances people can buy, sell and remortgage property the Single Building Assessment will take a broader view of fire safety than the cladding system alone. It is not compulsory for homeowners to agree to a Single Building Assessment.
The Working Group recognised that it was hard for individual property owners to know what steps to take if the EWS1 Report or further survey shows that remediation is needed. Although the Working Group recommendations do not change the position on rights and responsibilities for private property, your property could be eligible for a Single Building Assessment that would allow the remediation need to be assessed on a consistent basis with others in Scotland.
We will launch an 8 week expression of interest process by the end of March 2021 for those buildings that have already had an existing cladding or fire risk assessment that highlights a risk to life as a result of cladding system, materials used and/or poor construction. This will mean that these buildings can be identified, the assessment work shared and considered as part of the pilot phase of the Single Building Assessment programme in June 2021.
Will it be harder for me to get an EWS1 if the Scottish Government is funding different assessments?
We know that some people have found it difficult to obtain an EWS1 and that there are a limited number of EWS1 assessors. Further training provided by RICS and plans by the UK Government to use powers reserved to the UK Parliament to intervene in the professional indemnity insurance market are expected to see an increase in assessors available. In the longer term, the current Scottish Government thinks it is better to use current resources available to secure a single assessment of the building that can be used by all owners rather than people navigating the current arrangements on a flat by flat basis.
The RICS has set out what is needed to be a signatory of an EWS1. The Scottish Government will set out, in agreement with relevant industries and professions, what makes someone a competent person to undertake a Single Building Assessment and a Register of Assessors will be live by the end of May 2021.
Valuers and lenders were represented on the Working Group that developed the new proposal. The Scottish Government will continue to work with valuers and lenders and others on the specification of the assessments to make sure they will be straightforward for valuers and lenders to work with, fulfil the same need as the EWS1 and provide equivalent information to support valuation and lending decisions.
There are varying accounts of costs of EWS1 however we think that by supporting Single Building Assessments this alone will save individual homeowners hundreds of pounds.