Publication - Factsheet

Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding: questions answered

Published: 19 Mar 2021

Answers to common questions following the Scottish Government's acceptance of recommendations from the Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding.

Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding: questions answered
SIngle building assessments

Single building assessments

What do you mean by a Single Building Assessment?

What properties are covered by the funding for assessments?

What is the order of phasing?

Why are you phasing the assessments in this way?

Are local authority and RSL buildings covered by this?

How many assessments will be undertaken? How much will this cost the Scottish Government? Is this a good use of public money to support private property owners?

What will the assessments cover?

How long will they be valid for?

When will funding for assessments start?

Who can do the assessments?

It is difficult to get an EWS1, there are limited professionals to carry out inspections and many can’t get professional indemnity insurance on reasonable terms, how are the Scottish Government going to secure the professionals needed to do these assessments?

Can I get a survey on the risks for my individual flat?

I’m a homeowner in a flat with cladding. How do I go about getting funding for an assessment of my building?

Does everyone in my building need to agree?

Are balconies covered by this?

I already have an EWS1 that says I have no issues with cladding, what do I do?

I’m a factor/property manager.  How do I know what to do for my properties?

Will details of the buildings with a Single Building Assessment and their output be public?

What if the assessment on my building shows that the cladding is dangerous?

I have an EWS1 that says there is no problem with the cladding but what if the Single Building Assessment disagrees?

Do I have to have a Single Building Assessment to be considered for remediation support from public funds?

Why aren’t you moving to remediate those buildings that we know have problems now?

I am having difficulties accessing affordable building insurance because of the cladding on my building – how will this Single Building Assessment help?

What do you mean by a Single Building Assessment?

This is one assessment undertaken on a whole building rather than secured by an individual owner of a flat.  It will be undertaken against robust criteria and used for multiple purposes, including providing a route to public funding for remediation.

Where there are, for example, 30 properties in a building, this means one assessment will be undertaken and available for all owners, rather than each of the 30 owners having to act (and pay) separately for an EWS1 or other assessments.

 What properties are covered by the funding for assessments?

Buildings in scope of the RICS guidance as requiring an EWS1 and forthcoming Scottish Government guidance (known as Scottish Advice Note on External Wall Systems) will be covered.  The current Scottish Government plans to take a phased approach based on those most likely to be at-risk.

What is the order of phasing?

First will be an expression of interest process by the end of March.  This will cover  all 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. The intention of this first stage is to share the work already done and consider these buildings for a pilot phase of the Single Building Assessment programme to start in June 2021.

Following the pilot phase, funding for assessments will start in Summer 2021 with further phasing of those most likely to be at-risk. Just because these materials are present doesn’t mean that a building is unsafe, only that it needs to be assessed. Depending on the capacity available at that time, it may be possible to move on several priority groups together. In general phasing will be considered, in conjunction with stakeholders, in the following order -

  1. Any further buildings with an existing full cladding or fire risk assessment that highlight risk to life as a result of cladding systems, materials and/or poor construction not considered as part of the pilot.
  2. Buildings with external wall systems including metal composite material with a polyethylene core (MCM-PE), aka Category 3 – starting with 18m+ buildings, then 11m+ then lower height.
  3. Buildings with external wall systems including high pressure laminate – Euroclass C, D, E / BS Class 1, 2, 3 with any insulation, phased by height.
  4. Buildings with external wall systems including high pressure laminate with Euroclass B, BS Class 0 with any insulation, phased by height.
  5. Buildings clad with timber – 18 m+, 11-18m
  6. Buildings clad with other combustible cladding types (not A1 / A2 or having passed and approved via BS8414), again phased by height.
  7. Any other buildings with external wall systems, again phased by height.

Why are you phasing the assessments in this way?

We want the capacity to undertake the assessments to match the demand and ensure that buildings that may face the greatest risks can be assessed first.  This does not mean that people will be left behind.  Quite the opposite – the approach to Single Building Assessments will mean a level playing field for everyone rather than a first come first served approach.

Are local authority and RSL buildings covered by this?

Yes, all buildings, regardless of tenure, will be included.  Some local authorities and RSLs will have already taken action.

How many assessments will be undertaken? How much will this cost the Scottish Government? Is this a good use of public money to support private property owners?

This is not just about supporting the interests of private property owners, but about ensuring people can be confident buildings in Scotland are safe.  The assessment programme will be demand-led and due to the differing nature of buildings involved there won’t be a one size fits all approach to the cost of the assessments.

We will try to maximise value for money from the assessment programme but know that external factors, such as operation of the professional indemnity insurance market, will impact the total cost.  The Scottish Government recognises that stepping in to support homeowners is a big step and there is a need to be sure that we understand the scale of the problem before we know how far public funding can stretch.  We also think there is a strong public interest in establishing, and reassuring people, of the safety of their homes with cladding.

What will the assessments cover?

The Scottish Government will work with others to make sure we get the specification of and outputs from the assessments right.  They are intended to align with the RICS criteria for buildings requiring EWS1 in its guidance for valuers effective from 5 April 2021 and forthcoming Scottish Government guidance.

How long will they be valid for?

The EWS1 is valid for five years.  We will engage with stakeholders about what the shelf-life should be for the Single Building Assessment funded by the Scottish Government.

When will funding for assessments start?

Following a period for expressions of interest, the current Scottish Government intends that funding for a pilot phase will start in June 2021 on those buildings with known issues.  The full roll out of funding, building on the experience in the pilot, will then be live later in Summer 2021.

Who can do the assessments?

In agreement with relevant professions and industry, we will set out clearly the professional skills and competencies which will allow someone to undertake assessments.  A Register of Assessors will be live by the end of May 2021.

It is difficult to get an EWS1, there are limited professionals to carry out inspections and many can’t get professional indemnity insurance on reasonable terms, how are the Scottish Government going to secure the professionals needed to do these assessments?

There is no doubt that it will be a challenge –the UK Parliament holds relevant powers over insurance markets.  The UK Government has made announcements about this issue that are intended to support qualified, competent professionals unable to obtain professional indemnity insurance.  The RICS has also launched a UK-wide training programme designed for specific professionals who already have a base knowledge to undertake external wall system assessments.  This should increase the number of professionals to support current market demand.

Can I get a survey on the risks for my individual flat?

If you want to proceed and take action in relation to your own property, or jointly with other owners, this does not stop you doing that.  However, the assessments that the Scottish Government will fund are for the building as a whole.

I’m a homeowner in a flat with cladding. How do I go about getting funding for an assessment of my building?

If you already know of safety issues with your property because of work or surveys undertaken, you can put your building – or ask your property manager, if they are prepared to work with you, to put your building – forward as part of the expression of interest period which will be launched by the end of March 2021.  As part of this process, existing surveys or assessments will need to be shared with the Scottish Government.  Your building will then be considered for the pilot phase in June 2021. Only one expression of interest is needed per building for this stage.

For those that don’t have existing surveys or assessments, you can put your building forward later in Summer 2021 following the pilot phase.

Does everyone in my building need to agree?

Who needs to agree depends on the circumstances, including your title deeds and arrangements with any property manager or factor. When the assessment programme starts we will set out what checks will be needed in accordance with property law. The Scottish Government is not making these assessments compulsory.  We think they are needed on safety grounds and to help us establish the remediation need as well as being an alternative to EWS1. 

Are balconies covered by this?

Yes, any balconies should be covered in the single building assessment.  The SBA will assess any risk and may lead to a need for remedial action.

I already have an EWS1 that says I have no issues with cladding, what do I do?

This approach should not hold up your current property transaction.  An EWS1 is specifically for supporting a mortgage valuation or lending decision. Additionally, you may wish to put your building forward for a new Single Building Assessment. This is up to you and whether you and other co-owners want an assessment that is wider in scope and considers any risks to life from fire, including the potential for fire spread on the external wall system.

I’m a factor/property manager.  How do I know what to do for my properties?

The Scottish Government will work with property managers on the specification of assessments, the implications for their work and their potential role in the practical delivery of the assessment programme.  Property managers may wish to put forward buildings with known issues during the expression of interest period.

Will details of the buildings with a Single Building Assessment and their output be public?

One of the benefits of the Single Building Assessment approach is that the outputs will be made available for multiple purposes. We will work out the best way to do this, in partnership with others, while taking necessary steps to protect private information and sensitive data.

Given the substantial investment of public funds we think that there is a public interest in understanding the buildings that are benefiting from a Single Building Assessment, the buildings that will be considered for public support for remediation and the reasons for that.

What if the assessment on my building shows that the cladding is dangerous?

There are legal duties on local authorities if it appears to them that a building constitutes a danger to people or the public generally, and to adjacent buildings or places.

I have an EWS1 that says there is no problem with the cladding but what if the Single Building Assessment disagrees?

The Single Building Assessment is intended to be broader than the EWS1 and cover broader aspects of fire safety, not only the cladding system.  The current Scottish Government intends to work with professionals, valuers and lenders as part of the development of the specification for Single Building Assessments so that there can be a smooth transition and issues like this are addressed with a clear expectation of what will happen next.

Do I have to have a Single Building Assessment to be considered for remediation support from public funds?

Yes.

Why aren’t you moving to remediate those buildings that we know have problems now?

Any remediation funding needs to start with a clear understanding of the need.  The Single Building Assessments will give us that in a way that provides a level playing field and doesn’t leave people behind.

By starting with those buildings with known issues we will be able to quickly establish through the pilot phase of Single Building Assessments, on a consistent and robust basis what the remediation need is, the reasons for that, position of developer and what support from public funds can be provided.

We also expect that homeowners and developers will continue to take action if that is needed. 

I am having difficulties accessing affordable building insurance because of the cladding on my building – how will this Single Building Assessment help?

The Single Building Assessment will provide information about the fire safety of the building on a robust and consistent basis.  While decisions on insurance cover will still be for individual insurers, we will work with industry to ensure their confidence in the assessments and the competence of the qualified professionals undertaking them to an agreed standard, in order that they can insure buildings with confidence. Where issues of safety are identified, a remediation process will allow these to be addressed.  Once undertaken, this should address those insurance concerns for the property.  The Scottish Government will continue to raise the importance of insurance with the UK Government, which holds the reserved powers on this issue.