RICS Publish EWS Guidance Update
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have published updated guidance on EWS Surveys, to reduce the number of buildings that require external wall system (EWS) fire safety checks.
The RICS update to guidance on EWS Surveys has been released with the aim of reducing the number fire safety checks being requested by banks and building societies on blocks of flats.
The new guidance ‘Cladding for Surveyors, 1st Edition March 2021’ is available to download here.
The guidance includes removing the need for EWS checks on buildings of four storeys or below, as long as they are not clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), other metal composite materials (MCM) or high-pressure laminate (HPL).
It also states that buildings that are five or six storeys high will not need to be checked if they do not have ACM, MCM or HPL present, and if the cladding that is present on the block covers less than 25% of the building. These buildings must also not have balconies that are stacked vertically above each other and have decking constructed with combustible materials, such as timber.
EWS Guidance Consultation
The updated guidance comes after a two month consultation period. The EWS form was originally designed following Government advice regarding external wall systems on buildings above 18m and was created to ensure residential buildings over this height could be assessed for safety to allow lenders to offer mortgages.
Changes in Government advice in January 2020, potentially brought all residential buildings within the scope of the EWS process. The RICS initiated a consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including fire engineers, lenders, insurers, valuers, and other cross industry representatives. The RICS is now working to ensure that stakeholders fully implement the new guidance by 5 April.
The EWS process itself involves a “qualified professional ” conducting a fire-risk assessment on the external wall system, before signing an EWS1 form, which is valid for the entire building for five years. The updated EWS1 form can be downloaded here.
New RICS EWS Guidance Update to Unlock Market
Dame Janet Paraskeva, chair of the RICS Standards & Regulation Board, is reported by the BBC as stating :
“This announcement is a crucial step in unlocking the market, by ensuring that only those buildings where there are risks of costly remediation as a result of safety concerns from cladding are subject to additional checks,“
“The guidance is anticipated to result in a reduction in the number of EWS1 requests which will therefore allow more focus on the assessments of higher risk buildings, which should speed up the overall process whilst ensuring appropriate protection for lenders and purchasers.”Dame Janet Paraskeva
Last year the government tried to solve the backlog of EWS Surveys by stating that flats in buildings without cladding would no longer need EWS1 checks. Many mortgage lenders were unable to follow the directive, as confirmation that cladding is not present requires a survey of the building to be undertaken in any event, as set out in a previous post.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said RICS’ new guidance would mean “nearly 500,000 leaseholders will no longer need an EWS1 form – helping homeowners to sell or re-mortgage more quickly and easily“.
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