Why do you need an EWS1?
Prior to the Grenfell tragedy compliance with building regulations was regarded as sufficient evidence that a building was safe. Buildings were signed off as compliant with regulations at the time of construction by either a local authority buildings inspector or a private inspector under the approved inspectors scheme.
Subsequently the government created an independent expert panel to advise on building safety. Its advice sought to shift responsibility away from approval under building regulations to the ‘building owner’. The government published Advice Note 14 in December 2018, intended to provide clear guidance to building owners that it was their responsibility to check the safety of all buildings of more than 18 metres.
The safety panel issued no guidance on how this safety should be evidenced. Mortgage lenders became worried that they now had no means to verify that a building was safe. An ordinary valuer does not have the skills necessary, nor would they be in a position to carry out the level of work required to make this assessment. They could not assign a value to a flat for the purposes of a loan without some other form of evidence.
As a result of this the EWS form and process was developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It was intended to provide a consistent method of assessing and recording the external wall construction of residential buildings.
The form was originally designed following Government advice regarding external wall systems on buildings above 18m and was created to ensure residential buildings over 18m tall could be assessed for safety to allow lenders to offer mortgages. Changes in Government advice in January 2020, brought all residential buildings potentially within scope.
However not every building will require an EWS1 form. RICS published updated guidance for valuers on 8 March 2021 and will be working with UK government and other stakeholders to ensure the guidance is implemented by 5 April 2021. This guidance includes criteria that will be used to help decide whether a particular building should need an EWS1 form.