Block Building Safety
External wall systems (EWS)
What is an external wall system?
The external wall system (EWS) is made up of the outside wall of a residential building, including cladding, insulation, fire break systems, etc. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Government issued a series of guidance notes covering a number of external wall systems, and advice aimed at ensuring buildings were safe.
What is an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 form is a way for a building owner to confirm that an external wall system has been assessed for safety by an expert. It is primarily used by mortgage lenders to have confidence that blocks of flats haven’t been built with combustible material in the external construction. Initially it was recommended for residential blocks over 18m tall that were built before 2018, however this was later expanded to cover blocks of any size where cladding is present.
An EWS1 form is valid for a whole block and is not flat specific. Once completed it is valid for 5 years.
Will you be providing EWS1forms for all blocks?
We currently only have completed EWS1 forms for blocks over 18m. We cannot provide EWS1 forms on demand for any block below 18m and are unable to provide a timescale for this currently.
We are able to provide lenders with alternative documents such as the Fire Risk Assessment and details of the material used in the external wall system to evidence that the block is safe. Please contact us if you need this.
Isn’t it a legal requirement to provide an EWS1 form?
There is no legal obligation on a Registered Provider (Estuary) to provide an EWS1 form, and indeed the EWS1 form is not considered a legal requirement, or currently even a legal document. We are legally obliged to carry out Fire Risk Assessments at all buildings with communal areas. These have all been completed and are reviewed at suitable intervals.
Whilst we do carry out inspections of the external wall systems and will carry out further intrusive investigations if we identify a need, this is not the same as an EWS1 form and we are unable to provide EWS1 forms due to sector demand.
The pool of professionals who are currently able to sign off an EWS1 form is extremely limited nationally, and they are having to prioritise the buildings over 18m (for which the form was originally designed); by their nature these buildings present the highest risk to property and life safety if there are deficiencies in the external wall system. This therefore means that the timescale for obtaining an EWS1 form for a building under 18m is months or even years in some cases.
Ultimately, the mortgage industry can ask for whatever it likes (within reason) as a pre-condition to lending. They are not under any legal obligation to lend and are perfectly entitled to take the view that they will only do so if they can be satisfied there is no real risk to their security or the mortgagees ability to repay the mortgage. We are unable to confirm if an EWS1 will be required for your block by a mortgage lender until you have your mortgage valuation carried out.
Will you be passing the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners?
Estuary Housing Association is a not for profit organisation, with charitable status. As EWS1 forms are not a legal requirement, we may be unable to fund these directly. We are currently looking into this with our legal advisors and hope to be able to advise homeowners shortly.
What are you doing to keep residents safe in their homes?
- We continue to undertake Fire Risk Assessments on all buildings with communal areas. These are reviewed at regular intervals and any actions required are completed within the recommended timescales.
- We have undertaken external wall system inspections at all blocks and will be carrying out further investigations to ensure that we are satisfied with the construction. We can assure all residents that we are confident that their homes are safe.
Further information is available from:
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website has a lot of information about EWS assessments and answers to frequently asked questions about the process:
UK Government (GOV.UK)
The UK Government website has a summary of the latest building safety guidance, including EWS1 forms, and advice for residents and tenants as well as Major intervention from government and lenders to support leaseholders.
There are also contact details for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety team.
Leaseholder groups and campaigns
While Estuary is not involved in, nor do we endorse in any way, the following leaseholder groups, they do have more information on EWS and advice to homeowners, should they want to get involved in lobbying Government.