In January this year, Government fire safety guidance on external walls of apartment blocks, which used to only apply to blocks taller than 60ft, was extended to buildings of all heights with any cladding.The new safety advice was issued in response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 but does not only apply to buildings with the type of cladding that caused the Grenfell fire.
Why is this a problem for homeowners?
The new requirement of an EWS1 form not only demonstrates that a building is safe but was brought in to give lenders more confidence in providing mortgages on multi-storey buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire.
However, there is a huge backlog in getting the forms due to the volume of properties which now fall under this requirement (an additional 2.7 million) and the very limited number of chartered fire engineers who can carry out the inspections.
This means that property sales are collapsing because to follow official guidance, many lenders are requesting an EWS1 form to show the building is safe. Without the form, buyers are unable to get a mortgage which means sellers are left trapped and unable to move.
We have been working with vendors who are unable to wait for the building inspections to be carried out due to a change in circumstances, such as a new job or growing family, and therefore need to sell quickly. We buy the property from them, with transactions completing in a matter of weeks or a timeframe to suit their requirements, and then we will pursue the building safety sign-off.
Whose responsibility is it?
To get these guarantees of safety, flat owners usually have to apply to the freeholders of the building. The freeholders then have to find a company to take samples of cladding from the external wall and have them sent away for testing.
However, freeholders are not obliged to get the building signed off if the building’s cladding is classified as low-risk. The problem for vendors is that some banks are so nervous that these flats could be declared unsafe in future, that they are requesting the EWS1 forms regardless.
WARNING: We have also read reports by Which? that leaseholders are being duped into paying thousands of pounds to fraudsters who are providing fake EWS1 inspection forms.
We have spoken to some flat owners who are unable to sell, even though the cladding material on their building is not combustible, as the freeholder will not pay for it to be tested. The issue can also affect those flat owners who are simply looking to re-mortgage. Even more worrying, is that some homeowners are being told it could take years for their building to be declared safe.
This is a situation that WeBuyProperty is monitoring very closely and will update our readers should we be informed of any updates. In the meantime, if you are in this situation and wish to discuss options for selling your property without the EWS1, call us on 0207 449 9797.