Mortgage lenders have hit back at prime minister Boris Johnson after he singled them out for excessive use of the External Wall Survey (EWS1) form to ensure buildings with cladding are safe.
In their response, the lenders highlight they are reacting to government changes to building assessment rules which brought tens of thousands more buildings under the scope of EWS1.
They also noted that the limited number of surveyors qualified to do such assessments, believed to be around just 300, has further exaggerated the problem, although government funding has been confirmed in the last week to hopefully train 2,000 by the middle of 2021.
1,000 EWS1 forms completed
A joint statement from UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA) said: “The EWS1 form was created to give industry-wide consistency to the information about potentially value-affecting works that building owners needed to provide for a mortgage valuation on properties of 18m and above.
“In January, MHCLG’s advice note for owners of multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings was updated making it clear that all buildings should include an assessment of cladding as part of their Fire Risk Assessment.
“This guidance has made it more challenging for lenders to take a pragmatic and risk-based approach as it brought multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings of any height into scope for the EWS1 which, as the only process acceptable to lenders for such checks, has led to it being requested for a far wider range of properties increasing the number of buildings from circa 1,700 to tens of thousands.
“With the limited number of suitably qualified and insured individuals currently available to conduct checks for this substantially increased number of properties, resourcing issues have inevitably followed.
“Despite this, over 1,000 EWS forms have been completed and more are being added every week. The industry continues to work with government and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on developing an appropriate safety solution for those affected customers,” it added.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this week, Johnson claimed lenders should realise EWS1 forms “are not necessary for buildings under 18m and it’s absolutely vital they understand that”.
However, that contradicts the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) which has just agreed that only those buildings without cladding do not need the EWS1 form.
Owain Thomas is features and contributing editor of Mortgage Solutions and editor of Specialist Lending Solutions.
He also has experience in the protection, pensions, workplace benefits and HR areas.
Owain has won two Headline Money Awards and the Protection Review’s Journalist of the Year award.