Government and RICS at loggerheads on EWS1 forms

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has told valuers to keep applying EWS1 checks on smaller buildings – prompting a backlash from the government.

Ministers issued guidance in July that housing blocks below 18 metres should not require external wall safety forms (EWS1), which mortgage lenders use to decide whether to lend on some flats.

However Dame Janet Paraskeva, chair of RICS’ Standards and Regulation Board, said the forms should remain in place to ensure the issue of fire safety is not “swept under the carpet”.

She said: “This is so that purchasers do not risk finding themselves trapped in flats of any height because potentially crippling costs are ignored and passed unwittingly on to them, which so many current owners have discovered too late.”

Lenders, valuers and conveyancers were consulted before making the decision.

While RICS said it “deeply sympathised” with leaseholders trapped in buildings that fail to pass EWS1 checks, the organisation said the problem shouldn’t be passed on to a new buyer.

The government has since told RICS to “work harder” to protect leeaseholders from these fire safety costs.

A government spokesman said: “We’re disappointed by this decision as it lacks ambition to solve the problems that countless people, families and households are experiencing.

“We expect RICS to work harder with lenders to protect leaseholders in flats that are safe from unnecessary anxiety and mortgage delays, which their EWS1 process is causing.

“Our view is supported by independent specialists, who say excessive industry caution is leaving many leaseholders in lower risk buildings unable to sell, or facing bills for work which is often unnecessary.”

A spokesman for End Our Cladding Scandal, a campaign group for affected leaseholders, has backed the move from RICS.

He said: “There remains insufficient independent evidence that buildings under 18m are inherently safe… the government must stop hiding from the true scale of this crisis.”

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