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Half a million flat owners to benefit from EWS1 cladding rule change

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Owners of flats in buildings without cladding won’t need an EWS1 form, allowing around 450,000 people to sell, move or remortgage their properties.

The external wall fire review process – known as EWS1 – assesses the impact of cladding on high-rise flats.

The EWS1 process has also been applied to other buildings without cladding which has stopped owners from selling or moving their home.

But the government has reached an agreement with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), trade body UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA), where owners of flats in buildings without cladding will no longer need an EWS1 form to sell or remortgage their property.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, said the forms had caused “unnecessary anxiety for homeowners” and the move clears the ways for up to 450,000 flat owners to sell, move or remortgage their homes.

Building owners are already legally required to undertake fire risk assessments on all blocks of flats, and RICS will be working with lenders, valuers and fire safety bodies to develop new advice for surveyors.

This will reduce the number of buildings where an EWS1 assessment is needed.

The government also announced nearly £700,000 to train more assessors, speeding up the valuation process for homeowners in cases where an EWS1 form is required. This training will be delivered by RICS from January and will mean an extra 200 additional assessors will be qualified to carry out the EWS1 assessment within a month, 900 within three months, and 2,000 within six months.

It is also looking at ways to address ongoing concerns around the availability of professional indemnity insurance.

‘This cannot be allowed to continue’

Jenrick said: “Through no fault of their own, some flat-owners have been unable to sell or re-mortgage their homes - and this cannot be allowed to continue.

“That’s why the government has secured agreement that the EWS1 form will not be needed on buildings where there is no cladding; providing certainty for the almost 450,000 homeowners who may have felt stuck in limbo. However, this is only part of a wider solution and we continue to support those homeowners who do have cladding on their buildings and where there is still more to do.

“I welcome the support we have received from RICS and industry to resolve this matter and will be working urgently with lenders to resolve these challenges, ensuring that EWS1 forms are requested only where absolutely necessary and that the number of surveyors able to complete them is increased urgently to meet demand.

RICS CEO, Sean Tompkins, said: “We are aware of the severe impact this has had on some homeowners and we agree that buildings without cladding should not be subject to the process. We will be taking forward work with industry on this.

“Further, we recognise the acute market shortage of fire engineers to carry out EWS1 assessments and welcome the government’s support on working with us to upskill other regulated professions, such as Chartered Building Surveyors, to create additional capacity in the market.”

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