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RICS updates guidance on cladding to ‘unlock’ flat market

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Written by: Shekina Tuahene
08/03/2021
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has issued guidance on which residential buildings need an external wall system (EWS1) form to clarify they do not have unsafe cladding.

The ‘valuation of properties in multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential buildings with cladding’ guidance was consulted on by lenders, valuers and fire safety experts for two months.

The recommendations are set to be implemented by 5 April.

The new advice now requires buildings of any height with high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding to obtain an EWS1 form, a requirement which was not included in the original guidance.

Buildings which are five storeys or higher with combustible cladding with balconies that are linked or vertically stacked with combustible materials such as timber will also need a certificate.

For buildings over six storeys, an EWS1 form will be needed if there is cladding or curtain wall glazing.

Meanwhile, for buildings of five or six storeys, a certificate is required where there is significant cladding or HLP, metal composite material (MCM), or if aluminium composite material (ACM) panels have been used.

For buildings of four storeys or fewer, a form is needed if there are ACM, MCM or HPL panels present.

Properties which are five or six storeys tall will not need to be inspected if they do not have ACM, MCM or HPL cladding or if any cladding used covers less than a quarter of the building.

The guidance also said if a lender or valuer is sure a building owner has met the criteria in the consolidated advice note which was issued by the government in January 2020, an EWS1 form will not be needed.

A form will also not be needed for buildings taller than 18 metres with a valid building control certificate in accordance with building regulations.

Buildings which already have an EWS1 form will still be valid despite the updated guidance and this applies to a whole building or block for five years.

Guidance for consumers will also be published to inform buyers and sellers of the risks around high-rise buildings.

‘Unlocking the market’

Dame Janet Paraskeva, chair of the RICS standards and regulation board, said: “This announcement is a crucial step in unlocking the market, by ensuring that only those buildings where there are risks of costly remediation as a result of safety concerns from cladding are subject to additional checks.

“The guidance is anticipated to result in a reduction in the number of EWS1 requests which will therefore allow more focus on the assessments of higher risk buildings, which should speed up the overall process while ensuring appropriate protection for lenders and purchasers.”

In a joint statement, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA) said they welcomed the final guidance and expected the number of EWS1 requests to fall as a result. However, they said it would still be up to lenders to make risk-based decisions.

“Government confirmation that it supports the guidance produced by RICS as an appropriate, risk-based and proportionate basis on which to proceed with valuation assessments, in line with the building safety Consolidated Advice Note published in January 2020 is a welcome and necessary step for lenders,” they said.

“We anticipate that many lenders will implement this guidance, which should see the number of EWS1 requests fall. However, this is a decision for each lender to make based on their own risk appetite.

“Those buying a flat should understand that a decision made by a valuer not to require an EWS1 inspection under the new guidance is no guarantee that fire safety remediation works will not be required in the future.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick added: “I welcome RICS new guidance which will mean nearly 500,000 leaseholders will no longer need an EWS1 form – helping homeowners to sell or remortgage more quickly and easily.

“We need a sensible, proportionate approach to risk and costs should only be incurred where they are absolutely necessary and less costly and intrusive mitigations can’t be put in place.

“Backed by nearly £700,000 government funding, over 500 assessors have now started training so that where valuations are needed these can be done more quickly, speeding up the process for homeowners.”

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