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Important information for homeowners living in blocks of flats

2021 - January, Latest news

If you’re planning on changing your mortgage, wanting to staircase or buy more shares in your home, or you’re thinking of selling your property then you may need to consider that many lenders have changed their conditions.

Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017, we’re now seeing more and more mortgage lenders querying the construction techniques and materials used in the external walls of buildings.  Even if you’re in a building that has no cladding and is not a high-rise, you may still receive queries from your mortgage lender.

You may be asked to provide an EWS1 Form, which is the industry template for recording details of fire safety of a building’s external wall construction.

The EWS1 Form explained

In order to complete an EWS1 Form, a qualified professional must conduct a fire safety assessment and then confirm their findings on the form.  The form is important as it means the theses assessments will be consistent up and down the country, so an accurate record is maintained.  It also helps mortgage lenders and their valuers to make informed decisions.

Only one assessment and form is required per building (not per flat) and these are valid for five years.

There is currently no legal requirement for a housing association to complete an EWS1 form. But this is now an industry standard being requested and PA will do everything we can to assist our residents accordingly.

What are we doing to help?

We’re in the process of appointing suitably qualified, fire experts who will be carrying out these checks on the buildings we own. 

Once a building has been inspected and an EWS1 form has been completed this will confirm whether option A and A1, A2 or A3 applies; or option B and B1 and B2 applies.

OPTION A – Where external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion

  • A1 - There are no attachments whose construction includes significant quantities of combustible materials (i.e. materials that are not of limited combustibility.
  • A2 - There is an appropriate risk assessment of the attachments confirming that no remedial works are required.
  • A3 – Where neither of the above two options applies, there may be potential costs of remedial works to attachments (Note 8)

OPTION B – Where combustible materials are present in external wall

I confirm that:

  • B1 - I have concluded that in my view the fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required.
  • B2 - I have concluded that an adequate standard of safety is not achieved, and I have identified to the client organisation the remedial and interim measures required (documented separately).

Where remedial works are recommended through the EWS1 inspection, we will work with building experts to scope these works and appoint specialist contractors to carry out these out.

We’re not able to complete any work or provide an EWS1 form where PA Housing is not the legal owner of the building, but we will help liaise with them on your behalf.

When able to do so, we’ll also start a phased programme of testing for all our high-rise buildings which are over 18 meters in height and where cladding is known to be present.  Any building we think may be classed as ‘high risk’ will be tested first.  We’ll notify you when these tests are due to be completed.

The testing will involve surveys of the external wall system to determine how it has been constructed.  The results will tell us if there is a need for any remediation works.  In most cases, this will involve what is classed as ‘intrusive testing’ where we will need to open up the building fabric to test the materials used and check they meet new guidance.  We’re also asking the Fire Engineers to complete the EWS1 form for the building.

Due to the amount of testing required around the country, not just at PA Housing, and the limited number of qualified professionals who can complete this work, we anticipate that it will take several years for us to complete the testing and any works required as a result.

What are we doing in the meantime?

Your safety is always our top priority, so while the testing work is on-going, we will continue with our regular Fire Risk Assessments for all our buildings, and we will complete any recommendations from the assessor to make sure everything is safe.

Every week, we inspect all of our buildings with six storeys or higher to ensure they are clear and clean from fire safety hazards, and we would ask you to assist with this by ensuring no personal belongings are stored within communal areas, especially the bins stores.

More information

If you’re concerned that your ability to remortgage, staircase or sell your home might be affected by these changes, please seek advice directly from your lender or mortgage provider.

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