One of the largest housing associations in the UK has told almost 10,000 of its residents living in blocks below 18 metres that they no longer need intrusive cladding surveys on their buildings.
L&Q has sent letters to 9,362 households in response to the government’s announcement late last month that External Wall System 1 (EWS1) forms should no longer be requested by lenders when leaseholders are trying to sell flats in the majority of blocks below 18 metres tall.
EWS1 forms, which provide a framework for surveyors to assess the compliance of a building’s facade, were introduced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in December 2019 in response to changing government fire safety guidance in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The process of obtaining an EWS1 form usually involves an intrusive survey being carried out by a qualified person.
Since the system was introduced many leaseholders across the country have found themselves unable to sell their home as they have either struggled to find a qualified surveyor or discovered that their building requires costly remediation work.
L&Q, which owns more than 110,000 homes across the country, has been embarking on a building safety inspection programme and recently completed the inspection of its roughly 200 blocks above 18 metres.
Following the government’s announcement that EWS1 forms are not needed on the majority of blocks under 18 metres tall, L&Q said it has now identified 9,632 homes where it does not believe intrusive surveys or remediation are needed.
These are in buildings where L&Q’s records show that no combustible materials are present in the external wall system, including balconies.
L&Q will no longer be carrying out intrusive surveys on these buildings and will only inspect them as part of its fire risk assessment programme, which will include an assessment of a building’s external walls.
The figure includes 1,918 homes occupied by leaseholders or shared owners, who L&Q said should now be able to sell their homes, and 4,303 homes occupied by social tenants, who L&Q said should now be able to take advantage of the Right to Acquire.
From next month L&Q will be writing to residents in blocks under 18 metres that will still need an inspection to provide them with dates for the survey.
Despite the government announcement, many of the country’s largest mortgage providers have told Inside Housing that they will still be asking those living in blocks under 18 metres to provide an EWS1 form until the government revokes the fire safety guidance that led to the form’s creation in the first place.
L&Q has told residents they should challenge lenders that ask them to provide an EWS1 form without providing a valid reason.
If lenders give flat owners a reason that an EWS1 form is required, for example if a surveyor suspects there is combustible cladding present on the building, L&Q has told residents they should contact their property manager.
A spokesperson for L&Q said: “We are pleased to be able to deliver this good news to thousands of our residents. The removal of the requirement of an ESW1 form for these buildings will free up residents to move, staircase, or buy their home.
“We hope that lenders follow the government’s and RICS’ advice and recognise that an EWS1 form is not needed for these homes. However, should lenders still request the form we will support our residents in querying this with their mortgage provider.
“The adoption of these new guidelines by all is essential in order to get the housing market moving and allow residents to get on with their lives. We, as a building owner and a developer, are doing what we can to support residents and we hope that lenders will choose to do the same.”