What is an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 form was created by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Building Societies Association and UK Finance. It came into effect in December 2019. It has been revised twice, so is now in its third edition. It is a document that enables residential building owners to confirm that the building’s external wall system has been assessed by a suitable expert, providing assurance for lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers. Once an external wall system has been assessed by a suitably accredited and competent expert, they can complete either option A or option B of the form, depending on their findings.
- Option A describes a building that does not contain materials likely to support combustion or materials likely to support combustion, but only to an attachment, such as a balcony.
- Option B means there are known combustible primary materials in the external wall system, including any external cladding, insulation, support framework or substructure.
Both options have specific sub-categories that clarify the risk associated with the competent person’s findings.
Who is suitably qualified to sign an EWS1 form?
It is a stipulation that the EWS1 form must be completed by a suitably qualified and competent professional; otherwise, the form will be invalid. It is essential for those who are commissioning EWS surveys with the aim of obtaining an EWS1 form to perform due diligence to confirm that their chosen professional meets the required criteria. A number of EWS1 form forgeries have been uncovered, emphasising that only reputable contractors should be instructed to undertake such work. Moreover, care needs to be taken to ensure that your chosen contractor is suitably qualified.
Is it a legal requirement?
While obtaining an EWS1 form is not a legal requirement, the majority of lenders will request one before considering a mortgage application. However, it is a legal requirement for responsible persons to ensure the safety of buildings and residents. The full enactment of the Fire Safety Act 2021 also creates a legal requirement for external walls to be assessed as part of a routine fire risk assessment, progressing to a fire risk appraisal of the external walls following PAS 9980:2022 in most instances. There will inevitably be some overlap between the health and safety, legal and financial drivers.
Do I need an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 form was originally intended for high-risk buildings above 18 m in height or where specific concerns exist. This clause means that the form could always be requested for a building of any height where there are concerns about the external wall system. The updated form does not mention height and, therefore, applies to all residential buildings where a valuer requests one. The latest RICS guidance makes it clear that a valuer/lender has the final say as to whether they require an EWS1 form. An EWS1 form is usually valid for an entire block/building and is not applicable to individual flats and apartments.