Government tells RICS to “work harder” to protect leaseholders from fire safety costs
The government has hit out at the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for refusing to change its recommendation that valuers and lenders use its EWS1 form for smaller tower blocks.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) said: “We’re disappointed by this decision as it lacks ambition to solve the problem countless people, families and households are experiencing.
“We expect RICS to work harder with lenders to protect leaseholders in flats that are safe from unnecessary anxiety and mortgage delays, which their EWS1 process is causing.”
She added that the government’s view is “supported by independent specialists, who say excessive industry caution is leaving many leaseholders in lower risk buildings unable to sell, or facing bills for work which is often unnecessary.”
RICS on Friday announced that after a five-month consultation it has concluded it is in the public interest to maintain its current advice to require controversial EWS1 forms on blocks under 18 metres in some circumstances.
This was despite the government announcing in the summer that the forms – which have been blamed for making it more difficult to get properties valued and sold – should no longer be required on smaller blocks.
A RICS spokesperson said: “There are examples where buildings under 18m have been found to need remediation.
“No one wants checks for the sake of checks but no one can just simply pass the problem on to another purchaser.”
The forms, which were created by RICS to improve fire safety information about buildings, have been blamed for thousands of people across the country struggling to get their properties valued and mortgaged.
Housing secretary Michael Gove last month said he is aiming to withdraw the government’s own Consolidated Advice Note, which advises the forms are used on all tower blocks, by Christmas.
Several lenders have said they will wait for advice to change, including the CAN and RICS guidance, before changing their practises regarding EWS1.
The RICS guidance
For buildings over six storeys an EWS1 form should be required where:
- There is cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building or
- there are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (e.g. timber) or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible material.
For buildings of five or six storeys an EWS1 form should be required where:
- There is a significant amount of cladding on the building (for the purpose of this guidance, approximately one quarter of the whole elevation estimated from what is visible standing at ground level is a significant amount) or
- there are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building or
- there are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials (e.g. timber), or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible materials.
For buildings of four storeys or fewer an EWS1 form should be required where:
There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building