New External Wall System (EWS) guidance to help leaseholders sell flats in blocks with external cladding has been criticised by campaigners for ignoring the thousands who will remain trapped in unsafe buildings.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) guidance issued today clarifies the checks required by banks and building societies before issuing a mortgage.

There will now be no need for EWS checks on all buildings of four storeys or below, as long as they are not clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), other metal composite materials (MCM) or high-pressure laminate (HPL).

Buildings that are five or six storeys high won’t need to be checked if they do not have ACM, MCM or HPL present, and if the cladding covers less than 25% of the building.

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However, the End Our Cladding Scandal (EOCS) campaign says that the need for an EWS1 form is only one part of the national building safety crisis. It believes the wide range of serious, internal and external, safety defects being uncovered in residential buildings of all heights aren’t being considered.

This revised guidance will do nothing to help many leaseholders, says campaigner Tasha Letchford, who adds: “The EWS1 certificate will only identify issues with the external wall and it is now clear that many of the fire safety issues within these buildings are internal. We will continue to call on the government to end this crisis.”

It adds that the RICS’s decision that buildings of any height with HPL cladding will still require an EWS1 form puts into focus the, “unfair and arbitrary decision of the government to force cladding tax loans onto innocent victims in HPL-clad buildings under 18m”.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) says the new guidance means nearly 500,000 leaseholders will no longer need an EWS1 form. “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,” says Jenrick. 

In a joint statement, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association say they welcome the guidance, but add: “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.”  

The guidance is due to be implemented by 5th April 2021.

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