The government’s announcement over the weekend that it is to step in and help some 450,000 homeowners trapped by the cladding scandal to sell their homes has descended into farce.
The initiative is designed to help those living in towers over 18 metres tall who have been required to produce paperwork proving their homes are safe.
Called EWS1 forms, these have proved difficult to produce as building assessors have struggled to clear the backlog, trapping thousands who could not sell their properties, even if they don’t have any cladding.
On Saturday Housing minister Jenrick said those living in towers without cladding will not have to produce an ESW1 form in order to remortgage or sell their property, claiming it had the backing of RICS, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association.
But the latter two organisations have now said they had not given permission to put their names to the initiative, which they say ‘does not really solve anything’ and still leaves some 1.9 million home owners in the lurch.
Nevertheless, NAEA Propertymark has welcomed Jenrick’s announcement, saying: “The requirement for an EWS1 form has delayed or caused sales to fall through, as flat owners have had to depend on their freeholder to commission the work and so few buildings have the form already.”
The ministry of housing says that while building owners are already required to undertake fire risk assessments on all blocks of flats, following supplementary guidance published by the Government over the weekend, RICS will be working with lenders, valuers and fire safety bodies to develop new advice for surveyors.
This will enable surveyors to take a more ‘proportionate approach’ and reduce the number of buildings where an EWS1 assessment is needed.
MHCLG is also to provide £700,000 to train more building assessors, hopefully speeding up the valuation process for homeowners in cases where an EWS1 form is required by creating 2,000 new assessors within six months.
Joint statement from UK Finance and BSA
“Lenders sympathise with the impact that the safety issues related to cladding are causing some homeowners. Borrowers and lenders have a common interest in ensuring that their flat is a safe place to live. Lenders will rightly support surveyors carrying out whatever steps are needed to provide that assurance where there is doubt or concern about a block’s construction.
“We welcome the announcement of the training and guidance for valuers that will deliver more assessors, and the work to ensure that these assessors have the necessary professional indemnity insurance. In time, this will enable a more proportionate approach which will ensure attention is focused on higher-risk buildings. Lenders’ objective is to ensure the safety of all, whilst enabling a normally functioning market.
“In practical terms, with the exception of a few occasions where they were demanded in error, which have since been rectified, an EWS1 form has never been required for a building without any form of cladding or a combustible wooden balcony.
“However, there are buildings which may look as though they are solid brick built, but are in fact clad with unknown materials behind the brick. We will continue to work with Government and RICS in pursuit of the best solution for customers in relation to these.”