High rise building London

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has condemned the practice of unqualified people completing EWS1 fire safety forms.  The form, which was introduced in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is intended to inform mortgage lenders whether external cladding on high rise residential buildings meets safety standards.

The form was introduced by RICS, the Building Societies Association (BSA) and UK Finance in 2019 in an attempt to help mortgage providers make lending decisions on flats in buildings over 18 meters tall.  It has since become controversial, with some insurers declining to provide cover for completion of such forms unless the reviewer was involved in the original project. This is because correctly identifying the position can be difficult without extensive opening up, and for fear of costly negligence claims in the event that the position certified is shown to be incorrect.

RICS says that the form must be completed by a fully qualified member of a relevant professional body in the construction industry, and with sufficient expertise to identify the materials used in the cladding and to know whether fire resisting cavity barriers have been installed correctly.

With a shortage of suitable people willing to complete the EWS1 form, RICS says it has been made aware that unqualified people may be signing off the forms.  “UK banks and building societies have robust measures in place to protect people against fraud, which would pick up any EWS1 form that is suspicious, but we encourage everyone to check the signatory on a form with the profession’s institution,” said RICS in a statement.

In Parliament, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) urged the government to step in and put a faster and fairer system in place. It branded the mortgage industry’s cladding form as ‘slow and expensive’. The committee says that some residents have become trapped on expensive standard variable rate mortgages as the slow process prevents them from shopping around for a cheaper deal.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions, said “The EWS1 issues are causing delays and frustration, and it is understandable that people are looking for ways move themselves forward. Obtaining EWS1 forms by any means necessary is not going to help the situation long term however, and is only adding another layer of problems.

RICS has published its statement on its website.  Commentary about the issue has been published by Housing Today, Fire Protection Association and FT Adviser.

Brunel provides a wide range of Professional Indemnity Insurance broking services to property professionals.  Click here to find out more, or call Mark Sommariva on 0203 475 3275.