Low rise blocks freed from ESW-1 cladding form

July 29th, 2021

Some rare good news for leaseholders caught up in the cladding scandal, although it still remains to be seen if all mortgage lenders will fall into line with the Government’s new stance!

Housing minister Robert Jenrick has announced that, after seeking expert advice, he believes there was no “systemic” fire safety issue in blocks standing less than 18 metres, or around six storeys, tall. This does not mean these buildings are safe from the risk of fire, but evacuating residents from a low building is easier and quicker than from a high rise meaning the risk of death and injury is therefore less.

Jenrick told the House of Commons that he believes low-rise buildings should therefore be exempt from the controversial “external wall survey” testing system, known as the EWS1, which was introduced in 2019 in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy to assess whether a building’s construction was fire safe.

Robert Jenrick said the followings:

The expert advice, which I have published on 21st July 2021 on gov.uk, reaches five recommendations to correct the disproportionate reaction we have seen in some parts of the market:
  • EWS1 forms should not be a requirement on buildings below 18 metres.
  • In the small number of cases where there are known to be concerns these should be addressed primarily through risk management and mitigation.
  • There should be a clear route for residents/leaseholders to challenge costly remediation work and seek assurance that proposals are proportionate and cost effective.
  • Government should work with the shadow Building Safety Regulator to consider how to implement an audit process to check that fire risk assessments are following guidelines, not perpetuating the risk aversion we are witnessing, in some instances, at the present time.
  • Fire risk assessors, and lenders should not presume that there is significant risk to life unless there is evidence to support this. This would ensure that they respond only to the evidence and adopt a far more proportionate and balanced approach.
Having carefully considered these recommendations the government will support and act upon them.
Delivering real change for leaseholders requires a concerted effort from all participants in the market including, government, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), lenders and fire experts, and we have been working intensively with these groups.
As government, we are clear that we support the expert advice and the position that EWS1s should not be needed for buildings less than 18m. This position is a significant step and one supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Institute of Fire Engineers.

Ever since mortgage lenders have been refusing to lend on homes in buildings which have either not had an EWS1 carried out, or have been found lacking. The result is that hundreds of thousands of homeowners have been left in limbo with homes which are unsellable.

The U-turn in policy means that those living in low-rise blocks could have an escape route – although it remains to be seen whether all banks and building societies fall into line. Jenrick said three major lenders – Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds – had already come out in favour of the Government’s new stance and he hoped others would follow suit.

Another key issue – and one which will need to be tested as owners of low rise homes start to try and sell them on – is whether a stigma over the safety of these buildings will have an impact on their value.

The announcement is a rare piece of good news for leaseholders stuck in the cladding fiasco, many of whom have spent the last two years footing hefty bills for emergency fire safety measures and repairs to defective buildings.

I hope this post is useful to you. Please do let me know if you have anything to add, and I will gladly consider it and add to the article if it helps my readers and don’t forget, if you need further advice/assistance or would like to reach out you can find my contact details below. 

Josephine – Your Trusted London Property Partner

Tel    : +44 (0) 7491 430055

email: josephine@josephinedayan.com