Remortgaging or selling your home in our apartment blocks.

In late 2019, mortgage lenders began asking people applying for mortgages on properties in some apartment blocks to provide independent certification (known as an EWS1 form) that the building meets new government safety standards. This is making it difficult for many homeowners to sell or remortgage their homes.

In most cases, the independent certification cannot be provided based on existing information, and obtaining the required information through intrusive investigations of buildings in order to produce a report to satisfy lender requirements can take a significant amount of time.

In the short-term, at least, many building owners, (including Guinness) are not able to provide the certification that mortgage lenders are asking for within the time frames requested. We understand how upsetting and frustrating this is and would like to apologise to residents affected by this issue.

This guide explains the impact for homeowners of the government’s building safety advice, and what Guinness is doing to try to help.

What is happening?

The government has been making changes to building safety guidance.  A series of advice notes have been issued by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) which are designed to provide guidance on how to ensure properties are constructed and maintained safely.

Advice Note 14 states that all materials used in the construction of external walls should be of limited combustibility (or have passed certain safety tests) and must have been installed and maintained correctly.

In late 2019 mortgage providers began asking for certification for some apartment blocks (by way of a new EWS1 form) confirming that buildings meet the requirements outlined in Advice Note 14..  Lenders did not have these specific requirements at the time the apartment blocks were built, and historically requested copies of a building’s Fire Risk Assessment to provide this assurance.

The information lenders require must be provided on the EWS1 form for buildings over 18 metres in height.  The information must be verified by an expert and cannot be based on architectural drawings.

In order to obtain the EWS1 certification that mortgage lenders require, building owners must now go back and complete safety tests and complex, intrusive inspections – these include opening up multiple walls to check the materials that have been used.

There is a shortage of qualified experts in the industry, which is leading to delays in being able to carry out surveys and investigations of buildings.

The EWS1 form applies to buildings that are over 18 metres in height, although some lenders are requesting EWS1 forms for other buildings.   The government is currently working with lenders to find an appropriate solution to this problem, as many of us – residents and landlords alike – have made them aware of this issue.

What is Guinness doing?

Guinness, alongside many other stakeholders in our industry, has been working with government to try to find practical and workable solutions to this issue.

You can find out more on the National Housing Federations website here.

Given the number of buildings we own, the extent of the new guidance and the lack of qualified experts, we are not able to carry out these complex inspections on all of our buildings at once.  We therefore have to prioritise our buildings based on various factors including their height and build type.  We anticipate that our programme of inspections, testing and remedial works will take several years to deliver.

We want to reassure you that not having the certification does not mean that a building is unsafe. The safety of our residents is our utmost priority and we ensure that we comply with regulatory standards of safety.  Our buildings receive Building Control sign-off at the time they are built and we carry out regular Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) on all our buildings, and implement any recommendations from these.  We continue to provide FRAs as part of the document pack required when buying or selling a home.

What does this mean for you?

If you are considering re-mortgaging or selling your home, you should seek advice directly from your lender or mortgage broker (or your potential purchaser’s lender or mortgage broker) as soon as possible during the process, so you understand whether your lender will require a completed EWS1 form for your building.

This will mean you are able to make a decision as to whether to proceed, before you begin to incur legal and other costs associated with the transaction.

You can also contact the Leasehold Advisory Service . They provide free, independent advice to leaseholders.

If you are a shared owner and want to find out more about selling your home, you can call us on 0303 123 1890 (and select option 4) or visit our selling your home pages