A leading property solicitor has warned that the industry must put pressure on lenders to take a more reasonable approach to ESW1 certificates, the controversial certification framework brought in during the post-Grenfell cladding crisis.
Susanna Caulfield is a senior associate in the Real Estate Group at Rosling King LLp. She says the government's External Wall Survey (EWS1) certificates, backed by RICS, were introduced with good intentions to help lenders value properties if fire risks were identified or compliance with government guidance could not be proved. These initially applied just to those with problem cladding over 18 meters tall, although those under this height were later brought into scope. But ESW1 forms have "subsequently became a source of greater confusion, with flat owners from any high rise finding themselves at risk", she says.
Last month RICS issued new, narrower guidance aimed at significantly reducing the number of buildings that require the controversial form.
"While there is now more clarity as to what the guidelines are for buildings of various sizes, the guidance is not statutory, and banks can decide for themselves whether or not to adopt it," says Caulfield. "UK lenders are being urged to support the guidance and work with their valuation providers to implement them in order to reduce the number of unnecessary requests for EWS1 forms. The guidelines provide a clear criterion for valuers to follow but there are many examples of lenders requiring EWS1 forms for buildings not included by the RICS guidance.