It’s been over three years since the Grenfell tragedy.
Naturally, it raised concerns over building fire safety, particularly about cladding added for environmental reasons.
Let’s take a look at the cladding scandal and what it means for leaseholders.
The Scale of the Problem
It turns out that 11,300 buildings across the UK have been fitted with cladding that could be a potential fire hazard. This affects around 600,000 people.
The cladding all now needs to be tested. If it’s found to be combustible, it will need to be removed.
This not only poses potential safety risks and fears, but also a financial burden for homeowners.
The scale of the problem is huge, and multi-faceted.
Cladding & Leaseholders
Flats in high-rise buildings are usually leasehold properties. If the cladding fails the inspection and needs removing, the cost will likely fall to the leaseholder – not the freeholder.
While paying for repairs and dealing with unexpected costs is a natural part of being a homeowner, the financial burden is huge!
Unsurprisingly, the threat of living in a potential inferno is taking an enormous toll.
There have even been reports of a building mental health crisis that living in buildings with this cladding is causing people.
‘Walking watches’ can be ordered if a building is deemed unsafe. This means that people walk around a block of flats (all day and night) ready to sound the fire alarm. However, the cost of paying for this also sits with the leaseholders.
In short: the fear is devastating, and a huge burden in many ways.
Another issue is also that the cladding was put up not by the request or fault of the homeowners themselves.
Yet, they’re the ones having to foot a potentially huge bill because their property is unsafe to live in.
While the chancellor previously announced the £1bn ‘Building Safety Fund’ for cladding removal, the government has also said that the cost of removal will be around £3.5bn. This means the fund falls short and many homeowners will be forced to pay.
In fact, the funding only covers 1,700 of the most at-risk buildings, not the further 9,600 that potentially have dangerous cladding.
A number of different housing associations have also announced that due to charity laws, if funding applications are declined, flat owners will be footing the bill.
What is EWS1?
The EWS1 (External Wall Survey) form is designed for fire review, to check that blocks or flats haven’t been built with flammable materials.
It’s recommended for buildings of 18m or over. Only one survey is needed per building.
Why Is It Causing Issues?
Unfortunately, this survey is causing mortgage complications:
- Rules vary lender to lender (e.g. sometimes the form is only needed for flats built before February 2019)
- The survey isn’t mandatory
- It can cause delays and slow things down for homebuyers
- It can lead to mortgages being denied
- It’s being applied unnecessarily to certain buildings
- The survey was only launched in December 2019
It’s not only hopeful homebuyers feeling the frustration caused by the EWS1 form.
It also has left many leaseholders being ‘trapped’, unable to sell or remortgage their properties. Originally the survey wasn’t needed for buildings under 18m. However, the government then changed that, so now it includes buildings of any height. Some lenders are demanding the form for buildings that don’t even have cladding.
The issue is that there’s a limited number of professionals that can carry out the survey, putting the brakes on a certain part of the housing market and leaving leaseholders unable to sell.
The result has been widespread outrage. Roughly 3 million people are effectively trapped. This has led to a petition demanding leaseholders be freed.
It’s evident that the government needs to take action. A fair system needs to be put in place and current rules reviewed.
We’re here to help – we’ll keep you up to date with all the changes and share expert advice from Phil Spencer.
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