Source: London Assembly
Londoners living in leasehold homes are finding themselves unable to move or remortgage due to the unavailability of obtaining an external wall fire review form (EWS1). EWS1 forms are required to prove that any external wall of a building constitutes a low fire risk.
Through no fault of their own, these Londoners are struggling financially and mentally, with little support to find solutions to this vast and complicated problem
The London Assembly has today called on the Mayor of London to lobby the Government to increase the funds available for remediation works and to plug the loopholes in the schemes, so that all residents who are victims of the cladding and other inadequate fire precautions scandals do not face unaffordable service charge bills and can live safely in their own homes.
Léonie Cooper AM, who proposed the motion said:
“I am fully behind the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign and the demands it has made upon Government to get to grips with the remediation of the thousands of unsafe buildings in our capital. Providing an adequate package of funding is a key part of this.
“With the Government’s failure to properly address the cladding scandal, thousands of Londoners have been left in limbo, unable to move or remortgage because of demands from banks, lenders and estate agents for EWS1 forms.
“On top of this, those trapped in their homes because of these forms are also facing rising insurance premiums and service charges for temporary fire safety precautions.
“Ministers need to urgently step in here and help to speed up the process of obtaining EWS1 documentation by taking measures to boost the number of chartered fire safety inspectors and reducing the cost of their professional indemnity insurance.”
The full text of the motion is:
“The Assembly recognises the increasing distress faced by leaseholders and tenants in buildings where EWS1 forms are being demanded by banks, lenders and estate agents in order to sell an affected property, grant a mortgage or a re-mortgage.
This Assembly welcomes the 10 steps promoted by the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, including robust targets and urgent government action to address the remediation of buildings found to be dangerous. There are currently 430 tall buildings requiring waking watches in London due to fire safety concerns; and the Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee recently heard from the London Fire Brigade Commissioner that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government estimates up to 72,000 buildings in London are potentially at high risk, impacting on many thousands of Londoners.
Estimates by London’s housing associations suggest that the cost of remediation in their properties alone will be £4 billion. Whilst the Assembly welcomes the £1.6 billion provided by Government towards the remediation of dangerous cladding in buildings of all types of tenure across the UK, it is clear that this is nowhere near sufficient to make all affected buildings safe.
This Assembly notes that obtaining EWS1 forms is the duty of freeholders and takes far too long, with estimates running into years because of insufficient numbers of chartered fire safety inspectors nationwide, many of whom are unable to acquire the professional indemnity insurance that would allow them to sign off EWS1 forms.
The demand for EWS1 Forms has also been significantly increased due to the Government’s ill-advised consultation on extending the need for such forms to buildings over 11 metres, not just 18 metres as originally proposed. This has contributed to the backlog of inspections, slowing down the pace of remediation and making many leaseholders ‘mortgage prisoners’, legally obliged to accept escalating service charges for temporary fire precautions and spiralling building insurance costs whilst also facing valuations of zero equity for their properties. This has caused many leaseholders to suffer financial, personal and emotional strain resulting in profound mental health problems.
The Assembly calls on the Mayor to write urgently to the Minister for Building Safety and Communities asking him to intervene urgently to address the crisis facing leaseholders, including ensuring the availability of affordable professional indemnity insurance for fire safety inspectors to enable them to conduct surveys for EWS1 forms; and to act to increase the numbers of inspectors. The Assembly also calls on the Mayor to lobby the Government to increase the funds available for remediation works and to plug the loopholes in the schemes, so that all residents who are victims of the cladding and other inadequate fire precautions scandals do not face unaffordable service charge bills and can live safely in their own homes.”