Everything you need to know if you’re struggling to sell your property with flammable cladding.



Combustible cladding continues to impact Britain’s housing sector even four years after the Grenfell Tower disaster in the west of London.

Industry insights indicate that over half a million people in the United Kingdom reside in buildings with dangerous cladding and could potentially affect more indirectly. The effects of cladding extend beyond fire risks as many flats cannot be sold unless cladding receives the safety certification through the EWS1 form.

Cladding is a huge factor when selling a flat, and the following information can assist you:

The cladding crisis

The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 drew attention to the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding that was attached to the building and aided in the fire spread between floors. Following this, the Government promptly tested similar cladding materials to determine fire safety and required samples from landlords of residential buildings over 18 metres for testing.

Cladding and property sale problem

Building owners are responsible for establishing fire safety. However, the mandatory testing of BS8414 is both expensive and time-consuming. According to the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), the test duration can take between twelve and eighteen months and cost approximately £45,000, according to the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA).

The buildings without proof of safety have no value to them; thus, mortgage lenders have the right to refuse to lend on properties within them.

Buildings without ACM cladding

Though the initial focus following the Grenfell tragedy was on the Aluminium Combustible Cladding, the Government issued an Advice Notice for building owners alongside banning combustible cladding in high-rise residential buildings in December 2018. This guidance applies to the whole External Wall System (EWS) and not cladding alone. The external wall system covers all common types of cladding like HPL or wood and includes insulation, balconies, and fire-break systems.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) specifies the cases that require an EWS1 certification. The certification is a requirement even for buildings with no cladding but are at least five storeys tall, built using combustible materials, and have vertically stacked balconies.

The EWS1 form

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors introduced the EWS1 form at the end of 2019. Even though it is not an official government document or a legal requirement, it presents as standard evidence of inspection and approval of a building’s external wall system by a professional surveyor. A mortgage on a flat affected by cladding is likely to be approved by lenders with the EWS1 form.

The form is of two types:

  1. For buildings where the external wall system is made up of materials that are unlikely to support combustion. In this case, the surveyor must also certify the safety of all attachments, such as balconies. The surveyor can select one of the following certifications:
    A1: There are no attachments whose construction includes significant quantities of combustible materials
    A2:  There is an appropriate risk assessment of the attachments confirming that no remedial works are required
    A3: Where neither of the above two options apply, there may be potential costs of remedial works to attachments
  2. For buildings with combustible materials in the external wall, in which case the surveyor has the following options to choose from:
    B1: The fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required
    B2: An adequate standard of safety is not achieved, and corrective measures are required (these are to be detailed separately).

Obtaining an EWS1 and payment

The landlord of the building, or the management/freeholder if the block is run by leaseholders, can obtain the EWS1 form. The cost of the form depends on the building’s size, location, and type. Generally, it costs around ten thousand pounds, and the landlords usually reclaim this from the leaseholders by charging for copies of the form or service.

An EWS1 is valid for five years and applies to the whole building. But some cases where owners have faced problems with lenders as different parts of the building have different postcodes have been reported.

Do only high-rise buildings require EWS1?

When initially introduced, the EWS1 form was meant for only buildings taller than 18 metres. The Government subsequently reviewed its advice to state that the risk assessment and management of external fire spread applies to buildings of all heights. In line with this, the lenders refused to approve loans on properties in several low-rise buildings without an EWS1 being presented, thus increasing the number of buildings in this crisis.

The RICS Guidance states an EWS1 is not required for buildings four storeys and under as long as they do not contain certain materials, an EWS1 is not required for buildings of five and six storeys if less than one-quarter of the building is covered by cladding that is not ACM/HPL/MCM, and an EWS1 is required for most buildings over six storeys with any form of cladding.

Selling a property without an EWS1

A legal requirement to have an EWS1 form does not exist. However, lenders are hesitant to risk lending without one. Marketing a property without an EWS1, transparent about required work, will lean on buyers requiring no mortgage. However, there are fewer cash buyers, so the asking price will be considerably low.

When the EWS1 form shows that action is required

The building does not meet the safety standards if the EWS1 rating is an A3 or B2. The Government has allocated funding to remove cladding from buildings taller than 18 metres and offered the leaseholders of low-rise buildings low-interest loans for cladding remediation.

Renting a property with cladding

EWS1 form is not required to rent out a property. However, the letting agents are legally required to make all information of property materials available to potential clients, so not having an EWS1 must be disclosed when advertising.

EWS1 in Scotland

All nations of the UK use EWS1 forms. However, separate EWS1 for each flat within a building is required in Scotland. In 2021, funding for a Single Building Assessment stating the fire safety evidence for lenders was announced by the Scottish Government to remove the requirement of EWS1 forms. Public funding for remedial works required was announced alongside.

What to do if you’re planning to make a sale

Marketing a property without an EWS1 form is not recommended unless an urgent sale at a hugely reduced price is necessary. In this situation, you may choose to stay put until the EWS1 form is produced.

Renting out the property is possible as well moving out is inevitable. This is achievable with an EWS1. However, the demand for the property will be considerably less as it is deemed unsafe. An EWS1 can take many months to obtain, but that does not stop you from contacting agents to discuss your plans, as information about the sale of similar properties and prices can be obtained from them. In addition, agents could pursue management companies to receive progress on the EWS1 inspections. Talking to agents in advance also enables you to progress quickly once the EWS1 form is secured. Efficient agents inform prospective buyers of your property before EWS1 approval.

Read more on the EWS1 form here.

For information on EWS1, flammable cladding, waking watch, V-Fire common fire alarm system, or building fire safety, get in touch with us today on 0345 88 88 333 or by clicking the button below to email us.