As we reported a few weeks ago, people who own flats in high rise tower blocks have been experiencing great difficulty when trying to sell because of the strict post-Grenfell Tower rules surrounding external cladding.
These rules meant that any high rise flat which hadn’t had its cladding recently checked and confirmed as completely safe via an EWS1 external wall safety certificate, was essentially worthless.
Without the certificate (which requires a full survey to be conducted), mortgage providers have been refusing to lend to anybody who wants to buy potentially dangerous properties which means the current owners are unable to sell.
This problem was intensified in January when the government announced that an EWS1 would be also required for more types of property, not just high rises with dangerous cladding.
Today, however, it seems the government is softening its rules in order to try and help as many owners as possible escape this state of uncertainty. Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, says that properties which don’t have any external cladding will no longer need an EWS1 certificate.
“Through no fault of their own,” Jenrick said, “some flat owners have been unable to sell or remortgage their homes, and this cannot be allowed to continue.”
It is expected that this softening of the rules will help about 450,000 homeowners escape their state of so-called ‘limbo’, a state which has been caused, in part, by the fact that there are only around 300 qualified surveyors to carry out the EWS1 checks for hundreds of thousands of properties. The backlog, it seems, has become unacceptable for this government.
The industry still has worries
It’s all well and good for the government to decide that the rules can be relaxed, but mortgage providers have said that they “did not consent” to the announcement of the changes. It remains to be seen whether or not they loosen their requirements to align with those of the government.
Chartered Surveyors, too, have responded with caution. According to the BBC, Chief Executive of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Sean Tompkins, said that the organisation “would still need to review the government advice before deciding what guidance to issue to surveyors”, but did also acknowledge that an “acute market shortage of fire engineers” was causing a backlog.
To remedy this shortage, Jenrick has also announced that the government will pay for 2,000 more assessors to be trained in the next six months, but this, too, has been met with industry scepticism:
“Do they think they can just give these people a two-day training course for £350?” said Adrian Buckmaster, Director of Tetraclad. It’s a rhetorical question, but I think we can all guess what he’s implying the answer is.
Do these new rules come as good news to you? Or do you think the government is taking dangerous risks in the name of getting the economy moving? Let us know in the comments section below.