Form EWS1 External Wall Fire Review

5 min read
A Form EWS1 External Wall Fire Review is completed by a RICS surveyor on behalf of the freeholder/management company with the objective of identifying if the materials used in the external walls are combustible on residential blocks of flats. 

The RICS surveyor who undertakes the service must be competent in this type survey. This article is written for SAM Conveyancing clients who are buying and have just found out the flat needs a Form EWS1. 

If you haven't instructed a solicitor yet then get in contact and we can help with this matter as a part of the whole conveyancing transaction. Due to the specialist nature of this survey we do not have any RICS surveyors who can undertake a Form EWS1 survey.

Step 1: Chase the seller to check if their managing agent has a Form EWS1

The issue of whether or not the block of flats has a Form EWS1 External Wall Fire Review normally only arises after the buyer's solicitor receives the buyer's mortgage offer and it states within the surveyor's valuation that a form is required. 

Most likely that the surveyor has seen the block of flats has cladding and they are under a duty to flag this check to the mortgage lender and as such the mortgage lender won't grant a mortgage offer until they have this completed form.

It is the seller's responsibility to provide this document to the buyer's solicitor to satisfy the mortgage lender's enquiry and the form is often sent at the same time the seller receives the Leasehold Information Pack

The form should be provided in full (all 3 pages of it) to the buyer's solicitor and then onto the mortgage lender for their review. If they send just the certificate page then the mortgage lender will reject it. Here is a copy of a blank review.

In cases where the freeholder/managing agents don't have the form then they will need to instruct a surveyor to undertake a survey of the external wall construction and can take 3 to 5 weeks.

Form EWS1 flagged in mortgage valuation

Here is an example of what a mortgage valuation report might state:

Section: Matters for your conveyancer
"Our valuation(s) is / are reported on the basis of 'material valuation uncertainty' as per VPS 3 and VPGA 10 of the RICS Red Book Global. Consequently, less certainty and a higher degree of caution should be attached to our valuation than would normally be the case. We recommend that you keep the valuation of this property under frequent review. Refer to Valuation & Market Comment."

" The external wall system including any cladding and any attachments (if applicable) for the subject block require review. It is necessary to provide a completed EWS1 form to the lender to confirm the status of the external wall system and any applicable attachments. The form must be prepared by a suitably qualified independent professional advisor with the level of expertise described in the notes on the EWS1 form.

The EWS1 form is for the benefit of the Client Organisation it is addressed to only and this means that: - If the information turns out to be incorrect, we are not responsible if you rely on it. We are not responsible for the contents of the form or for any losses which you may incur on relying on the information in it. You cannot claim against us, the valuer or the person who has prepared the form. Your legal adviser must obtain a copy and explain the limitations of this form.

Whilst the lender is flagging this it is also in the buyer's interest to make sure external materials aren't combustible both for their own safety and for the effect it could have on the value of the leasehold property in the future. Following the devastating Grenfell Disaster the value of leaseholds that have combustible external materials is lower than if they weren't. Learn more: Dangerous Cladding - Is your Flat Still Saleable?

What types of leaseholds need a Form EWS1?

  • the highest floor is 18 meters or more
  • the block of flats are residential apartments
  • where specific concerns exist

What happens during the survey?
The surveyor can either undertake a physical inspection or can an inspection of photographic or similar information gathered by a 3rd party (the surveyor must have sufficient confidence in the 3rd party). The review will also include an investigation of the standards of construction of key fire safety installations such as cavity barriers. 

Given the nature of external walls this would typically involve investigations in a limited number of locations (actual number to be determined by the surveyor). The surveyor may also review design drawings, however the Form EWS1 can't be signed by reviewing these alone. If the wall construction includes multiple wall types, the investigation should include each type.

External wall materials are typically insulation, filler materials and cladding.

How long does a Form EWS1 External Wall Fire Review last for?

The form is valid for up to 5 years from the date the RICS surveyor signed it.

Can any surveyor undertake a Form EWS1 survey?

Where the materials are unlikely to be combustible The Building Surveyor would need the expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall and attachments and whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly. However, this would not necessarily include the need for expertise in fire engineering. The signatory should be a member of a relevant professional body within the construction industry.

Where the materials are combustible The Building Surveyor would need expertise in the assessment of the fire risk presented by external wall materials and should be a member of a relevant professional body that deals with fire safety in the built environment. This could be a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Fire Engineers or equivalent.

Due to the specialist nature of this survey we do not have any RICS surveyors who can undertake this work.

Can a mortgage surveyor undertake the survey?

Whilst the surveyor for the mortgage valuation is a member of RICS they wouldn't be able to undertake the review because there may be a conflict of interest, but it is most likely that they don't have the expertise.

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