Cladding – a timeline

11/05/21

It’s our mission to “Make Things Easier for You” at Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries. We’re a lender that supports the intermediary market with products, services and technology, but firmly believe we can continue to do more to support brokers and their clients.

A vital part of our mission is broker education. We don’t just want a BDM team that interact with brokers on a purely transactional basis, covering our latest products, criteria changes and how good our service is. We want our BDM’s to be viewed as industry and subject matter experts who can add value to your business and keep you informed on the ever-changing landscape that is the UK mortgage market. If the last 12 months has taught us anything, a good relationship between a BDM and a broker could make the world of difference.

That’s why I took it upon myself to get educated on the cladding issues facing the UK. I attended a UK Finance workshop in Edinburgh in March 2020 (before the first lockdown) and got the most up to date information from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the government, UK Finance and the Chartered Institute of Fire Engineers. Cladding enquiries were growing week on week and the majority of brokers and other industry professionals were unsure why lenders suddenly started asking for fire risk assessments. In my opinion they were left in the dark about the new processes, application journey and what they could and couldn’t do with regards to properties with cladding.

I’ve personally delivered over 20 webinars on this subject to over 3000+ brokers. Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries and I have been at the forefront of leading the industry through this complex topic. We were also quick to adopt the new RICS guidance and updated EWS1 form, well ahead of the suggested 5th April implementation date.

Where it all sadly started - June 2017

I’ll take you back to June 2017, the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, in which a fire started on the fourth floor and rapidly spread through the building, taking 72 lives and leaving 70 injured. The main reason for the spread of the fire was due to the Aluminium Composite Material (referred to as ACM cladding) that was used on the exterior of the Grenfell Tower building. This type of cladding was later found to have no flame-retardant properties and encouraged the spread of the fire. Initially around 450 buildings were thought to have ACM cladding, but it has slowly emerged since 2017 that other forms of cladding, widely used to embellish new buildings are also potentially dangerous. These include some types of timber cladding, Metal Sheet Cladding (MCM) and a product called High-Pressure Laminate (HPL). Due to this, the number of total properties affected is not yet known, but the figures are estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Creation of the EWS1 form - December 2019

UK Finance, RICS, the government, Institute of Fire Engineers and a handful of lenders, met in December 2019. The objective was to create a universal industry wide sign off, to uniform the process for lenders. The External Wall System Fire Review form (EWS1) was created as a result. Up until its inception, lenders were having to trail through full fire risk assessments, which could be lengthy and time consuming for underwriters. This was slowing down mortgage pipelines and customer journeys. The EWS1 form is a short form consisting of a few tick boxes to provide information on whether the building is safe, potentially unsafe or whether it needs remedial work. This information helps lenders make lending decisions in a much more efficient way.

Industry confusion - January 2020

In addition to more forms of cladding being identified as potentially dangerous, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) initial guidance to the government was that only buildings over 18 metres in height would require a fire risk assessment or EWS1 form. In January 2020, MCHLG published a new revised guidance note. This new guidance stated that any building of any height that had potentially dangerous cladding may require an EWS1 form. This brought into scope buildings below 18 meters in height where there were vulnerable residents living within the building. This new guidance went under the radar and was not well publicised.

New RICS Guidance & Updated EWS1 Form - March 2021

Taking you to now, RICS have recently issued new guidance notes on 8 March 2021. At Skipton we fully adopted these new guidelines and the use of the new EWS1 form on 30 March. This new guidance should result in fewer unnecessary requests. The papers provide guidance on identifying materials used for cladding and balconies, and a framework for valuers when considering the need for an EWS1 form. The new guidance differs from the previous guidance in several important areas. One of the main changes is the removal of the 18-metre rule, which is now replaced with a system based primarily on the number of floors a block of flats has.

It’s important to note that other lenders may impose their own rules which differ from the RICS guidance. You can find the full details and scope of the changes on the RICS website.

As mentioned above Skipton have adopted and implemented the new RICS guidance and EWS1 form. In terms of properties we accept when an EWS1 is returned to us, we accept A1, A2 and B1. We decline A3 and B2.

Jonathan Evans

Business Development Manager, Skipton Building Society for Intermediaries

These views are Jonathan’s own, and based on research which he has undertaken on the topic.

All information correct at time of publish.

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