The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has rejected the government’s advice that EWS1 forms should be scrapped for buildings below 18m.
In July this year, then housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that EWS1 forms, which had been asked for by mortgage lenders to prove that external walls were fire-safe in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, should no longer be requested from leaseholders trying to sell flats in blocks below 18m.
However, RICS today said it has “pinned its colours to the mast in the public interest with its guidance to valuers on cladding” by going against the government’s decision and recommending that EWS1 forms should still be used for buildings below 18m.
“The current approach to requesting EWS1 is considered proportionate in light of the known and evidenced safety risks,” the institution said.
It added that EWS1 forms are being requested on “less than 6% of multi-storey, multi-occupancy properties” and argued the process is working as a means to identify issues, with 66% of EWS1 forms on buildings between 11m and 18m suggesting the buildings require remediation.
RICS has made the move in light of the anticipated withdrawal of the 2020 Consolidated Advice Note.
The chair of RICS standards and regulations board, Dame Janet Paraskeva, said: “Our role within RICS is to safeguard the public interest and the board decided that, to do this, guidance needs to stay in place at this time. This is so that purchasers do not risk finding themselves trapped in flats of any height because potentially crippling costs are ignored and passed unwittingly on to them, which so many current owners have discovered too late.”
The move has come under fire from the government. Stephen Greenhalgh, minister for building safety, leasehold and resilience and emergencies at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said on Twitter: “Hugely disappointed to learn that RICS will not follow the advice of the government’s expert panel led by Dame Judith Hackitt. Not sure if this decision is more to do with their professional self-interest rather than the public interest frankly.”
RICS is also calling for the new secretary of state to “provide a substantial funding solution for all buildings affected by dangerous cladding”, with the remediation of fire safety defects in buildings estimated at £15bn.