Reviewers receive more clarity on exterior wall reviews

As mentioned in our previous article, December 2019 saw the launch of a new form, the EWS1, (Exterior Wall System Form 1) to assist in the property valuation process in residential buildings. The primary purpose of the form remains to simplify the process of determining whether work is required on a property in a multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential building, and how the work may affect the value of a property. property.

context

Lenders still require EWS1 forms for new mortgages and mortgages. Difficulties in obtaining these forms, coupled with general ambiguity as to when they should be used, created problems for EWS1 to initially achieve its purpose. January 2020 ushered in an overhaul among key stakeholders of the approach to using SAP1, when the MHCLG (as it then was) produced a guidance note which increased uncertainty about the scope of buildings requiring a fire risk assessment which could give rise to the need for repair work which could, in turn, have an impact on value. RICS followed in March 2021 with its own guidance note with the aim of “unlocking” the market and providing much-needed clarification on scope. Since the entry into force of the EWS1 form in 2019, several revisions have been made to the content of the form itself and today, 16 March 2022, RICS published an updated version of the form.

The form has been carefully reviewed by key stakeholders, after listening to market feedback and in consultation with DLUHC. The revisions were made with optimal usability in mind. We detail a summary of the main changes to the form below:

Facilitate

  • An electronic option is now available for increased accessibility.
  • On page 3, note 3, the signature options have been separated, for convenience.
  • On page 4, in notes 4 and 8, there are new references to the recently published BSI PAS 9980, for a streamlined approach to benchmarking.
  • At the top of page 3, where reference is made to ‘date’, the words ‘form’ have been added alongside, for ease of referencing and clarity.
  • On page 4, note 10, the new wording of “Form Date” rather than “Date” is also included.

Clarified objectives

The objective has been simplified with the words “for the likelihood of a proportionate remedy to address the risk of fire,” added to page 1, paragraph 1. This sends a stronger message to what the form aims to address.

On page 1, paragraph 2 of the objective, the words at the end of the paragraph, “An independent opinion on the fire risk assessment of the whole building should always be obtained” were removed, to address concerns that the form was perceived to impose potentially unnecessary fire hazard assessments.

On page 2, at the wording regarding ‘B2’, the second half of the sentence – “and I have indicated to the client organization the required corrective and interim measures (documented separately)”, has been deleted and the remaining wording is consistent with that of B1.

On page 2, reference A3 to note 7 has been changed to refer to ‘(Notes 7 and 8).’ This is to further highlight BSI PAS 9980 as a new benchmark for the definition and assessment of fire hazards.

On page 2, reference B1 to ‘(Notes 7 and 8)’ has been amended, removing references to Note 7, and now only refers to ‘(Note 8).’ This is to remove any potential ambiguity where B1 refers to “no repair work is required” and Note 7 refers to “any interim measures that may be required”. The initial references may have caused confusion.

On page 3, note 3, with respect to signatories, there is additional explanation that relates to the topic of clarifying objectives and scope:

a. For non-IFE members, the word “fully” before “qualified” has been removed.

b. The words “and construction products, including EWS” have been inserted between ‘fire safety’ and ‘in the built environment’.

vs. The wording “For buildings where the finished ground level of the top floor of the building (excluding floors consisting exclusively of technical rooms) is less than 18 m above the lowest adjacent ground level, if not is not qualified under sub-clauses i or ii above, the signatory must be a qualified member of an eligible professional body who has successfully completed the RICS EWS valuation training programme. Added as new sub-note (iii). This insertion goes a long way to clarifying the scope. The reference to the new RICS EWS valuation training is particularly important as it helps to clarify who is qualified to complete the forms, an issue that has already been discussed.

  • On page 4, note 4, in addition to the reference to BSI PAS 9980, wording relating to investigation, “which allows for the possibility of mitigation as an acceptable investigation outcome” has been added. This indicates that the adoption of mitigation measures could also be the result of an investigation, rather than undertaking work on the building.
  • On page 4, note 7, with respect to the obligations of the signatory, there is further clarification on the scope. The additional requirement to “identify any necessary interim measures” was added at the end.

Version control and document management

In the footer of each page, the following has been inserted:

a) Document reference (for internal company reference to aid in version control)

b) EWS1 forms issued before this date using the previous edition remain valid for a period of five years from the date of signature.

c) Date of issue (March 16, 2022).

  • On page 3, under “Date of form”, the following statement has been inserted: “If this is a revision to your or your company’s previous form for this building, please indicate below. Attention, if the form is intended to be revised only for administrative reasons (for example, an error of postcode on the building or a reissue of the form to another client), the ‘Date of the form’ remains valid. If, however, the justification for the revision of the form is attributable to a change in rating due to the performance of work, the “Date of the form” must be modified”. Below this text is a new two-column table, titled ‘Form date’ and ‘Grade provided (A1, A2, A3 or B1, B2)’
  • These additions help solve all issues related to versioning and record keeping. To reinforce the validity of previous forms, the wording at the end of the page in this latest version further states: “EWS1 forms issued before this date using the previous edition remain valid for a period of five years from the date of signature.”

Look forward

As noted in our previous article, the RPC has been involved from the start alongside RICS in prioritizing appropriate draft terms and conditions for those carrying out EWS1 assessments. These latest revisions to the form aim to better protect and assist those who use the plan. Due to the increased risk profile of investigators completing the form itself, there is a new required RICS assessment referenced. Considerable progress has also been made on disclaimers to cover professionals, so the use of the new EWS1 form is now part of a vastly overhauled and improved system. Pending the entry into force of the new fire safety assessment regime set out in the amended (fire safety) regulatory order, the EWS1 should prove to be a welcome interim solution for assessing multi-storey buildings.

Shirlene J. Manley