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Cladding latest: “Urgent assistance” required for leaseholders

10 November 2021

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, leasehold property owners have been wary of buildings with cladding.

Many leaseholders are faced with a large service charge bill, relating to costs incurred by the freeholder to remedy the cladding and also an interim walking watch throughout the night. This means many are stuck in an unsafe property, facing high fees to remedy the danger and unable to sell the property. In order to sell (to a purchaser with a mortgage) a property which is considered to be at risk (over 18m or with specific risks such as 4 wooden stackable balconies) an EWS1 must be prepared.

An EWS1 will need to be carried out by a qualified professional to confirm the cladding on the building is acceptable. Potentially all buildings will need an EWS1 in time, but currently just those which are considered a risk. An EWS1 is then valid for 5 years. An ‘A’ is a pass with “no combustible materials” whereas ‘B’ requires “remedial works to be carried out” by the building owner.

An ‘A’ is however not enough. The person who completed the form needs to be checked carefully. There have been cases of fraud as desperate property owners are an easy target.

It has also been noted some surveyors’ insurers have been advising surveyors not to carry out work which involves completing EWS1s. Many professional insurers are excluding cover for surveyors in completing an EWS1, and those few competent to complete an EWS1 are become less willing to do so.

These difficulties are causing delays in discovering the safety of a building. In  addition, many freeholders of affected properties are struggling to obtain buildings
insurance. A combination of fraud, lack of insurance and lack of those competent to fill in the EWS1 has meant many leaseholders are stuck in potentially dangerous properties.

It is clear the government’s urgent assistance is required to assist leaseholders stuck in these situations. Therefore, the announcement in July 2021 confirming the government will follow the recommendations of the “independent expert statement on building safety in medium and lower-rise blocks of flats” must be welcome.

Héloïse Brittain deals with a wide range of property matters, particularly in relation to sales and purchases. The varied range of clients she works with include businesses and individuals, both locally and nationally.

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Héloïse Brittain LLB (Hons), FCILEx
Chartered legal executive
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Héloïse Brittain
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