New government agreement to support leaseholders

Leaseholders in blocks of flats with cladding should be supported to buy, sell or re-mortgage their homes after the government agreed with major lenders to pave the way to ending the need for EWS1 forms.

The announcement by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick follows expert advice that the forms should no longer be needed on buildings below 18 metres. The intervention is designed to reduce needless and costly remediation in lower rise buildings and is part of wider efforts to restore balance to the market, helping flat owners to buy, sell or re-mortgage homes.

The report recommends that residents are reassured as to safety, and a more proportionate approach is urgently instituted, requiring action by all market participants.

A group of major high street lenders has committed to review their practices following the new advice; HSBC UK, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and others have said that the expert report and government statement paves the way for EWS1 forms to no longer be required for buildings below 18 metres and will help further unlock the housing market.

The advice states that fire risks should be managed wherever possible through measures such as alarm systems or sprinklers, and that the overwhelming majority of medium and low- rise buildings (those under 18m) with cladding should not require expensive remediation.

Jenrick said: “Today’s announcement is a significant step forward for leaseholders in medium and lower-rise buildings who have faced difficulty in selling, anxiety at the potential cost of remediation and concern at the safety of their homes. While we are strengthening the overall regulatory system, leaseholders cannot remain stuck in homes they cannot sell because of excessive industry caution, nor should they feel that they are living in homes that are unsafe, when the evidence demonstrates otherwise.

“That’s why I commissioned an expert group to further examine the issue, and have already agreed with many major lenders that lower-rise buildings will no longer need an EWS1 form, and the presumption should be that these homes can be bought and sold as normal. We hope that this intervention will help restore balance to the market and provide reassurance for existing and aspiring homeowners alike. The government has made its position very clear and I urge the rest of the market to show leadership and endorse this propionate, evidence based, safety approach.”

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