It is hoped the move combined with other initiatives will enable hundreds of thousands of people to buy, sell or remortgage properties having been unable to do so for months or even years.
The EWS1 process was developed by mortgage lenders to help them assess the risk to a building from cladding and other external safety issues.
Changing government advice meant the scope was widened significantly while only 300 assessors are qualified to undertake the review and PII has been incredibly hard for them to obtain.
All of these factors led to hundreds of thousands of homeowners effectively being trapped in their properties.
State-backed indemnity scheme
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced the move alongside its further funding for removing cladding.
It said: “The government is aware that securing appropriate professional indemnity insurance to cover the completion of EWS1 forms is a major barrier to qualified professionals undertaking EWS1 forms.
“The government is therefore committing today to work towards a targeted, state-backed indemnity scheme for qualified professionals unable to obtain professional indemnity insurance for the completion of EWS1 forms.
“The government will work closely with industry to design an appropriate scheme. Further details on the scheme, including eligibility and the claims process, will be provided in the coming weeks.”
A government-funded scheme operated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is already underway with the aim of training an additional 1,200 assessors this year.
And RICS is also consulting on changes to the properties which need to undergo an EWS1 assessment.
It confirmed this guidance note was in the final stage of development, adding that it will support greater consistency among valuers and lender clients for when an EWS1 form is required.
Surety of cover for surveyors
RICS said the lack of affordable professional indemnity insurance (PII) was a very serious problem affecting many professions and it was especially acute for those working in the built environment potentially exposed to fire safety related insurance claims.
“The government’s firm commitment to intervene in the insurance market, through a government-backed PII product is to be welcomed and will, no doubt, increase the number of professionals able to complete external wall assessments, relieving the bottlenecks that currently exist,” said RICS global building standards director Gary Strong.
“It will mean the chartered surveying professionals we are upskilling to complete EWS1 forms, creating additional capacity in the market through the EWS assessment training programme, have surety that they will be able to gain PII.
“This will be welcome news to leaseholders and homebuyers. We will continue to work with all parties to ensure the commitment is delivered on, urgently.”
The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA), which has also been working on the project, called the PII scheme a “very positive development”.
It added: “We will continue to work with MHCLG to help deliver a targeted, state-backed indemnity scheme to address the continuing insurance challenges in this area.”