Back in July, the government announced that it wanted RICS to drop its requirement for EWS1 forms to be checked for buildings under 18 metres in height. At the time, Robert Jenrick ‒ the then-housing secretary ‒ said that agreements had already been made with large lenders that lower-rise buildings would no longer need the form, and so could be bought and sold as normal.
However, RICS has now announced that it is opting to retain its current guidance, which it claims it is doing with the full backing of the industry, arguing that doing so safeguards future buyers of properties in blocks with cladding.
Dame Janet Paraskeva, chair of the board at RICS, emphasised that the trade body’s role is to “safeguard the public interest” and so it had felt that the guidance needed to stay in place. She continued: “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.”
Paraskeva added that the RICS board had listened to the views of lenders, valuers and conveyancers in coming to this decision, adding: “RICS must not let this critical issue be swept under the carpet because the correct inspections have not taken place.”
RICS called on the government to “be bold” in setting out a new strategy for tackling the cladding issue, noting that with an estimated 77,500 medium rise residential blocks in England of between 11 metres and 18 metres, the cost of fixing fire safety defects is expected to total £15bn.
This call was echoed by the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign group, who noted that there was insufficient evidence that buildings of this size were inherently safe despite the “bluff and bluster” from the government on the issue.
In a statement, it added: “Valuers, lenders and insurers cannot ignore this risk, homeowners in these buildings cannot escape this risk, and the government must stop hiding from the true scale of this crisis.”