23 December 2019

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors RICS) and the Building Societies Association (BSA), including FIA Director Jon Pagan, have pioneered a “cross-industry working group to consider best practice in the reporting and valuation of tall buildings within the secured lending arena, to agree a new standardised process”.

But what does this mean in practise? Essentially, if anyone wants to sell a flat in a residential building over 18m high, they will have to obtain a completed RICS External Wall Safety (EWS) form.

The need for this new consistent valuation service follows the increased scrutiny on the fire safety of external walls, particularly residential buildings that are over 18 meters in height, which currently affects around 11,000 buildings in the United Kingdom.

In recent months mortgage lenders have been insisting that checks are carried out of the fire safety standards of the external walls before they will lend money for a flat purchase. But without any consistent approach on what that review consists of, or who should carry it out, there has been a major blockage in the industry. This new EWS Form should help provide that consistency.

This is an important issue within the industry as it will be used by thousands of valuers, lenders, building owners and fire safety experts when it comes to buying selling or re-mortgaging homes in high risk tower blocks.

It is expected that the new valuation process will help a market that has been hindered in a post-Grenfell world by the difficulties in mortgage approval, valuation and insurance that has come from external walls consisting of potentially combustible material.

The new process includes a service called the ‘External Wall Fire Review’ which requires every building to be assessed by a suitably competent and qualified fire safety expert once every five years. It is hoped that RICS new process will encourage building owners to actively pursue independent testing of external wall materials to speed up the process for both buyers and sellers.

This new process aims to quell ‘concerns over the risk posed by the presence of flammable materials in high-rise residential cladding systems that have led surveyors to value homes at well below their market value, or in some cases at zero’.

John Baguley (Tangible Assets Valuation director at RICS) adds: “to unclog areas of the market, a qualified and experienced fire safety expert will be appointed by the building owner to provide a report on the building’s cladding and associated wall system as an additional part of the valuation process. This will ensure safety and will also ultimately allow the high-rise property market to function properly.”

Whilst this new pragmatic and beneficial process will give hope to those who are living in flats that have been affected by cladding related issues; it must be noted however that carrying out these surveys is a time intensive process and will not solve problems immediately.

To get more information on how RICS new industry wide process will help you, click