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Valuation and home survey processes were previously insufficient to establish whether or not external cladding on high-rise buildings [over 18 m height] contains combustible material and therefore would facilitate the spread of fire. Following the Grenfell tragedy and subsequent MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] guidance, RICS [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors] along with UKF [UK Finance] and BSA [Building Societies Association] developed so-called EWS-1 forms as a means of enabling competent fire experts to assess whether these buildings are fire-safe and if not, to identify that remedial work needs to be carried out.
The provision of EWS-1 forms has proved successful in creating a clear and consistent means by which the market understands the documentation required to support the buying, selling or re-mortgaging of properties in high rise buildings. While the EWS-1 form has been downloaded from the RICS website over 8,000 times, there remain some key issues to be resolved in order to create a fully reliable and accessible process for the upload and retrieval of these forms.
The FIA has stepped in to meet this requirement. In consultation with MHCLG and in collaboration with RICS and other stakeholders including lenders and insurers, it has developed a unique portal that will provide a central readily-accessible location for EWS-1 forms and, for the first time, the ability for Fire Engineers to complete the forms on-line.
This meets an increasingly urgent need for property sellers and buyers, insurers and mortgage lenders to easily access for free and in one specific location the information they need in order for transactions involving properties in high rise buildings to proceed as normal post-Grenfell as well as identifying any remedial actions that must be taken on these buildings in respect of external cladding.
Of especial importance is the need to prevent fraudulent activity relating to EWS-1 forms which regrettably has been identified in the market and which can place lives at risk. A rigorous approach has been applied to the portal to include manual checks at various stages of the process. Each Fire Engineer wishing to submit forms must present evidence that they are fully qualified and competent to do so and this is interrogated prior to enabling their forms to be submitted to the portal. In addition, all existing forms and on-line submissions are subject to further checks to determine their validity before they appear as publicly-available documents. In this way, we would expect to eliminate the problem of fraudulent EWS-1 forms appearing in the market.
The FIA is fully-funding the building of this portal and has employed software specialists to create an effective, efficient and user-friendly web site that has been approved by the RICS Forum. Registration and uploading of EWS1 forms will cost a small fee to cover the validating work involved, but access to them by the public will be free. The web site is currently in an advanced stage of development and is expected to be fully functional as a public service by mid-November.
The FIA is the largest fire protection trade association in Europe with over 900 members, a not-for-profit organisation that is a major provider of fire safety training. Its objective is to promote, improve and perfect fire protection methods, devices, services and apparatus and achieves this through the representation of its members and providing technical support, guidance and opportunities for professional advancement through education and appropriate regulation. It promotes and shapes legislation and the professional standards of the fire industry through close liaison with government and official bodies as well as other key stakeholders and also provides funding for research projects in line with its principal objectives.
For further information on the portal, please write to us at [email protected]