Cladding systems and the latest legislation
Cladding legislation updates
The issue of unsafe cladding on residential properties was back in the headlines recently as the Government announced its latest plan to tackle the problem. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick unveiled a five-point plan to protect homeowners from the cost of replacing unsafe cladding on their homes.
The £5bn investment in building safety will see the Government fully fund the replacement of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings of 18 metres (six storeys) and over in England. This funding will be targeted at the highest risk buildings. Owners of properties in lower-rise buildings, with lower safety risks, will also gain new protection from the cost of cladding removal. A new long-term, low-interest Government-backed loan scheme will cover the cost, where needed, for buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall.
And a new tax will also be introduced on the UK residential property development sector, which is hoped will raise more than £2bn over the next ten years to pay for cladding remediation costs. The measures are intended to provide security and reassurance to leaseholders.
What is cladding?
Cladding is a material used to insulate the exterior of buildings, protect them from weather and improve their appearance. For residential properties, it is most commonly used on high-rise buildings such as blocks of flats or apartments. The Grenfell Tower fire, in 2017, brought the issue of cladding and fire safety into sharp public focus when it emerged that despite its building regulations being signed off, the building’s cladding was unsafe. Investigations have since revealed that the building’s combustible plastic cladding increased the risk of the fire spreading.
On the back of the tragic event, which claimed 72 lives, a public inquiry was set up to investigate the circumstances that caused the fire. Since then, several updates to rules and legislation surrounding the use of cladding in residential buildings have been brought forward by the Government.
What are the latest cladding rules and how do they affect me?
In December 2019, the Government introduced a new compliance scheme to tighten up existing building regulations around the use of cladding. Under the scheme, the owners of all residential buildings taller than 18m require an External Wall System 1 (EWS1) form that either confirms that there are no combustible materials, or recommends that remedial works be carried out on buildings with cladding.
EWS1 forms must be completed and signed by a fully-qualified member of a relevant professional construction trade body, such as RICS, and have sufficient expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall cladding, and the risks they pose. They remain valid for five years and cover the whole building.
Some residential buildings smaller 18 metres may also require and EWS1 form if the type of occupation significantly increases the risk to life in the event of a fire. Although an EWS1 form enables building owners to demonstrate to valuers or lenders that the external cladding has been assessed by an expert, concerns have been raised about a shortage of experts qualified to carry out such assessments.
As yet, EWS1 assessments are not mandatory, so not all mortgage lenders have made having a valid EWS1 a requirement. However, there is a concern that some lenders are reluctant to lend on affected properties, even if they have an EWS1 form. This has made getting a mortgage for high-rise properties more of a challenge.
And if there is cladding present in the building that doesn’t meet the requirements of EWS1, it could significantly impact its value. Meanwhile, if you are trying to sell or remortgage a property within a building with unsafe cladding, it may affect its saleability or value. As the trade body for professional property surveyors in the UK, RICS has produced an informative Q+A about the issue and how this might affect buyers and sellers. You can check it out here.
Do I need a survey for a property with external cladding?
If you’re looking to buy a property with external cladding, then getting a survey from a RICS regulated surveyor is advisable. We won’t survey the cladding itself, as that’s for a specialist to undertake. However, a survey can uncover if there is a risk, whether further investigation is needed and if you will require an EWS1 form. And because RICS is the professional body that represents the surveying industry, RICS valuations are the only valuations accepted by lenders.
Let us help
At GB Home Surveys, we offer a different approach to getting a home survey. Our service is thorough, convenient and hassle-free. It will provide you with all the information you need to make the right choices. We’re an independent, RICS regulated chartered surveyors and have been providing trusted services for almost 30 years. All our surveyors are RICS registered valuers and have vast local expertise and specialist knowledge, so you can be sure you’re getting the best advice to help you buy or sell with confidence.
We can provide tailored reports for homeowners or leaseholders of properties with potential cladding issues to ensure you get the best advice and an accurate value of your property so that you can take your next steps with confidence. For a free initial consultation and a no-obligation quote, give our friendly team a call today to discuss your requirements.