Seven UK lenders have agreed to foot the bill to see external wall application (EWS1) forms finally uploaded correctly.
The document, designed to verify whether a building is safe or not following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, is used to value properties and allow lenders to lend.
But “unscrupulous individuals” have continued to sign off EWS1 forms fraudulently, and many forms - trade body UK Finance estimates some 6,000 - have not been uploaded onto the Fire Industry Association (FIA) portal, due to the fact a registration fee is charged.
“Many fire professionals who undertake EWS1 assessments have been slow in adding the completed documents to the portal,” UK Finance said in a statement today (12 July).
The £100-£150 fee is believed to have been discouraging engineers from uploading the forms. Currently, a lender has to ask a building owner to secure, and in many cases view, the form - slowing down the process for borrowers looking to buy, remortgage, or borrow against a property.
As a result, Barclays, HSBC UK, Lloyds, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Santander and TSB will now cover the cost of uploading these existing forms, making it easier for lenders to conduct mortgage valuations and determine if a property needs cladding remediation work.
They will be uploaded onto the FIA’s Building Safety Information Portal “over a period of three months”, according to UK Finance.
The banks have also agreed to pay the fees for some 250 fire professionals to register on the portal.
"These forms are vitally important for anyone looking to buy, sell or remortgage homes in a multi-storey building,” said Charles Roe, UK Finance’s mortgages director.
“The financial backing and support of the seven lenders is a positive step to keep the housing market moving for flats and apartments. It will improve transparency and access to building safety information for everyone involved in the home-buying process.”
Earlier this year, the government tried to remedy the shortfall in EWS1 form uploads by investing £700,000 into training 2,000 additional assessors in the first half of 2021.
EWS1 forms were created by UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and RICS back in December 2019 to address the government’s advice note on building safety and cladding which only applied to buildings over 18 metres tall.
Then in January 2020, the government's advice changed to include buildings of any height, causing EWS1 forms to increase in demand.
Tony Hall, head of mortgage sales at Saffron Building Society, explained to FTAdviser: “Applicants often can’t get support from freeholders, because they’re too confused or stuck in the backlog [of other forms]. If you haven’t got that certificate now, it’s a case of how soon you can get one.”