UK Banks Agree Deal with the Government to Ease Property Sales

Trapped leaseholders will be able to see their property after the Government announced that they are loosening restrictions. The UK Government has announced that any building under 18 metres tall would not require the EWS1 fire safety form and should be presumed safe by fire risk assessors and mortgage lenders, meaning that fewer flat buyers will face pre-mortgage cladding checks.

Hundreds of thousands of UK leaseholders trapped in flats because of the building safety crisis may soon be able to sell their property, after the UK Government struck a deal with leading high street banks, allowing them to lend again.

The changes are the latest attempt to tackle what housing secretary Robert Jenrick described as “a market failure” triggered by the fire at Grenfell tower in 2017 in which 72 people had passed away.

Since the incident, hundreds of thousands of properties have become unsellable due to the safety fears it had triggered. To ease the strain on the market, Jenrick announced that any building under 18 metres tall would not require the “EWS1” fire safety form and should be presumed safe by fire risk assessors and mortgage lenders.

What does this mean?

This effectively reverses Government guidance from January last year that stated “buildings of any height” should be assessed for fire risks – A change that unintentionally expanded the scope of the crisis to include around 840,000 flats according to Government statistics.

Since the guidance was published, which will now be withdrawn, many lenders have been reluctant to offer mortgages against any flat that could be considered unsafe, irrespective of the height.

Ministers have been desperately trying to thaw the market and this month Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other key Number 10 personnel met with executives at the UK’s leading lenders to discuss how they might resume lending to affected flats and to take “a more proportionate” approach to risk.

Three of the UK’s largest lenders including HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays welcomed the intervention and said that they expect to abandon the requirement for EWS1 forms on blocks below 18m. Lloyds added that they expect the move to “help further unlock the housing market.”

Jenrick stated that the announcement was a significant step forward for leaseholders in medium and lower-rise properties who have faced difficulty in selling, anxiety at the potential cost of remediation and fear for the safety of their homes. He added by saying that leaseholders cannot remain stuck in properties they cannot sell because of excessive industry caution.

Some leaseholders have even been forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds for temporary safety measures including ‘waking watches’ who patrol at-risk blocks for 24 hours a day, while they await confirmation of the safety of their buildings.

The intervention is unlikely to satisfy building safety campaigners and leaseholders who argue that fire safety should be paramount even if the danger is relatively low.

Chris Birds, Partner at Boxall Brown & Jones commented “we eagerly welcome the recent announcement from the Government. However, the safety of residents must always remain number one priority.”

At Boxall Brown & Jones, we let and sell a variety of properties in the Derbyshire area. If you are interested in our services, please use our property search tool on the website or give us a call on 01332 383838.

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