Another scandal of potentially epic proportions is unfolding around dangerous cladding. This time leaseholders are being targetted with fake EWS1 forms.
As if the problem of proving that buildings are safe isn’t already serious enough, now fake External Wall System or EWS1 forms are being used by scammers, misleading residents, and their mortgage companies over whether or not residential blocks are clad in dangerous materials. According to Which? in a report published on 26 August, “Leaseholders are being duped into paying thousands of pounds to fraudsters faking inspection forms amid concerns over fire safety”.
This is extremely serious. It has major implications for flat owners and their property managers and for mortgage and insurance companies who are at risk of acting upon false information. Leaseholders’ mortgages and insurance policies could be voided if their forms are found to have been faked – to say nothing of flat owners being fleeced for the expense of forms that are worth nothing and for surveys that haven’t been carried out.
The consumer watchdog says it has evidence that at least one firm has issued fake EWS1 forms to a number of blocks across the country. Which? claims the forged forms (that are used to confirm whether a building contains materials that carry an increased fire risk) may also have been used to contract out thousands of pounds worth of remediation work. The report alleges that scammers have forged the names and signatures of qualified surveyors to pass and fail buildings. “Some forms we’ve seen have been signed off by surveyors who simply don’t exist,” says Which? In another case, “cladding technicians without the necessary qualifications” have also apparently signed off EWS1 forms.
Which? thinks these fake forms could be used “to tender millions of pounds worth of construction work and fire safety measures to linked companies with vested interests”.
If true, this is a major problem for leaseholders. Many residents around the country are in the process of trying to sell flats in blocks that are potentially at-risk. They need these forms to be signed off in order to prove the safety of their buildings. If they are being falsified, then the whole process of finding, funding and remediating blocks with dangerous external wall systems could be put at risk. Leaseholders have suffered enough pain during this process, without adding insult to injury.
Leaseholders are already the blameless victims of the cladding crisis. Property managers should be aware of the dangers posed by falsified documents and must be extremely vigilant. They are at the sharp end of the EWS1 process and very high standards of due diligence will be needed to check that cladding specialists are who they say they are.
Read the full Which? report here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/08/scammers-hijack-ews1-process-with-fake-cladding-inspection-forms/