Private Tower Block Owners Won't Be Forced To Test For Flammable Cladding
Councils and social housing landlords are testing hundreds of buildings for flammable cladding, but for private landlords that testing will be "voluntary".
Private sector owners of high-rise buildings will not be forced to test for cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
While councils across the country are testing social housing tower blocks for the type of combustible material that is believed to have contributed to the speed of the Grenfell blaze's spread, testing in the private sector will be on a "voluntary" basis.
In the House of Commons on Thursday, Theresa May said she had instructed local councils to conduct urgent tests "as a precaution", and some had already found flammable material. Downing Street later said that this involved three buildings so far, while around 600 have been identified as potentially having the cladding.
The prime minister told MPs that private landlords also had a "legal obligation to provide safe buildings. And if they cannot do that, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not expect people to live in unsafe homes". She "encouraged" them to do the same.
This prompted some reaction on Twitter, with people questioning why private landlords would not be required to test for potentially flammable cladding.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed to BuzzFeed News that testing on high-rise social housing blocks owned by local authorities, and by housing associations providing social housing, was compulsory, but that testing on private residential blocks would "not be enforced" and was "voluntary".
The department sent a letter on 20 June to the owners, landlords, and managers of private residential blocks asking them to "consider" checking their buildings for flammable cladding.
It stated that while the government would foot the bill for initial testing of materials, "the cost of any remedial action will be the responsibility of the owner of the building".
"It is important to stress that Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding is not of itself dangerous, but it is important that the right type is used. If you identify that cladding on any of your buildings is made of ACM, then a sample can be tested," it reads.
"These checks [of the housing stock of local authorities] will be relevant to privately owned and managed residential buildings too, so please can you consider carrying out these checks on your buildings."
The cladding on Grenfell Tower, which was made from aluminium and polyethylene, is thought to have contributed to the swift spread of the blaze, though no cause has been confirmed pending an investigation.
BuzzFeed News asked DCLG to provide a statement explaining why private landlords were not being required to conduct the testing, but it had not provided one at the time of writing.