Private landlords of tower blocks not being forced to carry out fire safety checks on cladding

Government 'expects' owners to participate in testing – but no penalty for not doing so

Harriet Agerholm
Friday 23 June 2017 17:50
The Department for Communities and Local Government has told councils to identify private buildings fitted with cladding
The Department for Communities and Local Government has told councils to identify private buildings fitted with cladding

The Government will not force private landlords of high-rise buildings to fire-test them, even if they are fitted with similar cladding to Grenfell Tower, Downing Street has said.

Instead, No 10. said it “expected” private landlords to voluntarily use the testing facility that is being used by council or housing association blocks.

It added that the government expects private landlords to be "responsible" and councils to relay what is expected of them.

Theresa May announced earlier this week that urgent testing would be carried out to see how many buildings could be at risk following the devastating blaze in north Kensington that killed at least 79 people.

The fire was started by a Hotpoint fridge-freezer, which spread to the building's "combustible" cladding, investigators found.

A total of 600 council blocks have been fitted with cladding that needs to undergo laboratory checks to determine if it is safe.

As a result thousands remain unsure if their homes are secure.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has told councils to also identify private buildings fitted with cladding and private landlords have been urged to send samples to the Government's testing facility.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "DCLG have spoken to local authorities about private sector residential blocks. The testing facility is available to them. We expect many of them to use it.

"We are encouraging local authorities right now to make sure that private landlords are made aware that is what we want them to do."

They did not say whether there would be a penalty for landlords if they did not have their buildings tested.

An estimate of how many private residences could be affected was not provided.

To date, 14 high-rise buildings in nine local authorities had failed the tests.

Residents of five blocks on an estate in Camden were the first to be told the cladding on their buildings would be removed, since it was "not to the standard" ordered by the council.

Detectives are considering manslaughter charges as part of the probe into the Grenfell Tower fire, the Scotland Yard has said.

Documents and materials had been seized from a "number of organisations", said Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said

She said: "We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards. We are looking at every health and safety and fire safety offences and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower."

More than 150 homes were destroyed in the fire, including 129 in the tower itself and 22 from nearby Grenfell Walk, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said.

A council spokesman said: "363 households have been placed in hotel accommodation in or as near to the Royal Borough as possible, 213 households of which are from the cordon area which surrounds the Tower and Walk.

"No one has been housed outside London, Royal Borough officers are working with families to identify suitable accommodation so they can move as quickly as possible from hotels."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the police "must be allowed to make that judgment and make that consideration" of corporate manslaughter, given the tragedy could have been prevented.

He added: "If there is a death as a result of negligence by a company or by the public or by the administration, then there is a process of corporate manslaughter."

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