The horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire have highlighted multiple problematic issues and practices in the context of social housing but this paper shines a spotlight on the impact for private blocks of flats, many of which have also been found to have combustible cladding systems. Focusing on blocks that are owned and managed independently of leaseholders, the paper illustrates the inadequacy of legal and financing tools to address the urgent responses needed to make buildings safe again. In line with other scholarly works on multi-owned housing this study exposes the conflict and power imbalance between key stakeholders.
These issues are explored through themes of ‘risk’, ‘location’ and ‘tipping points’. Risk explores where the possibility of loss and injury lies if nothing is done: not only in relation to the obvious risk of physical harm in the event of fire, but other consequential risks for the key stakeholders. Drawing on the various legal and financing possibilities the idea of location looks at: locating the sources of responsibility for action and the power to act; locating information and the seat of decision-making; and locating the responsibility for funding action. Finally, the paper speculates on what conditions may be necessary to tip private blocks from inaction to action.