Landlord’s responsibilities for asbestos
Exposure to asbestos can occur anywhere, and while it is only dangerous when disturbed, landlords have a responsibility to ensure their buildings are either free from asbestos or it is correctly monitored and managed.
Asbestos was a common building material in the 60’s and 70’s; many buildings still stand with asbestos in their infrastructure. The material was only banned in the UK in 1999. Under Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 regulations, all landlords have a duty to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos, whether they be industrial, commercial, or public buildings.
“The regulations become interesting when referring to domestic or rental properties,” begins Deborah Foundling, Personal Injury Solicitor in the Industrial Disease team. “For properties that have been converted into flats or purpose built flats for example, the flat itself is not included within the regulations, whilst common areas are, such as the foyer, staircases, outbuildings and garages, to name a few. These would fall under the non-domestic section of the regulations, for which landlords are required to carry out an annual asbestos risk assessment, regularly monitoring the condition of asbestos if it is not removed.”
An asbestos risk assessment is a vital step should landlords consider there to be asbestos in their buildings. Using a suitable specialist, a risk assessment will be able to identify the type and quantity of asbestos, the expected level of exposure, how exposure can be reduced, the decontamination process, as well as how it can be managed or destroyed.
Health and Safety Executive Asbestos checklist
The HSE have provided a useful checklist for landlords in order to protect their tenants. “The first step is to find out if asbestos is present in the building,” explains Deborah. “The HSE advise that any suspicions should be presumed as asbestos until proven otherwise, and urges landlords to only use specialist asbestos companies when identifying the substance.”
Only when these details are ascertained can a decision be made as to the future plans. “This will be determined by the condition of the asbestos in the building,” continues Deborah. “If the asbestos is in a good condition it can be left as long as it is carefully monitored, labelled where possible, and all those who could come into contact with it are notified of the hazard should it be disturbed, for example contractors and tenants. If there is damage then the material should be repaired, again only by specialists, and then monitored with appropriate people alerted. Only if it is in a poor condition or disturbed should it be actively removed by specialists.”
Deborah concludes, “Landlords can be prosecuted by tenants and other people using the building such as visitors or construction workers if they are exposed to asbestos or are at risk of being exposed, so it is in the best interests of all involved for it to be properly monitored and managed. Any company used to assess or remove the asbestos should be HSE registered, and we cannot stress enough the importance of using a registered company to do this, as they alone will know how to monitor, remove and destroy any asbestos safely. Unfortunately cases of mesothelioma, a lung cancer related to exposure to asbestos are on the rise and many people have a responsibility when it comes to reducing the risk of exposure. Landlords need to be aware of the part they have to play.”
If you are a landlord concerned about asbestos in your commercial, industrial, public or rental property, you can find more details on the HSE website. If you have been exposed to asbestos and would like to have your questions answered about mesothelioma, asbestosis or other illnesses that could arise, contact Deborah or one of the team on 0800 91 92 30 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.