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Asbestos: Legally binding duties for property owners

Asbestos Regulations:
Asbestos regulations were last updated back in 2012 to bring the UK in line with EU asbestos regualtions. Abestos regualtions were established due to increasing amounts of research and evidence that illustrated the harmful and damaging effects that this natural mineral can cause on the body. Reports show that annually over 5000 people die from asbestos-related diseases in the UK alone.

Landlords of both residential and commercial properties have been dealing with the problem of tackling asbestos for years, and although legislation around asbestos is amply accessible, the fact that application is very much dependent on the terms within tenancy agreements can often bring confusion when trying to decipher who is responsible in different situations. This article has been produced to address some common scenarios around asbestos removal but also to address some of the legal consequences landlords face should they fail to fulfil their duty of managing asbestos risk.

Please note that the duty of managing asbestos does not necessarily mean you must remove all asbestos from your property. This is because it is often the case that asbestos present within the property will be in good condition and as such should instead be enclosed as in some instance’s removal can pose a further risk. Your risk assessment or asbestos survey (both services we offer here at Ensafe) should not only highlight the material within your building but also outline its condition which will then determine the best course of action for management.

Responsibility For Residential Properties:

Responsibility for asbestos in residential properties is partially dependent on the agreement made with the tenant within the property. For the majority of cases, your duty as a landlord will require you to carry out risk assessments before any work is done. However, if you do identify asbestos within the property, you are required as the landlord to take the right actions to manage the material before occupying the property with tenants. Responsibility also falls partly on the tenants as legislation states they have a duty to help you monitor asbestos in areas that would be considered private units (bedrooms, bathrooms, storage rooms). This means that if asbestos within these areas is damaged and the tenant fails to notify you, but attempts to claim, their case would be void.

It is your responsibility as a landlord to monitor and maintain hallways, entrances & exits, stairways, and any other area with your property that would not be considered a private unit. As part of your duty, you must conduct the necessary risk assessments for these areas and undertake regular maintenance as well as informing anyone working within the property of the asbestos present on site. Failure to do so can result in action from local authorities or those present within the property via a negligence claim.

Responsibilities For Commercial Properties:

Asbestos in northern regions within the UK such as the Northeast, Northwest, and Scotland has for years been a problem due to the old age and former uses of most buildings within these parts of the country.

Much like the liability terms for residential properties, the duty holder for commercial property is dependent again on the terms of building occupancy. With commercial property, the odds of asbestos being in poor condition or damaged are increased due to factors such as age, renovations, and the changing uses of the building. As a result of this, records of the asbestos location, condition, and the passing on of this information to other/future commercial tenants hold increased importance.

As a landlord, it is imperative to fulfil your duty to manage any risk before the property is put in the care of someone else. Failure to do so can mean irrespective of agreements made on the lease you could be liable for any injury caused by the substance. It is important to note that the duty of care also applies to derelict of empty properties, as outlined by the HSE to avoid situations such as the one stated above.

The penalties for failing to comply with regulations could result in a fine of up to £20,000 and in severe cases, prison sentences for those responsible which is why fully understanding regulations and being completely compliant is of the utmost importance. Our asbestos consultancy team are on hand to protect you and your premises from physical and financial harm. To find out more about the asbestos services we offer to ensure you stay compliant & safe please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected]

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