Asbestos management requirements for residential landlords

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The laws regarding responsibility for asbestos management in commercial premises is clear, but landlords with residential properties could be forgiven for being uncertain about their position.

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, landlords do not have a duty to manage asbestos risks in private houses, individual flats, private rooms above shops, rooms let to lodgers or domestic garages let to a specific tenant.

However, the situation is not quite that simple for two reasons - responsibility for common areas and the existence of other relevant health and safety legislation.

The duty to manage asbestos applies to the common areas of purpose-built flats and houses converted into flats, such as foyers, corridors, staircases, roof spaces, gardens, lifts and lift-shafts. It also applies to the stairs and access areas of flats above retail and commercial premises.

If, as landlord, you are responsible for the repair of premises or equipment in these areas, you will be regarded as the dutyholder. As such, you will be responsible for carrying out a survey to identify any asbestos containing materials in the property, drawing up a management plan and informing contractors / tradesmen about the presence of asbestos before they undertake any work.

Asbestos can be found in a wide range of items in domestic properties, including ceiling tiles, insulating board, pipe insulation, sprayed and textured coatings, cement, fire doors and wall cladding. It is often difficult to identify, so to ensure you comply with the regulations, you should assume asbestos is present in any property that was built or underwent major refurbishment work between 1950 and 1999.

Not all the asbestos containing materials you identify will need to be removed, but it is sensible to seek advice from an asbestos specialist about whether or not they are safe and what steps need to be taken before any type of work is done to the property.

Other relevant health and safety legislation

One thing all residential landlords need to be aware of is the Defective Premises Act 1972, which requires them to take reasonable care to ensure that tenants and visitors are safe from personal injury and illness caused by the condition of the premises. Although asbestos is not specifically mentioned, it is covered by the Act, which applies to all domestic properties, including those where there is no duty to manage under the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires all rented property to be fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and further requires the landlord to maintain that basic standard. Any property that features asbestos containing materials that are in an unsafe condition may not comply with the Act.

Landlords who employ staff to look after their properties, such as housing associations, also need to ensure they comply with the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. This includes a general obligation for employers to conduct their activities in such a way that workers are not exposed to health and safety risks, such as asbestos.

What do residential landlords need to do about asbestos?

While trying to identify which pieces of legislation apply to any particular rented property may be a little confusing, ensuring compliance with all the regulations is more straightforward.

Landlords who take expert advice and follow best practice for asbestos management will ensure they create a safe environment for tenants and workers, as well as making certain they avoid any legal problems.

For more information about asbestos surveys, management and removal, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 8th May 2014