Landlords Asbestos Responsibilities
Landlords have a range of responsibilities to keep their tenants safe and to comply with UK laws and regulations relating to landlord/tenant contracts. Below, I look specifically at a landlords’ responsibilities relating to asbestos.
Why Understanding Your Responsibility is Important
Although asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999 there are still many properties that contain traces of the mineral and if the fibres become airborne it can cause severe health problems including lung scarring and lung cancer.
Therefore, there are strict regulations and laws relating to asbestos control. As a landlord, if you do not comply with the relevant laws and acts, you are potentially putting your tenants in harm’s way, but also possibly breaking the law and could face criminal charges. This is why it’s vital to understand your asbestos responsibilities.
UK Laws Applicable to a Landlords Duty Relating to Asbestos
As discussed, there are many laws and regulations relating to the control of asbestos in both commercial and residential properties. It’s vital you are aware of these to avoid any potential legal action, and to keep your tenants safe. I have given a brief overview of relevant laws below but I advise further research to understand the laws in context.
Defective Premises Act 1972
This act states that residential landlords must ensure that both visitors and tenants are safe from disease or personal injury that are a result of defects due to a lack of repairing obligations. Anyone affected in this manner can claim compensation where the landlord is deemed to have breached their duty of care.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
Section 11 of this act states that it is a landlords responsibility to keep their residential structures and exterior in repair. If any asbestos is identified in the roof or external wall of the residential property, the landlord must keep it in repair. If the landlord fails to maintain the asbestos it can constitute a breach of contract and the tenants can seek compensation.
Environmental Protection Act 1990
If asbestos is found in a landlord’s property and is damaged, it could give credence to raise a statutory nuisance complaint to EPA 1990. If a complaint is made either by the public or a tenant, local authorities must investigate and this can result in an abatement notice or even criminal prosecution.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
This act supersedes the 2006 act and has minor changes but states that if you are responsible for a non-domestic property then you have a duty to manage asbestos which we discuss in greater detail below.
Understanding the Duty to Manage Asbestos as a Landlord
As mentioned above, both the 2006 and 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations acts outline a “duty to manage” that applies to the person(s) responsible for asbestos on a non-domestic property. As a landlord you must understand when this applies to you, and what you must do to comply with the laws and regulations.
Who has the Duty to Manage
In most instances, HSE defines the duty holder as the owner of the non-domestic premises or the person or business that has clear responsibility for property maintenance. There are some nuances to this, however, which I have listed below:
- No tenancy agreement is in place: The person controlling the property.
- Unoccupied premises: The person controlling the property.
- An owned property with a managing agent: The owner.
- A tenancy agreement with shared responsibility: Every involved party.
- A tenancy agreement where the owner is responsible for maintenance: The owner.
- A tenancy agreement where the tenant is responsible for maintenance: The tenant(s).
- An owned property where the owner has complete control: The owner.
To summarize this, if you are the landlord or owner of the property and responsible for the property maintenance, you are the duty holder. An to reiterate, this mainly applied to non-domestic properties except the following circumstances:
- Houses converted into flats occupied by more than one family where there is common access areas.
- Garages and parking spaces not allocated to a specific person that have common access areas.
- Flats over a non-domestic premises such as a shop that are leased separately and have common access area.
- Sheltered accommodation where there are common access areas such as lifts, stairs, or a foyer.
- Hotels, pubs, hotels, houses of residence and care homes that have common areas.
- Farms that have external farm buildings.
As a landlord of a residential property this could mean that you are the duty holder. If you have any doubt, the best practice is to contact the HSE or your local council authority.
What the Duty to Manage Involves
If you are the duty holder as a landlord, you have certain responsibilities to keep your tenants safe including:
- Discover if there are any ACM (asbestos contaminated materials) on the premises. If so, you must find out the amount, location, and condition.
- If ACM are found, you must then maintain an asbestos log and keep it up to date. This should be a record of the location and condition of ACM that anyone in the property, and it should be available for tenants to read.
- You must also create risk assessments that detail the potential for asbestos exposure together with plans showing how these risks are to be mitigated whether that’s by limiting access or removal.
- Any information you have relating to ACM in the premises must be made available to any third-party contractors working on site.
Essentially, if you are the duty holder, you must take responsibility and ensure the ACM are identified, assessed, and contained and that everyone on the premises is aware of the situation.
 – HSE – Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012