Who is Responsible for Asbestos in a Building?
Any property owner, tenant, or leaseholder must be aware of the duty of responsibility for asbestos in a building. The HSE has clear guidelines on this and all parties involved should understand who is responsible for identifying asbestos and managing its risks.
Below, we look at who is responsible for asbestos in a building, and what the duty of responsibility includes so that everyone can remain safe in their properties.
Duty of Responsibility for Asbestos in Different Tenancy Situations
The duty of responsibility for asbestos generally falls on the owner of the property, or the person with the main responsibility for the property. However, the HSE defines several different tenancy and ownership situations and the relative duty of responsibility:
- 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.
This duty is a legal requirement and full details of asbestos management requirements for duty holders can be found on the ACOP L143 guidelines from the HSE. If you have a commercial property it’s also advisable to check the asbestos regulations stated by the UK government.
For domestic buildings, the owner has the duty of responsibility including if it is a rented property. However, this is not a legal requirement for most domestic buildings except for a house converted into flats, a block of flats, flats over a shop or office, sheltered accommodation, domestic paid accommodation (such as a hotel or guest house), and farms.
What is the Scope of the Duty of Responsibility for Asbestos in a Building?
You should now have a clear idea of who is responsible for asbestos in a building, but what does this responsibility involve? The HSE states clear guidelines but they can be summarised as the following steps:
- Take a presumptive stance that materials may contain asbestos unless proven otherwise.
- Find out if the building contains asbestos.
- If it does, keep a log of the location and condition of the asbestos.
- Create risk assessments to determine the likelihood of asbestos exposure.
- Based on these risks, create a management plan to minimise the danger.
- Periodically update the risk assessments, plan, and asbestos log.
- Provide all relevant information for any contractors working on the building.
The responsible party essentially needs to be fully aware of any asbestos in the property and make sure that the inhabitants or workers are properly protected and any risk is minimised. While the responsibility is with the duty holder, inhabitants and/or workers must also be complicit and cooperate where necessary.
Is a tenant responsible for asbestos?
No. The landlord is responsible for asbestos in a building, although the tenant should be willing to help and cooperate if the landlord has to carry out work or update their asbestos log.
Can you sell a house with asbestos in it?
Yes, there is nothing stopping you from selling a house containing asbestos. However, you are legally obliged to disclose the presence of asbestos as per the 2013 Property Misdescriptions Act.
Do landlords have to check for asbestos?
Yes! This is part of the duty of responsibility that a landlord has to comply with as per the HSE. Not only must they check for asbestos, but they must make risk assessments and keep an asbestos log if any of the substance is presence on the property.
What is the duty of responsibility for asbestos?
This includes identifying asbestos in the building, maintain a record of the location and condition of the asbestos, and assess the risk of any inhabitants becoming exposed to asbestos.
 – HSE – Managing and Working With Asbestos
 – HSE – The Duty to Manage Asbestos