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Asbestos: A Guide For Landlords

Asbestos is every landlord’s nightmare. It’s usually an issue in buildings built before the 1980’s, so if you’re about to invest in an older building, this could well be an extremely dangerous yet hidden issue. The tiny fibres which it releases into the air can lead to lung disease and cancer – often around two decades later. If you’d like to educate yourself on asbestos, or if you’re getting a property ready to list via an online property agent, then why not give our guide to asbestos below a read.

Areas It Can Be Found:

  • Insulation panels when used as fire-proofing material. Partition walls, soffits under the roof, above ceilings, behind fuse boxes. Airing cupboards
  • Artex ceilings
  • Pipe lagging
  • Cement panels and garage roofs
  • Roofing in outbuildings and sheds

There are many more examples of where it was previously used, so always keep a lookout. The best way to ensure it’s not in your property is to have an asbestos survey carried out by a certified professional. It’s a very important thing to do if you’re considering a major refurbishment that may unlock hidden asbestos in the places you least expect it. Asbestos is only a problem if it is disturbed by activities like sanding and drilling which release the fibres in the air. Regarding the law, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 states that landlord must take these steps:

1 (a) every person who has, by virtue of a contract or tenancy, an obligation of any extent in relation to the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises or any means of access thereto or egress therefrom; [4-1(a)] 

8 Where the assessment shows that asbestos is or is liable to be present in any part of the premises the duty holder shall ensure that—

(a)a determination of the risk from that asbestos is made;

(b)a written plan identifying those parts of the premises concerned is prepared; and

(c)the measures which are to be taken for managing the risk are specified in the written plan. 

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985  states a landlord is obliged to maintain the structure and exterior of a property; this includes a shared party wall in a terraced or semi-detached property. If asbestos is present in the roof or some other part of the building structure and is not maintained, the tenant has the right to sue the landlord for breach of contract. 

Housing Act 2004

Under the Housing Act 2004, local authorities can also pursue legal action against landlords who do not act to rectify the problem. This can take the form of an Improvement Notice, Hazard Awareness Notice, or a Demolition Order in some instances.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act requires all private rental homes to be in good condition and ‘fit for human habitation.’ The presence of asbestos can cause a property to fail this.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 means local authorities may have a duty to investigate properties, should a tenant report the presence of asbestos. If inspectors decide this is a health hazard, they can serve an improvement order. Landlords can even find themselves prosecuted if they do not deal with the issue. Tenants can go straight to the local magistrate’s court and file a compliant against their landlord directly.

Asbestos: What To Do

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a useful checklist for dealing with asbestos.

  • Verify asbestos it present.
  • Have an asbestos survey carried out.
  • Assess its condition.
  • Produce a written log on where it is present.
  • Carry out a risk assessment.
  • Take action.

It is also of critical importance that any construction workers who are about to carry out work on the property are made aware that there is asbestos within the property

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Asbestos: Tenant Rehousing

Tenants will have to be rehoused during the removal, but landlords are under no legal obligation to pay for this. However, they should seek to do this if the tenants have nowhere else to go. Local authorities can however help with rehousing if the presence of asbestos has been classified as a  statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Courts can also order the landlord to reimburse the tenants for the cost of temporary housing.

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