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Landlords Duty to Manage Asbestos

Taylor Environmental Services Ltd


Landlords should assume that asbestos is present in all pre-2000 buildings.  If it’s in good condition and not damaged or disturbed then it should not present a risk.  But if the fibres become loose, they might be inhaled, which could result in diseases of the lungs and chest lining.  That might take between 20 to 30 years to develop.

Under Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, landlords have certain duties towards their tenants to minimise the risks of exposure to asbestos.  The landlord has responsibility for maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises through a tenancy agreement or contract.  The extent of the landlord’s duty will depend on the nature of the agreement.

This is relevant to rental properties because, as well as industrial, commercial and public buildings, ‘non-domestic premises’ also include ‘common’ areas of certain domestic premises, such as purpose built flats or houses converted into flats. 

Common areas might include:

  • Corridors
  • Lifts and Lift shafts
  • Staircases
  • Boiler and plant rooms
  • Store rooms
  • Roof spaces
  • Yards
  • Outbuildings
  • Garages
  • Sheds
  • Bike shelters

The flat/property itself is not included and ‘common’ areas would not include rooms within a private residence that are shared by more than one household.  For example, bathrooms and kitchens in shared houses, and communal dining rooms and lounges.

Guidance notes from HSE on the refurbishment of housing stock likely to contain asbestos, is primarily concerned with major refurbishment programs such as those being undertaken to meet the Decent Homes standard or similar such capital projects where local authorities, housing associations and social housing management companies are the client under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).

However, the principles contained within it are equally applicable to routine refurbishment/maintenance work across all housing sectors Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) may be present in many locations within domestic premises.

A “refurbishment/demolition” survey is necessary before carrying out any work that may disturb the fabric of the building.  The purpose of this survey is to locate ACMs so that they can be removed before the refurbishment work starts.

The “surveyed” area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before refurbishment work continues or tenants are allowed to access.  Given the above, surveys should be programmed to take maximum advantage of any periods where the property is untenanted or void.