Landlords and asbestos – your duties

Posted: 4th Jun 2014

You might think that after thousands of years of experience of passing laws, that the appropriate authorities would have been able to frame the legal requirements for landlords with respect to asbestos in a clear and unambiguous fashion.

Unfortunately, the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006 has managed to create considerable confusion on this subject due to the use of some highly ambiguous wording.

It is important to note that what follows is not a legal advice. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, you must consult a specialist qualified to speak in detail on the law.

Hopefully though, the following will give you some indication of the issue and what needs to be considered.

Asbestos was heavily used in construction between the 1950s and 1980s, but surprisingly it was only actually outlawed in the UK at the very end of the 20th century.

Broadly speaking, if you wish to err on the side of caution, it might be prudent to assume that any property built (or substantially modernised) between 1950 and 1999 may well have asbestos in it.

The CAR makes clear that landlords have a legal duty of care to inspect their property for asbestos and to take appropriate steps to deal with it if necessary.

These are clearly outlined in various online guides.

Unfortunately, confusion arises because these regulations also state very clearly that they only apply to landlords leasing or letting out non-residential properties. In other words, it would be perfectly possible to read these summaries and come to the conclusion that, as a residential landlord, you do not need to worry about asbestos in your property and making sure that it is either safe or removed.

This is a quite bizarre situation and it isn’t entirely easy to understand he logic behind it, however, it is important to understand the issue in the wider context.

The CAR actually forms part of the much more broadly based health and safety at work legislation that goes back to the 1970s. That legislation makes it absolutely clear that the landlord of a premises that is being used for commercial purposes is responsible for it being a safe environment and that might be interpreted to include asbestos inspections and remedial actions where required.

Of course, it might be argued that your property is not being used for commercial purposes but as you are actually using it for the purposes of obtaining income, it might typically be seen as coming under the above mentioned legislation.

There really isn’t a bottom line to this apparently unnecessarily confusing situation, other than to say that it might be prudent for all landlords, irrespective of how you read the legislation, to undertake appropriate asbestos surveys and actions where required.

Remember that if you purchase your landlord insurance online or anywhere else, its validity may depend upon you being interpreted as having fully complied with all legal requirements relating to health and safety on your property.

You can find a rather more detailed discussion of the subject on the DirectGov site* but remember that you may need to take specific advice relating to your individual situation.

*https://www.gov.uk/who-is-responsible-for-asbestos-found-in-my-commercial-property