There is an ever-expanding raft of laws regulating the conduct of landlords in the private sector. So, you might reasonably expect the powers that be to frame the legal requirements for landlords with respect to asbestos in a clear and unambiguous fashion.
Unfortunately, the critical piece of legislation, Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006, has managed to create considerable confusion on this subject due to the use of some highly ambiguous wording.
While we take a closer look at the laws regulating asbestos in rented dwellings, it is important to note that what follows is not 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 – a building material
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 – and out of an abundance of caution – it is probably safe to assume that any property built (or substantially modernised) between 1950 and 1999 may well have asbestos incorporated into its construction.
Asbestos – landlords’ responsibilities
The CAR regulations make 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 – a notable example is that published by the British Landlords’ Association (BLA).
Unfortunately, confusion arises because the CAR regulations also state very clearly that they only apply to landlords leasing or letting out non-residential properties – in other words, they apply only to commercial properties. Quite simply, therefore, it would be perfectly possible to read these guides and summaries and conclude that, as a residential landlord, you do not need to worry about asbestos in your property or to make sure that it is either safe or needs to be removed.
This leaves landlords in an unenviable position of confusion, and it isn’t entirely easy to understand the logic behind it. It might help, however, to understand the issue in the wider context.
The wider context
The CAR regulations actually form part of the much more broadly based health and safety at work legislation that goes back to the 1970s. That legislation makes it perfectly clear that the landlord of premises that are being used for commercial purposes is responsible for it being a safe environment in which to work – and safety concerns here are likely to include the presence of asbestos, asbestos inspections, and any remedial actions that may be required.
Of course, it might be argued that your residential buy to let property is not being used for commercial purposes. But as you are using it for the purposes of generating an income, it might reasonably be seen as falling within the scope of the above-mentioned legislation.
There really isn’t a bottom line to this 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, it is likely to remain valid only if you have fully complied with all the legal requirements relating to health and safety within your property.
Please remember that you may need to take specific advice relating to your particular situation and circumstances.