20 April 2021

Why is asbestos still an issue for landlords?

By Will Riley Senior Account Handler
Asbestos caution sign

Most of us will have heard of asbestos and will now be aware of the dangers it poses to our health. It was banned in 1999, but it is still thought to contribute to as many as 5,000 deaths per year in the UK.

Given this, what can we do to reduce the dangers asbestos still causes, and what implications does it have for your landlord insurance?

Asbestos comes from a group of fibrous minerals, which were widely used in construction during the 20th Century. They were popular because of their insulation properties and it’s likely to be found in potentially millions of buildings in this country.

When inhaled, asbestos can have serious health implications. It can cause significant damage to the lungs which over time can cause all manner of illnesses, including cancer and heart failure. Prolonged exposure to asbestos is what tends to cause these health issues.

The reason it remains such a problem now is that asbestos-related illnesses tend to develop over years and decades, so although we do not currently use it in construction, those that did many years ago may only start to notice issues with their health now. This is why, despite the ban being in place for over 20 years, people still continue to die due to asbestos-related illnesses.

Nowadays, all those who work with asbestos (usually during renovation or demolition works) have to be appropriately trained by law, so it makes sense to use licensed contractors where there is a risk of asbestos.

What do landlords need to be aware of?

As a landlord you need to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for all of your domestic premises (including common parts). Managing agents will be subject to the same duties as landlords, so you need to make sure that if you are contracting someone to manage your property that they are appropriately qualified as you do not want your tenants to be put in any danger.

If you have a property with common parts, such as in blocks of flats and bedsits, which would include the roof structure, hallways and corridors, stairways and landings, you as the landlord still need to investigate the presence of asbestos. You would do this through a risk assessment, monitoring the condition of any asbestos identified and putting in place control measures so the tenants remain safe. Following this process will also prevent you from the risk of prosecution.

Where there are common parts, these requirements apply regardless of whether or not any building or maintenance work is to be carried out, so if you are buying a property of this type this is worth bearing in mind.

If you are undertaking renovations in one of your residential premises, you as the landlord should have a risk assessment done to identify and assess the presence of asbestos. Do this before the work begins, so that if asbestos is found you can tell the contractor in advance and they can take the appropriate steps to manage the risks. It’s important that you do this, as if you don’t then you may be prosecuted.

When setting up your landlord insurance, we won’t ask you if you have undertaken a risk assessment, but if you end up making a claim we may need to see evidence of it, so always keep a record of your completed risk assessment, even where there is no asbestos present. This will help you demonstrate that you have done all that was needed under your duties as a landlord.

The inspection must include all reasonably accessible parts of the building and consider building plans/other relevant information.

This risk assessment must review the following:

  • If asbestos is present, details of the type and quantity
  • Where it is within the building
  • Details of the expected level of exposure
  • Details of the controls to be used to reduce exposure e.g. use of local exhaust ventilation, controlled wetting, adequate PPE / RPE use of enclosures
  • Decontamination procedures for tools, equipment and PPE
  • Details on how asbestos waste will be managed
  • Emergency procedures

You should remember that risk assessments are an ongoing process. If circumstances change or fresh information comes to light, you should ask your assessor for help. The conclusions of any review must also be recorded.

If asbestos is present, then you should arrange for a written plan to be drawn up to show how the asbestos risks will be dealt with. Necessary measures may include:

  • Removal of asbestos – this may be required if it is high risk asbestos and/or breaking up
  • Encapsulation of asbestos
  • Regular monitoring of the asbestos to ensure its condition does not deteriorate

As with all risk assessments, these plans will need to be reviewed regularly to make sure that you continue to comply with the rules, and that the risks have not changed.

There are plenty of businesses who can perform a risk assessment for you. However, just make sure to look carefully when reviewing online that they are competent to carry it out. If you are unsure, you can always call us at Protect My Let. We’ll help you establish if you need one, and can point you in the right direction if you do. Just call us on 01206 655 899.

Want to find out more about our landlord insurance cover?

You can find further useful information and get in touch with a member of our team or submit an enquiry on the landlord insurance page.

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