One of the areas that prospective landlords often find a little daunting is the legislation surrounding known or potential Asbestos Containing Materials. As a landlord, you will almost certainly be aware that asbestos is a highly toxic substance and that there will need to be safeguards in place to protect your tenants from potential exposure. Indeed, you are likely to have certain duties under law that you must ensure you adhere to. Before you can do anything else, you will need to identify the location of asbestos and Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs). Identification can be a difficult process if you are in a building that has never been surveyed before, but there are some things you can do to make the process easier, or to check if you even need be concerned about asbestos at all.
Asbestos is a mineral that is highly heat resistant and flexible, and it was used in a range of materials from soffit boards to insulation for decades. When disturbed or damaged, materials that contain asbestos will potentially release dust that contains tiny fibres, which, if inhaled, will lodge in the lining of the lungs. Once in the lungs, they stay there and cause unseen damage for many years, potentially resulting in a range of pulmonary conditions such as mesothelioma, an otherwise very rare kind of cancer. Some forms of asbestos were banned in 1985, but white asbestos, which was considered less dangerous than the blue and brown variants, continued to be used in construction before finally being banned in 1999.
The first question to ask, then, is, ‘How old is the building?’ If the date of construction is 2000 or later then it is safe to assume that Asbestos Containing Materials have not been used in the construction. Be wary of additional work on buildings, such as extensions and refits, though. Just because an annex, extension or similar addition was constructed after 2000, it is not safe to assume this means the original building was surveyed and is asbestos free. If the original building is pre-2000 then you should assume that asbestos is present until proof is available that this is not the case.
As a landlord, you, or a competent nominated person, will have to take responsibility for what is known as ‘duty of management’ under section 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). If you are the duty holder then it is your responsibility to manage the exposure to asbestos in communal areas. These would include, but are not limited to, foyers, corridors, boiler rooms, storerooms, cellars, gardens, garages, and other similar places with general use. You do not necessarily need to remove the asbestos or take any drastic action, though. Assuming the material is undamaged and safe, then you need only monitor the condition and have a maintenance plan in place.
If the materials are not in good condition then you must attend to them as soon as possible and arrange to reduce or remove any potential for exposure. This should be outlined in your management plan and you must ensure this is put into action.
Asbestos Awareness training is probably a good place to start. A short and inexpensive training course will allow you to identify Asbestos Containing Materials and show you the basics of what to do about them. Asbestos is very dangerous, and if you own a multi-occupancy property you are certainly likely to be responsible for how it is managed, and this is a legislative requirement, so, before you rent or start your renovations, check the asbestos position.
Health and Safety Executive guidance on the duties of landlords.