The very word ‘asbestos’ tends to strike fear into a property manager. Whether you manage a large portfolio of commercial properties, hold leasehold responsibilities for domestic dwellings with communal areas or assist landlords who own HMO’s, as a property manager, it is imperative that you understand both your duties to manage asbestos, and situations in which action, be it an inspection, testing or an asbestos survey should take place.
Where Would You Find Asbestos
Most properties both residential and commercial built before 1999 are likely to contain asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has a natural resistance to fire, electricity and chemicals. There are six types of asbestos. The most commonly used – Chrysotile (White), Amosite (Brown) and Crocidolite (Blue) asbestos were added to other materials to make them stronger, better and cheaper construction materials.
However, due to their natural resistance as described above, once exposed into the body they can cause significate health problems. Exposure to asbestos fibre can cause irreparable damage, or can cause damage to cells which leads to cancer and other diseases.
While most buildings are likely to contain asbestos, left undisturbed, there is a minimal danger as the fibres cannot become airborne. When asbestos materials become damaged, microscopic asbestos fibre can be released. As the microscopic asbestos fibres cannot be seen, it is extremely important that, as a property manager, any building which you manage is thoroughly assessed and any risk identified.
Commercial Property and Duty To Manage Asbestos for a Property Manager
Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, there is a duty to manage asbestos within all non-domestic buildings. This legal requirement is designed to protect everyone who could come into contact with asbestos fibres and puts the onus on the ‘duty holder’ to do so, by taking steps to both identify any risk and manage or rectify it.
To do this, property managers should ensure that there is an up to date asbestos register which identifies where asbestos is present, assess the condition of the areas where asbestos is present, and record the locations of the material. A management plan should be put in place and risks will need to be dealt with. It is worth noting that the regulations also apply to empty non-domestic buildings, so even when no tenant is present, an asbestos management plan must be in place.
Failure to comply with the duty to manage can result not just in unlimited fines but is also a criminal offence which can carry a prison sentence.
I Manage Residential Property, Do I Need to Worry About Asbestos Management?
While the duty to manage applies to all non-domestic buildings, residential property managers, and leasehold managers most definitely do need to be concerned with managing asbestos.
Common parts in certain residential dwellings, such as communal areas in HMOs, and common areas in large leasehold buildings are covered in the regulations.
While the duty to manage will generally fall with the landlord, you may still have responsibilities under the regulations.
Who is the Asbestos Duty Holder?
In the case of commercial property, the duty holder should be laid out within the tenancy agreement. It could be the landlord, tenant or the managing agent (or even a combination of all or any of them).
Where no tenancy is in place, explicit agreements such as a contract to manage a property can imply that your managing agency has control of the premises, and therefore the duty to manage.
If you’re a Property Manager and have any queries or believe that you have a need for asbestos management services, please do get in touch with us.