So you’ve bought or leased your premises and things are going well, the property is a bit dated and run down but well worth what you paid for it and nothing a little refurbishment won’t fix. What could go wrong? In a word, Asbestos.
Before anyone knew of its toxic effects, Asbestos was used extensively as an insulator, fire retardant and anti corrosion agent. So it can be found in ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers and sprayed coatings. It was extensively used from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s but can be found in buildings built before the year 2000.
If you’re the landlord, tenant or managing agent of a commercial property you may be responsible for managing asbestos, unless your contract or lease says otherwise. If not, you must:
- If you have a lease or contract, check who is responsible for asbestos.
- Find out where the asbestos is (you’ll probably need an external accredited surveyor to carry out an asbestos survey).
- Have the material analysed and keep a record of what you find.
- Carry out a health and safety risk assessment.
- Share the information with anyone likely to come into contact with the area, e.g. builders.
- Keep anything containing asbestos in good repair or have it sealed or removed.
If you don’t have a plan to deal with asbestos and put it in action, you could face:
- a fine of up to £20,000.00
- imprisonment for up to 12 months
- for a serious breach you could face an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Owners of derelict or vacant premises and warehouses also need to carry out an asbestos survey. In occupied buildings several permutations could apply:
Occupied by one leaseholder: the agreement might be for either the owner or leaseholder to take on the full duty for the whole building; or it might be to share the duty.
Multiple –occupation: the agreement might be that the owner takes on the full duty for the whole building, or the duty might be shared, i.e. the owner takes responsibility for the common areas while the leaseholders take responsibility for the parts they occupy.
Sometimes this responsibility is passed on to a managing agent. If there is no agreement or clause in a lease, in these cases the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises, or part of the premises. Often this will be the owner.
If you need to know more about the legal aspects of managing asbestos, give is a call.