Nobody wants to think of their home as unsafe, especially tenants who rely on the word and good faith of their landlords in ticking the boxes laid out by building regulations and various health and safety checks. But when the worst happens, and you find out that you have been exposed to asbestos in your rental home or accommodation, is your landlord liable for any form of compensation – and what can you do to fix the situation?
The short answer is yes.
What the law and regulations say
Landlords are absolutely liable for asbestos exposure, however the law is as murky as ever when it comes to which areas of a property fall under the control and legal responsibility of the landlord, and which areas do not.
As the landlord is responsible for maintenance and repair throughout the property, they hold some responsibility towards minimising the risk of exposure for tenants. In the case of asbestos specifically, this means repairing any damaged material, monitoring asbestos that is present in the building, labelling the material as hazardous for fully transparency, and removing any asbestos that is likely to be disturbed.
But as mentioned above, this is only legally binding for communal areas of a building – meaning that private residences, houses, and flats are not the legal responsibility of the landlord. Having said that, there is a degree of moral responsibility at play for landlords, with the need to keep tenants safe a core part of their role as landlord under the defective premises act of 1972.
Therefore, though the law may not be quite as clear cut as stating that asbestos is the responsibility of the landlord, but they still hold responsibility for managing if not at least informing tenants of the presence of asbestos, to keep them as safe as possible.
What to do if you’ve been exposed to asbestos as a tenant
Your landlord should have completed surveys already, especially if the property in question was built before 2000 which is when the regulations around asbestos usage was put into place across the UK. However, if, you find evidence of asbestos after moving into a rental property or starting a tenancy, it is important to let the landlord know as soon as possible so that they can arrange the appropriate surveys and removal if required.
From there, your landlord will need to keep clear and detailed records of any asbestos that has been found and the subsequent work that was carried out to manage or remove it. Risk assessments will need to be completed and a plan needs to be drawn up to depict exactly how the substance will be managed in the future.
Can I claim anything for asbestos exposure?
While not specifically mentioned, as per the government guidance on tenant-landlord relations, it is worth noting the following which applies to hazards such as asbestos:
“If your landlord or letting agent doesn’t carry out the repairs, you can ask the local council to carry out an inspection using a risk assessment tool called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), after which the council may take action.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 enables you to take your landlord to court if the property is not fit for human habitation. This right applies from 20 March 2019 for new tenancies, and from 20 March 2020 for existing tenancies.”
This is managed on a case by case basis, with adequate time to be given to the landlord to resolve the issue before getting further bodies and councils involved. While we hope that this never happens to you, it is worth being prepared and in the know about your rights as a tenant.
For more advice on asbestos surveys and removal services, reach out to South East Asbestos directly. We can advise and support both tenants and landlords in getting the right surveys and efficient support, so don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns.