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Commercial property and asbestos – what you need to know

Commercial property and asbestos – what you need to know

If you are thinking of buying or renting a commercial property built before 2000, it's still vital to check for the presence of asbestos and determine who is responsible for managing it.

This is because there is a legal duty to manage asbestos to protect people from asbestos-related disease which can be fatal. There are unlimited fines and even prison for serious breaches of the law.

However, in many cases, once asbestos is located and identified as being in a good condition, it can be safely left as long as it remains undisturbed and there is a clear plan to manage the risk.

How do I find out if there is asbestos in a commercial property?

If you are buying a commercial property, or entering into a lease as a tenant, finding out whether there is any asbestos in a property is obviously key.

The obligation is to have an appropriate risk assessment in place. In many cases, an appropriate risk assessment should be based on an asbestos survey. There are different types of asbestos surveys:

  • A Management Survey will identify asbestos and give the owner, potential owner or occupier the information needed to decide whether to buy or not, complete a risk assessment, plan remedial work or leave things as they are;
  • A Refurbishment or Demolition Survey will pinpoint whether any asbestos-related work will put anyone, including contractors, at risk and what specialists will be required to carry it out safely.

Who is responsible for asbestos in a commercial property?

It's the owner, person or organisation with clear responsibility for the commercial property's maintenance or repair and they are known the duty holder. This could be the landlord, the tenant or the managing agent.

For landlords and tenants, it depends on the terms of the lease. In a standard commercial lease, the tenant is responsible for all repairing obligations and this would typically cover asbestos.

What does the duty holder have to do?

The duty to protect anyone from exposure to asbestos includes taking the following steps:

  • Pinpointing the presence of asbestos, the type, quantity and condition;
  • Making the presumption that asbestos is present unless it can be proved otherwise;
  • Keeping up to date records;
  • Carrying out a risk assessment to determine the likelihood of anyone being exposed to asbestos fibres and preparing a plan to manage the identified risks;
  • Putting the plan into place, reviewing and amending it as necessary

Click here to read what we've written previously on which commercial properties are covered by the asbestos regulations.

Get in touch

Wards Solicitors' has a dedicated Commercial Property Team who are highly experienced in this area of the law.

If you are considering buying or leasing a commercial property, or you already own one where asbestos has been identified, we can explain your options and what to do next.

Please get in touch with one of Commercial Property Team by clicking here, or call 0117 929 2811.