Tenant safety: asbestos rules

Asbestos remains a problem in our housing stock. So if you're a landlord, what are your responsibilities regarding this dangerous material?

Asbestos is a highly damaging group of microscopic fibres that if inhaled can severely damage our lungs. The fibres become trapped within our alveoli where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. Since the fibres are lodged, they can irritate and scar lung tissue, making it difficult to breathe. Although the effects of inhaling asbestos may not be noticed at first, they will more than likely severely impact health later in life, causing conditions such as asbestosis and lung cancer.

The use for asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999. However, during the 1950s-80s, it was commonly used in buildings due to its strong resistance to chemical attacks, its low ability to conduct heat and its tensile strength. 

So it's important that property owners take on the responsibility of checking their buildings for asbestos to protect people living in them.

What are the steps to take?

Hire a company that specialises in asbestos to conduct an asbestos survey. It will show locations, conditions and the extent of asbestos within a property. Then a plan must be put together for removing the asbestos. It's important to know if asbestos that needs to be removed is in a damaged for disturbed condition. 


To help prevent tenants being exposed to asbestos, Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines that landlords have certain responsibilities to fulfil. For all the ‘common’ areas in a building, a landlord has responsibility to ensure no potentially harmful asbestos containing materials are found. Areas where it might be lurking include: 

  • staircases

  • corridors 

  • roof spaces 

  • boiler and plant rooms 

  • outbuildings

  • gardens 

It is always important that you are aware and up to date with all the information regarding the responsibilities you have as a landlord to protect your tenants from exposure to asbestos.

The consequences of not caring

Depending on the extent of the legal duty tenant and landlord agreed in their contract, it can be up for debate who is responsible for dealing with asbestos issues. If the agreement excuses the landlord from any statutory compliance, this would mean that the tenant is obliged to comply with all common law and codes of practices that are presented — meaning the landlord would not be held accountable for any issues with the property. It also gives a landlord the right to take direct action against a tenant for breaching their lease conditions. 

However, responsibility most often lies in the hands of the landlord - unless the tenant holds the greatest accountability over the premises.

As the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act states, a property must be fit for human habitation before it can be leased. Part of this act states that any asbestos material in unsafe conditions must be dealt with before the property can be leased. If this is not the case, legal action may be taken with the landlord.