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Should agents be responsible for managing asbestos risk too?

This blog is written by MD Debbie Hales who dealt recently with a domestic property scenario whereby the rental property’s management team failed to see why an asbestos survey was required - which could potentially identify ACMs on site.

If ACMs (Asbestos Containing Materials) are discovered…

Now this is a contentious question:

Should property agents be ensuring that the domestic property portfolios they manage have asbestos management surveys and subsequently a management plan in place?

Domestic property agents and asbestos

Domestic property agents make sure that gas checks are carried out, electrics etc, but because they are domestic properties, these agents on the whole, seem to think they don’t have to manage the potential asbestos risk.

In my view, if it is a property portfolio, it is by definition a commercial portfolio. Surely from an asbestos management perspective, it should be managed as such?

Whose head would roll if it all went wrong? The owner or the managing agent, the latter being paid by the owner to manage?

I have just been informed by an agent that if they told their landlords that asbestos surveys were required, along with everything else, there would be uproar.  This is in spite of one of their clients having us carry out said surveys and asking them to facilitate access.  

The agent continued to explain that no asbestos survey needs to be done since nothing has changed since last year - but there is no management plan to evidence this.  

Sadly this isn’t an isolated case. In my experience I’ve not seen a great deal of evidence that other properties constructed pre-2000 are being classed as possibly containing ACMs by domestic management companies.

HSG264 - Domestic Premises

I’m obviously aware of section 60 onwards within HSG264 The Surveyors Guide where section 60 states that a post-2000 build should be classified as asbestos free. It also states ‘the domestic sector, local authorities and housing associations have responsibility for very large numbers of properties, which need a range of maintenance and repair work as well as general improvement and upgrading or occasionally demolition.’

Within this parameter, if a managing agent demonstrates the presence of 2 lists (pre and post 2000) and that the potential ACM list is being worked through - with pre-refurb surveys being carried out prior to planning any works - I would feel that this is compliant.

Similarly, my view is that when it comes to establishing the status of asbestos in domestic premises, unless there is definitive information* which concludes the absence of asbestos in particular property groups, other properties constructed pre-2000 should be classed as possibly containing ACMs - surveyed and managed too.

  • ‘Such as original construction information, building material specification, previous asbestos surveys or removals or other records. The evidence for this would need to be strong and records complete.’ Section 63 - HSG264 The Surveyors Guide.

I put this question to esteemed peers on LinkedIn and a valid point was also made with reference to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the HSW Act). This includes protecting people, as well as those at work, from risks to their health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of people at work. Specifically Section 3 of the HSW Act places general duties on employers and the self-employed towards people other than their employees. 

Should we not allow this clause to override any ambiguities within HSG264?

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