The intermittent COVID-19 lockdowns and high infection rates has drastically affected the commercial property market. Now, more than ever, landlords are seeking ways to bring down costs during these unprecedented and tough times. Whether it be selling or letting a property, incurring as little expenditure as possible must be a high priority and it is during times like this when certain reports become easy to overlook. Asbestos Survey Reports and Fire Risk Assessments are not particularly cheap to obtain and can knock you back a few hundred pounds, perhaps even more depending on the size of your property.
Most landlords are aware of the need to hold a valid Energy Performance Certificate especially if the property is let or is in the process of being sold. Unfortunately, obtaining Asbestos Survey Reports and Fire Risk Assessments is met with some hostility. Perhaps a reminder is needed as to the importance of obtaining these reports. The Asbestos Survey Report and Fire Risk Assessment are not only statutory requirements but importantly are there to help protect lives.
Why is an Asbestos Survey required?
Asbestos is the name given to certain type of fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Initially, Asbestos was a valuable material for building. It provided protection from heat, fire and sound and was used as insulation around pipes for walls and ceiling panels. Over time it became known as one of the most significant health hazards in the world. Exposure to asbestos can lead to lung and other diseases which largely appear after a delay of between 15 and 60 years.
If you own a commercial property built before the year 2000, then there is a strong chance it may have asbestos containing materials within its structure. In the UK, asbestos only became a prohibited substance in August 1999. Given the consequences of exposure to asbestos not only to human life, but also to the pocket if legislative requirements are not followed, obtaining an asbestos survey report for an older property is of the utmost importance.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 place duties on employees and building owners to manage asbestos on their premises. The first stage in managing asbestos is to identify the location, type, condition and the extent of any asbestos containing materials; this will involve undertaking an Asbestos Survey. This is a statutory obligation so given the consequences mentioned earlier, it is not something you should waive when asked to provide. Doing that could end up costing more money and risking lives.
Why is a Fire Risk Assessment required?
A Fire Risk Assessment is a review of the building to identify the potential fire risks and offer recommendations to make the building safer, if required. It is a legal requirement to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment of a block of flats and all business premises. Unfortunately, this fire safety measure is often overlooked leading to disastrous and tragic consequences.
It is not enough to obtain a Fire Risk Assessment; care should also be taken in actioning ‘high-priority’ recommendations referred to in the assessment. By law, every block of flats and business is required to have a ‘Responsible Person’ who is responsible for the building’s fire safety. The responsible person could be the owner of the building, an employee or a managing agent and is the one who needs to ensure that a valid Fire Risk Assessment is made.
What are the penalties for not carrying out this duo?
As mentioned above, not carrying them out can be costly in terms of human life. If you do not have a plan to deal with asbestos and put it in action then you could also face severe fines and/or imprisonment depending on the severity of the negligence. The same applies if you do not hold a valid Fire Risk Assessment. Public perception/reputation can also be damaged.
From both a moral and legal standpoint, Asbestos Survey Reports and Fire Risk Assessments must not be overlooked. If a buyer or tenant requests a copy then you should either provide the documents or make arrangements to obtain the reports as soon as possible.
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Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.