Asbestos: Selling or Renting out Commercial Properties

Helen McGrath, Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Commercial Department discusses the continuing effect of asbestos in transactions concerning commercial property.

As confirmed by Helen “Asbestos has been the main cause of occupational ill health since around 1950 and is still regarded as the greatest single work related cause of death from ill health.  Past exposure to asbestos is now responsible for the deaths of approximately four thousand people every year and this figure is expected to rise.

There are three main types of asbestos – blue, brown and white – which have all been used in a huge number of products, many incorporated into the fabric of a building.  Asbestos is the collective name for a range of natural minerals made up of very thin fibres that can break down into much smaller fibres and because the fibres cannot be seen with the naked eye but they can be breathed in, they become dangerous.

All types of asbestos fibres are potentially fatal if breathed in and they are made air borne when asbestos materials are damaged or disturbed so if you own commercial premises and wish to let them out or sell them you must ensure that an assessment is made as to whether asbestos is or may be present in the building.

It should always be assumed that asbestos could be present in your building until a full survey is done however you are most likely to find asbestos in buildings built or refurbished before the year 2000.”

Helen continued “Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 is particularly important to you if you are considering selling or renting out a commercial building – this confirms that whoever has control of a building has a duty to manage the asbestos in it and that person (the ‘duty holder’) has to:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are any materials containing asbestos in the premises;
  • determine how much asbestos is present;
  • determine where the asbestos is; and
  • determine what condition the asbestos is in.”

The ‘reasonable steps’ can, but do not have to, involve a survey.

The regulations were updated in April 2012 meaning that non-licensed work with asbestos now needs to be notified to the Local Authority and records must be kept of the work carried out.  It is thought that by April 2015 anyone carrying out such work must do so under health surveillance by a Doctor.

Helen concluded “If you instruct us in the sale or letting of a commercial building we will ask you to supply the requisite evidence that you have complied with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and if necessary, to supply us with a copy of your asbestos survey.”

Should you be in the process of selling or renting out your commercial property then please contact our Commercial team on 01283 531366.

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