Discovering that a property you’re staying in has asbestos is never a good thing because of the safety implications asbestos has. It can cause you to have ill health or the people you love living with you.
Hence, it is with no doubt that if you discover asbestos in a property as a tenant you would want to find some level of justice by suing your landlord to make up for any damage caused.
In this article, we will be looking at if you can sue your landlord for asbestos exposure and why it is such an important part of tenant management.
Is it possible to sue your landlord for asbestos exposure?
If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is very likely that a landlord has not fulfilled their duty to take care of tenants as they rent a property.
This is because it is mandatory that all property owners have to conduct an asbestos survey known as a management survey and then if any asbestos is found they have to seal, treat or label the asbestos in the premises.
If these regulations are followed, then there is no need for the users of the property to encounter any surprises when it comes to asbestos because tenants shouldn’t be doing any extensive refurbishment without the landlord’s permission anyway.
This means, if the landlord didn’t seal, treat or mark the asbestos in a property and you were a tenant in a property who followed the right regulations you wouldn’t ever be exposed to asbestos.
How to sue a landlord for asbestos exposure
If you’re able to prove that a landlord didn’t follow the correct procedures to deal with asbestos and they were careless, you could have a good case to bring to court.
As you can see here on the government website, the exact regulations under the Fitness for Human Habitation act must be followed in order to house a tenant legally in a home.
Once a landlord is in violation of this act, the first thing you must do is collect all the evidence there is of the asbestos exposure. It would help if you have the initial photos when you first moved into the property.
This will show that there is no manipulations going on and you haven’t removed or added in any evidence to suit your case as a tenant.
You may be able to find access to these photos by asking your landlord or checking your files for a landlord inspection or property inventory which should include all of the types of property that is available.
In the case of asbestos exposure, evidence may also include any letters from a Gp that show that you have become ill as a result of asbestos exposure or any text messages or record of phone calls.
Any evidence that also shows you have been forced to repair any asbestos in a property yourself must be given to the court so record this as well. A landlord under no circumstance should asl this from a tenant
Let the property owner know you’re taking them to court
Before a court order is given, it is necessary to issue all parties involved with an N125 which is a notice that states you are about to take legal action against someone before you hand the same document to court.
In this document, basic information such as the tenant rights that have been violated, the date of the notice and the names of all people involved and the court that you intend to bring them to all need to be filled in.
If the party you intend to take to court refused to sign the document, this will not prevent the N215 from being valid, in this case it is best to still issue a verbal notice that a court order is in place.
The landlord or letting agent involved in managing the property on behalf of the landlord will still be delivered a notice from the court once there is a valid court date.
Finalise court action
Once there is an outcome of the court, it will likely result in the landlord losing their right to house tenants in the same property for a while or they could be fined a further amount.
Either way, the judge will come up with a fine that the landlord has to pay if there is enough evidence tha landlord has not followed regulations and this will be the court settlement and the amount you get for suing them.
The amount you receive varies and it depends on the damage that has been done to your health as well as the level of neglect the landlord has shown in the process of having tenants.
If it is clear they are not complying with a lot of the habitation laws then the fine will most probably be greater to provide a bigger incentive for the landlord to conduct their property business in the right manner.
Work out if there is actually asbestos in your property
If you think that you have been exposed to asbestos but you’re not sure, the first thing that you can do is try to get a doctor’s report that shows that you have health problems due to exposure.
You will have to check what the symptoms are specifically with your doctor as how you react to asbestos exposure can be different for everyone but a doctor will be able to come to the best conclusion in this case.
Afterwards, if you suspect that there is asbestos in a property you’re staying in, make sure you move out as soon as you can as continued exposure to the chemical can further harm you and in the worst cases result in death.
Once you have moved out, it is necessary to conduct an asbestos report conducted by a professional who can inspect the property for all of the areas where there is asbestos.
This expense should be covered by the landlord and it is also their responsibility to rehouse a tenant if the property isn’t fit to live in. This is part of section 11 which states a landlord should take care of the structure of a property.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos can be found in a lot of properties that were constructed around 20 years ago and usually were installed in areas of a property where there are:
- Insulation panels
- Ceiling coatings
- Attic piping insulation
- Airing cupboards
- Cement panels
- Garage roofs
- Roofing in outhouses
- Roofing in sheds
What further protection is there for tenants?
Besides the landlord being responsible for making sure a property is safe under the law, there are some other organisations and regulations for the best interest of tenants.
The Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
While the use of asbestos in homes was stopped after 1999, OSHA are an organisation that make sure all buildings constructed before 1981 have a survey carried out and hold the landlords accountable for locating asbestos.
They also help to maintain the standards for other regulations in property such as any faults in construction and if there are any defects that warrant the tenant the ability to take a landlord to court.
The environmental protection Act 1990
The environmental protection act is there to prevent general pollution to members of the public. As a result, they are able to step in and intervene on a building with asbestos but only if it is a council property.
So, if you have a council property, bring this up with the local authority via their website here who will then visit the property or make the necessary changes.
Should you be rehoused during asbestos repair work?
According to the laws under section 11, a landlord loses their right to evict a tenant under section 21 if it is found that their property no longer adheres to the regulations set out by the government in terms of safety.
As a result, a landlord has to house you for a further six months if they don’t provide a safe place to live and if their original place has asbestos, then the housing they provide has to be alternative housing.
The same goes for any other breach of a tenancy agreement. For example, you can stop being evicted from a property and sue your landlord for no gas safety check too or sue them for not providing a how to rent guide.
Read on here for how much notice a landlord has to give a tenant to find out more on the topic
Are there any situations where you cannot sue your landlord for asbestos exposure?
If a landlord has done the correct procedures to make sure that there is an asbestos survey and the asbestos survey was wrong, then it is not the fault of the landlord anymore and you cannot sue them.
Other than this there are no other instances where if you prove that a landlord has negligently exposed you to harmful chemicals they are not liable to court action at the very least.
You also cannot bring a landlord to court for asbestos exposure if you have had a disagreement in general such as if they have violated your right to quiet enjoyment. You must consider all areas of the law individually.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos, despite being dangerous, is a naturally occurring silicate material that is used in the construction of buildings before laws came in to stop this in 1999.
The fibres of asbestos are found within the cement mix and other construction materials that act as a bonding agent to make the materials involved in construction stronger.
It was also a cheaper way of doing construction which made it very popular for those looking to build new houses.
As a result, there has to be a level of caution involved when moving in to an old building and in particularly when demolishing or taking apart a building for the
Having an asbestos survey done remains the only way that you can have a legitimate check done on property to prove whether it actually is able to be passed as being asbestos free.
There are currently two types of asbestos surveys done on properties in the UK, management surveys and refurbishment surveys and they are done for different reasons.
If you’re not sure how to get an asbestos survey done, contact a surveyor form the Accreditation Service in the UK here to find a qualified professional who will get the job done.
Refurbishment and demolition surveys
These types of surveys are done if there is a major refurbishment that is set to take place and the landlord wants to make sure that they nor anyone else working on the property will be exposed to asbestos.
If a property is known to be older than it is a good idea to get this done and the responsibility of the landlord to do this. Samples will be taken and every area of a house inspected.
If a property is demolished without a survey, not only is this bad for the construction workers but the health of neighbours and even those in the vicinity of the building site could all be affected.
This is why demolition surveys are treated with a lot more care.
In order to make sure a landlord is compliant, if they have bought an older property and there is no evidence of a previous management survey in place, then they must get one done in order to protect tenants.
This type of survey is less intrusive as it only requires a surveyor to visit the property and have a look at the walls and insulation to make sure there are no signs of asbestos and risk of exposure.
If this is done correctly then it no longer becomes the responsibility of the landlord as they have done the relevant checks to be able to ensure the property is free from asbestos exposure.
All in all, the topic of asbestos exposure is difficult because each situation has to be considered individually in order to determine if there is the right evidence to show asbestos exposure has happened.
Also, evidence often has to be taken from the past in order to prove there has been any misconduct in the management of asbestos in property.
As a result, if you find asbestos, do not be afraid to reach out to your local council and any legal help you can to vacate a property that is producing harm to your health as soon as possible but also be patient in the legal process.