The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) introduced in 2016 looks to regulate the handling of Asbestos in the work place. Under the Act the workplace includes residential rental properties when work or repairs are being carried out. If Asbestos is present in a residential rental property an Asbestos Management plan is required by April 2018 for that workplace.
Why is Asbestos a health hazard?
Breathing in airborne asbestos fibres is a serious health risk. Disturbing or damaging asbestos can loosen fibres that can be inhaled through your lungs. Once asbestos fibres are in the air, they can easily spread through your home.
These fibres are hazardous if breathed in, they lodge in the lungs and may cause diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you, or any contractors you use, don’t plan work carefully and take appropriate precautions, you may spread contamination. This can settle on carpets, drapes and soft furnishings and become airborne later.
So how does the legislation affect Landlords and tenants?
Unfortunately, no one can currently provide a definitive answer and the industry as a whole is looking for further guidance from Worksafe along with industry bodies such as LPMA which we are members of.
Rented Property Management is working with industry experts, Worksafe and Asbestos contractors to help provide guidance and provide advice in what is a complex space. Hopefully the following helps to make you as a Landlord aware of your responsibilities in relation to Asbestos.
What is the aim of the regulation?
The aim of the legislation is to raise awareness of the risk of managing asbestos which can be a serious health issue.
Do Landlords have a responsibility in relation to Asbestos?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), landlords of rental premises along with Rented Property Management are deemed to be Persons in Charge of a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). As such we both have a duty of care to manage Asbestos and must take reasonably practicable steps to comply with this Act. Fines for not complying with the new legislation can potentially be as much as $50,000.
When do the regulations apply?
Any time a tradesperson such as an electrician or a plumber enters the property to undertake work, the landlord as a PCBU is responsible for any safety issues that may result from existing asbestos. This could be removing a wall panel to gain access for a repair or inserting a new light into the ceiling.
What type of properties are most likely to have asbestos product used in their build?
Houses built, or that had work done, between 1950 and 2000 are quite likely to contain some asbestos. Until the mid-1980s, asbestos was often used as a fire retardant and insulation. It can often be found in places such as: sprayed-on fireproofing, soundproofing, thermal insulation, decorative coatings, floor coverings (such as vinyl), cement products, roofing sheets and lagging around pipes.
What do I need to do now in regards Asbestos?
If you are planning work on a property that has been built or renovated between 1950-2000 then we would strongly recommend that an Asbestos inspection is undertaken prior to the works starting. This should be carried out by a certified professional who will be able to identify products of interest and get tests conducted on anything requiring further analysis.
What if Asbestos is found?
An Asbestos Management plan should be completed for any property that has Asbestos identified. This would be used to ensure that tenants and Tradespeople are aware that there is asbestos present, where it is located and how it is being managed.
The type of Asbestos will determine what action is required. Some asbestos materials can be simply identified and left in place if they are in a stable condition and “encapsulated”. However, friable asbestos must be removed professionally for the safety of your tenants and any tradespeople who may enter your property. Should the later be required the tenant must be informed and advised of any requirements to temporarily vacate the property. The tenant must continue to pay rent, but alternative accommodation must be arranged and paid for by the landlord.
Where can I find more information?
There are several good sources of additional information for Landlords.
Asbestos Aware – http://asbestosaware.co.nz
To help you find more out more about asbestos please click here to view a short video.