Asbestos

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    Asbestos

    Hi, just wondered if anyone knows anything about the legal liabilities for asbestos. We own one flat in a converted block. When we refurbished our flat, we found asbestos, and had it removed professionally, and because it was notifiable, that meant the full bells and whistles treatment (and bill) and we got an official industry report to say our flat was asbestos free.. However, we have recently discovered that some boxing in in the common areas (hall, stairs, landings) is also made of the same friable/notifiable asbestos. The boxing in covers water pipes, electrical wires and fire alarm cables, and we understand that we cannot legally instruct a tradesperson to remove the asbestos boxing in, in the event of a pipe leaking, or the wires needing attention. We own share of the freehold, along with the other owners, and we are also all on the management company, self managing.

    After initial discussion, some of the other flat owners (also sharing freehold and on management company) have suggested that they remove the asbestos with the use of gas masks and a hoover, and have someone take the asbestos from the premises. The other flats are mainly tenanted, and ours, and one other are destined to be holiday lets, although they are not on the market as yet. I can understand their reluctance to pay the costs of professional removal, but fear that they are risking the health of their tenants, and risking the freehold company, and management company members being held liable. I understand that a home owner can risk removing their own asbestos, and in a sense, we are all home owners, but a commercial owner must abide by the law and have it removed professionally with all that that entails, and if they are renting their flats out for profit, does that make them commercial owners? If they do an amateur job to save money, but we are ourselves on the freehold and management company, and in twenty years their tenants sue the management company, or freeholders, for asbestos related illness, are we in the firing line because we sit on those companies? Even though we didn't endorse the non professional removal?

    I know that by putting my foot down about amateur removal, I will make myself unpopular, but I'd be gutted if their tenants breathed in the dust, and if there were long term repercussions of this, and I have no desire to be guilty by association. Or maybe I'm being alarmist, and over cautious, and making this a big deal, and should just be grateful that they are willing to remove it. What do you think and what should I do? Thanks.

    #2
    I think there is less of a health risk by leaving well alone than by disturbing it.

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      #3
      The reason we can't leave it is because we need access to the pipes and wires - work is needed on the fire alarm panel/wires, plus plumbing can't be done - there's no point waiting for a leak and then not being able to instruct a plumber. Plus the area needs re-decorating (the asbestos is damaged and unsightly), damp ingress behind the boxing in has to be treated. We did consider boxing over it, but there are logistical reasons why this couldn't happen without having to alter the plumbing arrangements anyway, which would require removal of the panels. And then there would have to be stickers everywhere warning people, which would hardly be reassuring for the tenants or guest. We've been advised to get rid, but it's just an issue of how.

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        #4
        The responsible person, presumably the management company, is supposed to have carried out an asbestos management survey.

        The proposed removal method would be illegal. It must be done by a licensed contractor and any vacuum cleaner would need to have a special, high performance, filter. I think the dust is normally controlled using water and PVA. You would never intentionally create dry dust.

        I'm assuming this is asbestos insulation board, as asbestos cement, as used on garage roofs, can be removed by unlicensed contractors.

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          #5
          Thank you - that is an interesting point about the management survey. I don't know whether it's called insulation board, probably is. I just know that it is the most dangerous stuff. Originally we all thought is was hardboard, and it was only when a sheet of it was unscrewed to do a job on a stopcock, that we found it was asbestos.

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            #6
            If it is very high risk, it is probably asbestos millboard, rather than asbestos insulation board. The latter can sometimes be removed by non-licensed contractors, although is still subject to legislation.

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