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Asbestos and social landlords

View profile for Joanne Ellis
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Housing Associations and other social landlords have been in the news in recent years thanks to the large number of asbestos related claims that are being made against them as a result of the handling and disposing of the substance in their properties.

Only last year Anchor, one of the country’s largest care providers which has 30,000+ properties in the UK was fined £10,000 by the Health and Safety Executive as a result of failing in its duties with respect to asbestos. In this particular case Anchor had used a subcontractor to replace a lift in a sheltered housing scheme property and the subcontractor had removed asbestos boards from the lift shaft without taking any steps to try and stop the spread of asbestos fibres as a result. The other two companies involved in the situation were also fined but it was Anchor that received the biggest penalty.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is something that has been a problem in the UK for many years – it could be found in any building that was constructed before the year 2000, particularly those that were built during the period 1950 – 1990. It was used mostly as a fire proofing and insulation solution so is often found around boilers and pipe insulation, as well as in ceiling tiles and garage roof tiles. It was used frequently in lower cost housing projects as, at the time, there was no knowledge of the dangers that it posed to human health.

Why is asbestos a problem?

Asbestos causes around 5,000 deaths every year in the UK, mostly as a result of Mesothelioma, which is a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and the lining that surrounds the body’s lower digestive tract. This type of cancer is almost exclusively the result of exposure to asbestos and, unfortunately, by the time it has been diagnosed is usually fatal. Health conditions such as asbestosis and pleural thickening may also result from asbestos exposure and in extreme cases can also be fatal. The problems arise with asbestos when the fibres are breathed in.

How are housing associations/social landlords affected?

There have unfortunately been numerous cases like that mentioned above involving social landlords. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive was so concerned about the way asbestos was being handled by social landlords that in 2009 it wrote to councils and housing associations stating it had “encountered instances during the refurbishment of social housing properties where inadequate measures had been taken to prevent unsafe work associated with asbestos-containing materials. Workers, and in some cases tenants, may have been exposed to asbestos because of this failure to manage the risk.”

What steps can be taken?

It is when the asbestos is disturbed that it becomes dangerous so during building works tends to be the time of greatest risk. The regulations and requirements surrounding asbestos in housing association properties are complex but social landlords have a responsibility to take reasonable care to prevent personal injury and disease as a result of disturbed asbestos. If not they may be fined by the Health and Safety Executive and, where an injury has been sustained as a result of asbestos exposure, a compensation claim could be made.

If you are being investigated by the HSE, please call our regulatory team for free initial advice.

Comments2

    • Asbestos in social housingStephensons
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    Thank you for your comment, if you would like to discuss your situation with a member of our housing law team please call us on 0175 321 6399 or complete our online enquiry form.

    • My retirement flat has asbestos flooring but they never told me Theresa
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    I moved in to a retirement flat at Hanover court in carlisle it was going to be my last home as I've had disease and chronic kidney disease angine and asthma and high blood pressure. And I have severe anxiety. I went too see flat at and of February 2017 this year it needed a lot of work done to it to get it how I like it but I said I will take it but will change carpets to my floor cushioning the estate manger said that's okay. So I got a loan from credit union in carlisle and I won my pip appeal so money from that and my loan went to getting whole flat decorated i got carpet firm in to measure up for my floor cushioning and electrician to put my lighting in so on day carpet people came to fit my floor cushioning they couldn't do it as lots of tiles broke so I picked them up and put them in bin so I had to go and get carpets down and I lost money on floor cushioning because carpet people had cut to my size so got carpets down.

    Then on 18th may I arranged for another carpet firm to come and measure me for Lino for kitchen and bathroom they came I gave them a deposit then an hour later my estate manger came to see me and I told her about Lino and then she said to me you do know about the asbestos flooring and I said no what asbestos flooring she said it's in the 30 flats and hall stairs and landings I said to her I did not know and why did they not tell me about this before I signed for flat and she said we don't have to inform you only if your a trades person and going to be breaking the tiles so I went hysterical as I'd picked up broken tiles when old carpets was removed. The regional estate manager said to me I don't know why your so upset it's low risk so what's all the fuss about. So I contact environmental  health we arranged to to at the flat he came so did the regional manger . I asked him was he going to check tiles and he said I'm not allowed to do what was the point of him coming so then I sent a letter of complaint to Hanover about not being informed about the asbestos in my flat. And regional director came and he thought it was a joke he said to me at front door should I take my shoes of and walk across the floor.

    I told him what had happened and I wanted my money back on what I'd spent on getting flat decorated and flooring put in and piping for washing machine I sent receipts and he said to me I'm sorry but we are not going to give you any money but we are willing to get specialist asbestos people in in full gear to lift your carpets and seal the tiles and get rid of your new carpets. I was heart broken and had to cancel my heart operation and look for somewhere new to live. I had to sell my bed my caters bed and my microwave and cooker and other stuff to pay to move and deposit and first months rent on my new place. I've still no bed sleeping on floor and no caret bed so carer cart stay over night plus no microwave. Yet Hanover still won't reimburse me any money yet I'm still having to pay loan I took out to get Hanover court  up to scratch  on the day I went to give them keys back men where in my flat lifting my new carpets and sealing the floors. I feel Hanover housing have let me down o much. And I would advise anyone please don't take a Hanover property until you know it's safe from asbestos. The law should be changed that when you sign for a housing association property they should inform you of any asbestos in property then you can make your own mind up if you want to move there or not.