News

Time to tackle asbestos

By Rochelle Tipler

Landlords need to be aware of their health and safety responsibilities – including how asbestos is managed at their properties.

Unfortunately many residential landlords aren’t aware that they are affected by the requirements for the identification of, safe management and removal of asbestos from their properties.

On 4 April 2018, new regulations relating to asbestos came into force – placing obligations on landlords (and property managers) in relation to the identification and management of asbestos in the properties they manage.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, residential landlords and Property managers are PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking). Consequently it is their responsibility to manage any asbestos-related risks when work is taking place at their property – ensuring the health and safety of tenants, neighbours, contractors and anyone else who may be affected.

Landlords and property managers are already required to identify and eliminate exposure to asbestos (as far as they are able to) but as of 4 April 2018 they will also need to implement an asbestos management plan for those properties likely to contain asbestos.

What is asbestos?

A popular building material up until the 1980s (but which may be present in buildings built or renovated before 2000), asbestos was valued for its exceptional insulation, fire-resistance and reinforcing properties. It was used predominantly in cladding, flooring, roofing panels, downpipes, hot water tanks and electrical meter boards. While most modern buildings are less likely to contain asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACM), it’s worth noting that a full ban on these products only came into effect in late 2016.

The risk

Asbestos predominantly poses a threat to health when it is in poor condition or is disturbed, and fibres enter the atmosphere and are breathed in. The fibres can cause serious health problems such as asbestos and lung cancer. According to WorkSafe, asbestos is New Zealand’s single largest cause of deaths from work-related disease.

Read more about the health risks associated with asbestos on the Asbestos Aware website.
Asbestos Aware

Assessment of properties

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2016 requires that all rental premises built before 2000 be surveyed for the presence of asbestos by 4 April 2018.

As Property Managers we are now required to prepare a written plan for properties where asbestos has been identified , or is assumed to be present, or where asbestos is likely to be present.

If asbestos is identified and deemed to be harmful by a survey report, then it is the landlords obligation to have the asbestos safely removed.

Management

As a landlord you may not have to remove asbestos from your property but you will need to identify any use of the material, and manage any related risks. For example if contractors are carrying out repairs, this could disturb material that contains asbestos. If you plan to do work such as refurbishment or demolition, you will also need to ensure that asbestos relating to the work’s location is identified and removed, where reasonably practicable, before any work starts.

Tenancy Services New Zealand states: “When work at a property includes a risk of exposure to respirable asbestos, the relevant asbestos must be identified and an asbestos management plan prepared. A landlord may write the asbestos management plan themselves, or they may employ someone else to do it. If the asbestos is non-friable and in good condition it’s often safer to leave it undisturbed, if the work taking place is routine maintenance or other minor work…. The landlord needs to work with the other PCBUs involved (such as building contractors) to ensure the plan is followed. They also need to inform their tenants about the asbestos and what they need to do to keep safe while the work takes place.

If you’re a landlord you will need to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.
Health and Saftey at Work Act
Health and Saftey at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016

How we’re managing the risk

Our Ray White Whangarei Property Managers have undergone extensive asbestos awareness training over the last few weeks. We have made contact with all our landlords (who have properties built before 2000) to schedule testing for the presence of asbestos. These properties identified have been added to our Health and Safety at Work Act risk management portfolio mitigation plan. We are in the process of appointing professionals to assess and provide mitigation advice on key areas of concern that have been identified through the review, and are working closely with our landlords on this.

We have also sought legal advice that states best practice is that we update both our Management Authorities and Tenanacy Agreements – as well as adding suitable acknowledgement to work orders sent to our contractors where we are engaging work to be done on any of our rental properties.

Going it alone?

If you’re a do-it-yourself landlord you are welcome to pop in for a discussion about the issue of asbestos, the new regulations, our recommendations and to receive a complimentary review of your agreements.  The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand are have also recommended and released updated wording for Agency Agreements which can be found by following the below link to the Asbestos Information Sheet on their website.
> REINZ: Asbestos Information Sheet

In summary

To stay on the right side of the law, there are now three golden rules when it comes to asbestos:

  1. Landlords & Property Managers need to know whether their property has any asbestos and if so what, where, how much and what condition it is in.
  2. Landlords & Property Managers need to ensure that their tenants and other property users are not exposed to the risk of friable asbestos.
  3. Landlords & Property Managers must have an asbestos management plan which must be kept up-to-date, reflecting any change in circumstances, and available to anyone carrying out work on the property.

With more and more legislation around managing rental properties the benefits of engaging the services of a professional property manager are truly coming to light.  However, if you’re still keen to manage your own property we recommend landlords do their research, contract a professional asbestos surveyor to undertake a management survey report, compile an asbestos register, and implement a comprehensive asbestos management plan,

Talk to us about our services and how we can help make your investment a real success.

Ray White Property Management Your Best Investment this Year
09 430 3300

Last published 8 June 2018. This information is intended to be used as a guide only. We recommend seeking the advice of a professional, and contacting your property manager directly for the most up-to-date and comprehensive advice on compliance, and managing the risks associated with asbestos in your own property. 

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