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Asbestos - the invisible threat to your property

Thursday, November 09, 2017

 

CREDIT: Getty Images
Asbestos-related illness is the number one cause of death in New Zealand workplaces. For that reason alone, the government will require, from April 2018, for all properties undergoing major renovation to be checked for asbestos. This will have significant impact on property investors who are likely to become PCBUs during renovation projects.

Related article: Health & safety post-April 2016 - FAQ for landlords

As a PCBU (Person Conducting Business or Undertaking), it is your legal obligation to control and manage potential exposure to hazardous substances - asbestos is on top of that list. The current Approved Code Of Practice For Management And Removal Of Asbestos set out by Worksafe states that "If a PCBU carrying out demolition, refurbishment or removal, or intending to carry out this work in a home identifies asbestos, the PCBU must tell the homeowner, landlord (if applicable) and occupant about the asbestos so they can keep themselves and others safe."
 
What does that mean in practice?
 
Firstly, all sites undergoing major renovation will need to be assessed by a licensed professional. It is near impossible to detect asbestos with the naked eye, the general rule of thumb in the industry is to assume that there could be asbestos in your property if your house was built before 1990. Though it is not an absolute and houses built after 2000 also carry of risk of having asbestos present.
 
Secondly, full disclosure to all workers and property occupants is the safest bet. There could be downstream issues such as temporary relocation of tenants and even rent refund while the matter is being dealt with. In the age of Parry v Inglis, we definitely urge landlords to err on the side of caution.
 
Thirdly, asbestos removal is a technical process and is potentially hazardous to those who do not have the right experience or equipments to do so. Do not attempt to DIY the removal.  Professional removal services are available and prices vary depending on the concerned area and affected materials. We suggest that you refer specific inquiries to one of Worksafe's approved list of Asbestos Assessors and Removal Services (link below).

Finally, don't panic. This early stage of legislative implementation tends to be when the less confident investors knee-jerk and find themselves making costly decisions that far outweigh the robustness of outcomes. Information is still coming in and we will keep members informed all the way through the process. In the meantime, be aware that you will need to receive a clean bill of asbestos health before any major renovation from April 2018 and remember your HSWA obligations as a landlord. It also pays to consider getting your properties checked for asbestos and start planning for their removal.

Here are some helpful online resources to give you more information and support: 

 

 

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